” The computer can’t tell you the emotional story. It can give you the exact mathematical design, but what’s missing is the eyebrows.”
Frank Zappa, Musician
The Pros and Cons of Green Computing & Green IT
Green computing (also sometimes referred to as green IT, green ICT or ICT sustainability) can be defined as the practice of eco-friendly and sustainable IT processes and appliances.
This can mean to reduce the energy demand, to avoid or at least to reduce the use of hazardous materials or to recycle as good as possible in order to minimize waste production.
Even though green computing is still a niche market, it will become much more popular in the future since we have to solve our global environmental problems somehow.
Although green IT implies many advantages, it also has some downsides. In this article, the pros and cons of green computing are shown.
Advantages of Green Computing
- Green computing can save energy
- Green computing can save money in the long run
- More sophisticated recycling processes
- Waste reduction
- Reduction of the resource depletion problem
- Less pollution
- Less greenhouse gas emissions
- More efficient hardware use
- Sustainable IT practice
- Increases pressure to go green in the IT industry
- Reduction of health risks for customers
- Better working conditions
- Teleworking may improve flexibility
- Green computing may strengthen the brand of companies
- Positive impact on our flora and fauna
Green computing can save energy
One important advantage of green computing is that it can enable companies to save plenty of energy over time. Processes are still not optimized yet in many companies and the room for energy savings is enormous.
Green IT can be a great way to achieve a more energy-efficient computer environment since it aims to make IT-processes more efficient, which in turn implies less energy consumption.
Since servers all over the world consume vast amounts of energy, it is crucial to reduce the global energy consumption of computer systems in order to decrease our global demand for energy to improve our ecological footprint.
Green computing can save money in the long run
Since plenty of energy can be saved by companies by engaging in green IT systems, it also implies significant financial upsides in the long run. Thus, companies should not be intimidated by the high upfront costs for a green IT framework.
Companies should rather look at the long-term financial gains they could gain from switching from conventional to green computing practices.
More sophisticated recycling processes
Another major part of green computing is to make old computers and other devices more suitable for recycling. This can include separating electronic waste in a sophisticated manner.
It can also mean to use more biodegradable materials instead of plastics in order to make the waste from electronic devices more eco-friendly.
Thus, by setting up green IT infrastructures, companies all over the world may be able to improve their recycling processes.
Since we as humanity produce excessive amounts of waste on a daily basis, it is also crucial to reduce our waste production whenever possible.
Companies can contribute to less waste by adopting green IT processes since more electronic waste will be suitable for recycling and less waste has to be disposed of in landfills or burned.
Moreover, green computing not also aims to improve recycling, it also has the goal to reduce waste production in the first place. For instance, this can mean that computers and other hardware items are used longer.
It can also mean that less paper is used in the office in order to reduce paper waste. All those measures can greatly reduce the overall amount of waste companies produce on a global scale, which can vastly reduce the negative effect on our environment.
Reduction of the resource depletion problem
Another benefit of green IT is that it also allows us to reduce the resource depletion problem. At our current state, we as humanity consume excessive amounts of fossil resources. However, at one point in time in the near future, we may run out of those resources, which may result in increasing prices and many other issues.
Thus, it is crucial to save our natural resources. Companies can do so by engaging in green computing since less hardware has to be used and therefore, also fewer fossil resources will be used for production purposes.
The production of IT hardware also implies significant pollution of many sorts. For instance, in the production processes of material goods, plenty of harmful gases are emitted into the air, which contributes to air pollution, smog and particle pollution.
Moreover, since part of the electronic waste will end up in landfills, harmful substances that are contained in this waste may pollute the soil and will eventually end up in the groundwater.
Thus, in order to reduce those pollution issues related to conventional computing, green computing may be a great way to mitigate the pollution problem to a certain extent.
Less greenhouse gas emissions
In the production processes related to computers and other hardware, large amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted into the atmosphere. Through the emission of those gases, the global warming issue will be exacerbated.
Therefore, it is crucial to introduce green computing practices in order to use our computers and other devices longer so that fewer hardware components have to be produced and the amount of greenhouse gases that are emitted into our atmosphere can be lowered.
More efficient hardware use
Through green computing, all kinds of hardware components can also be used much more efficiently. For instance, this could mean that employees share a computer or get shared access to several services and servers.
Through those measures, hardware components can be used in a more efficient manner and the overall number of computer devices in companies can be reduced.
Sustainable IT practice
In general, green computing aims to make all sorts of IT processes more sustainable. In all areas that are related to IT, companies aim to reduce their negative environmental impact in order to assure a livable future for the next generations.
Thus, green computing is a great way for companies to contribute their part to ensure a bright future for all of us.
Increases pressure to go green in the IT industry
The increasing popularity of green computing also puts pressure on the whole IT industry. If more and more companies switch to more sustainable IT-infrastructures, other companies may feel the pressure to do so as well in order to improve their image.
Therefore, green computing may speed up the process of the whole IT industry to switch from conventional to eco-friendlier computing processes in a rather short period of time, which in turn would greatly benefit our environmental system.
Reduction of health risks for customers
Depending on the country you live in, there are sometimes quite low safety standards for electronic devices and customers may be at risk to suffer from health issues related to those electronic items.
For instance, in some electronic devices, mercury or other harmful substances may be used, which may be quite harmful if those devices break and customers get in touch with those substances.
Green IT can also help to reduce those problems since companies engaging in green computing practices try to avoid the use of those harmful substances in their production processes.
Better working conditions
Companies who engage in green computing often also try to improve the overall working conditions in their factories in order to improve their overall image.
In turn, this may improve the working conditions of many employees, which may be treated better and in turn, their overall quality of life may increase significantly.
Teleworking may improve flexibility
Teleworking is also another interesting component that can be regarded to be linked to the introduction of green computing infrastructures. With teleworking, employees do no longer have to commute to work.
Instead, they can work from home, which gives employees engaging in teleworking many important advantages. Among others, those employees do no longer have to commute to work, which lowers carbon dioxide emissions and reduces the global warming issue.
Thus, teleworking related to green commuting can also significantly improve our environmental footprint.
Green computing may strengthen the brand of companies
In general, since the awareness of people regarding going green has increased significantly over the past decade, companies often want to improve their image in this regard. Therefore, green computing can be a great way for companies to strengthen their brand.
For instance, customers may be more eager to buy from companies that engage in green computing since they want to support those companies instead of companies that are solely profit-maximizing and do not care about our environment at all.
Thus, green IT can also strengthen the market position of companies all over the world.
Positive impact on our flora and fauna
Due to a reduction in overall pollution levels that are implied by green computing, also many animals and plants can greatly benefit from this development. For instance, with less pollution, the natural living conditions of the local flora and fauna can be preserved.
Moreover, if global warming can be slowed down due to the use of green computing systems, also the endangered species problem can be reduced to a certain extent.
Disadvantages of Green IT
- Significant upfront costs
- Plenty of knowledge may be required
- Green IT may conflict with profit maximization goals
- May slow down computer networks
- Technological change may make older IT-systems obsolete
- Acceptance inside companies may be rather low
- Lacking awareness of the general public
- Green IT may be vulnerable to safety issues
- May not be manageable for small businesses
- ReliancMaintenance may be difficult
- Many technologies aren’t actually that green
Significant upfront costs
Although there are many chances related to green computing, the use of green IT infrastructures also implies some problems. For instance, one downside of green computing is that the initial setup of those IT systems can be quite costly.
Switching from old conventional IT systems to new eco-friendly systems often requires plenty of planning, programming and bug fixing. All this can be quite time-consuming and the costs for introducing green computing systems can be enormous.
Thus, even though companies may be able to save plenty of energy and money in the long run, some companies may refrain from the transition to green IT due to those high upfront costs and efforts.
Plenty of knowledge may be required
For the transition to green computing systems, seasoned industry experts are needed in order to avoid downtimes and other technical issues. Many things can go wrong through the transition to new IT-systems and experts are needed to monitor this transition process.
However, those experts are quite rare and also cost plenty of money, which may further reduce the incentive for companies to use green IT infrastructure.
Green IT may conflict with profit maximization goals
Since the switch to green IT systems can be quite costly, introducing those systems may also conflict with short-term profit maximization goals. For instance, if the board of directors is paid based on the short-term performance of their company, they will likely refuse from switching to green IT systems since this switch may be quite costly in the short run and may negatively affect the salary of the board members.
Thus, even though it might be beneficial for the firm in the long run due to energy savings, short-term incentives of decision-makers may prevent the expansion of green technologies in the IT sector.
May slow down computer networks
Another problem with green computing is that it may slow down whole computer networks if it is not set up properly. In extreme cases, the productivity of employees may be reduced dramatically due to slow computers, which may seriously hurt the profits of firms.
Thus, it is crucial to consult industry experts in this field in order to avoid those unpleasant surprises and to make green computing sustainable in the long run.
Technological change may make older IT-systems obsolete
Since our technological progress advances at high speeds, chances are that IT systems that are currently state-of-the-art may be outdated soon.
The same is true when it comes to green computing. Companies may fear that if they switch to green IT systems right now, they may have to switch to newer systems in just a few years again.
This insecurity may prevent many firms to switch to green computing.
Acceptance inside companies may be rather low
Whether firms engage in green computing or not also significantly depends on the preferences and the moods of the board and other leading staff members.
For instance, if many people who do not care about our environment at all are in those leading roles, chances are that the company will not switch to green computing simply due to the preferences of a few stubborn people.
Lacking awareness of the general public
Moreover, many people may also not be aware of the problem that conventional computing implies for our environment. Thus, if the general public is not aware of this problem, profit-maximizing companies may also not take action in this direction since they do not see too many advantages for them.
Therefore, as long as the awareness of the general public regarding green computing is rather low, only few companies may take efforts to switch to those green IT systems.
Green IT may be vulnerable to safety issues
Since green IT aims to optimize processes in order to reduce energy demand and hardware use, employees in companies who engage in green computing may also have to share computers or other electronic devices. However, this sharing of devices may make the company more vulnerable to safety issues like hacking.
Thus, there may also be serious security concerns regarding green computing and suitable measures have to be taken by companies in order to mitigate those issues.
May not be manageable for small businesses
Since the upfront costs for green computing are significant, many small businesses may not be able or willing to switch to green IT systems and may rather rely on their old ones instead.
Thus, the high upfront costs may prevent many small firms from engaging in this kind of technology, even though they might want to make a positive environmental impact, but are not able to afford those high initial costs.
Maintenance may be difficult
Not only the initial setup of green computing systems is challenging, also the maintenance can be difficult, time-consuming and costly. IT systems have to be maintained and updated on a regular basis in order to close security gaps or to improve the efficiency of processes.
Since the technology regarding green IT is rather new and develops at a rapid speed, chances are that the maintenance efforts will be especially high for green computing systems.
Many technologies aren’t actually that green
Since people like going green in order to feel better, many companies try to pretend a green behavior in order to strengthen their brand and to use their image to increase their market share and their revenue. However, many companies who claim to be green aren’t actually that green and the green image is often exploited.
Thus, there should be strict regulations in place that prevent companies from making misleading claims regarding the eco-friendliness of their computer systems when they aren’t actually that green.
Top 10 Green Computing Pros & Cons – Summary List
|Green Computing Pros||Green Computing Cons|
|Energy savings||High upfront costs|
|Less greenhouse gas emissions||Knowledge of industry experts required|
|Less pollution||May conflict with short-term profit maximization|
|Mitigation of resource depletion||Significant maintenance|
|Waste reduction||Technological progress may develop too fast|
|More sophisticated recycling||Not suitable for many small businesses|
|Sustainable IT processes||Safety issues|
|Efficient hardware use||May slow down IT systems|
|Positive impact on animals and plants||Missing acceptance of the board of directors|
Green computing is quite an interesting approach to the setup of IT-systems. Although it is not quite popular yet, green computing will play a major role in order to mitigate our environmental problems in the long run.
Thus, companies may take the opportunity right now to switch to green IT-systems in order to get a competitive advantage over their competitors and to strengthen their brand.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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