This publication is no longer current or has been superseded.
Server infrastructure has a significant environmental impact. The need for 24/7 operation in air-conditioned environments typically consumes large amounts of energy. There are often unavoidable reasons for a distributed server infrastructure, but where possible, consolidation into centralised facilities, whether in-house or outsourced to a data centre, can reduce energy requirements.
Consider consolidating server infrastructure into centralised facilities wherever possible, whether this be in-house or at an outsourced data centre.
A study carried out by Canterbury University17 on a wide range of Pentium PCs found that the power use of a PC (excluding the monitor) is 30 to 60 watts. The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) also commissioned a study on the impact of turning a computer hard drive on and off. They discovered that the average life of a hard drive is 500,000 hours (57 years), or 500,000 starts. This suggests the optimum would be to turn off the hard drive if it is not being used for an hour, but since most hard drives are junked in less than 10 years, the turn-off time could be reduced to as low as 10-15 minutes without any adverse effect.
Very efficient power-saving tools have been developed for laptop computers in order to conserve battery power, and similar management tools are becoming available on desktop computers. Typically, these tools give the user the option to set default inactivity times to turn off the monitor, turn off all hard disks, switch to system standby or hibernate.
(a) Set the default inactivity period to turn off hard disks after 30 minutes.
(b) Instruct all staff to power off computers at the end of each working day and carry out periodic audits to verify compliance.
(c) Programme automatic screen-saver notices to appear as a reminder to users to switch off.
The Canterbury University study referred to above reported that the average power use for CRT monitors is 60–75 watts, and about half that for equivalent-sized LCD displays. As the life of a monitor is directly related to the amount of time it is powered on, turning them off when not in use not only saves electricity but also extends their life.
(a) Set a default inactivity period to turn off monitors after 10 minutes.
(b) Instruct all staff to turn off monitors at the end of each working day and carry out periodic audits to verify compliance.
(c) Convert from CRT to LCD displays, being mindful of finding environmentally sound disposal options for the old CRT monitors.
As noted above, laptop computers have been designed to be energy efficient. Power usage is typically 30–40 watts (processor and screen), but in standby mode (screen and hard drive off) power usage can be as low as five watts.
Laptops have the advantage of allowing staff to work more flexibly (eg, from hotels when travelling, or potentially to telework from their homes for one or two days a week). Organisations that support flexible working options such as telework and electronic meetings using audio or videoconferencing contribute to a more sustainable environment through reduced staff travel time and therefore reduced environmental impact from travelling.
(a) Consider the benefits of laptops compared to desktops, especially for mobile staff.
(b) Encourage telework practices and promote the use of teleconferencing technologies as an alternative to travel.
Multi-function devices (MFDs) typically incorporate a scanning function as well as photocopying, printing and sometimes fax. MFDs also have good power management tools.
Use networked MFDs with a scanning function wherever possible instead of stand-alone scanners.
Desktop printers, while convenient for users, can be costly to maintain and operate. On the other hand, when printers are networked and shared among groups of users (the most common scenario), no one is responsible for turning them off at night. Current good practice is to consolidate printing functions into networked MFDs that are deployed on the basis of one per floor. As noted above, MFDs have good power management tools and duplex printing (both sides) can be set as a default.
Desktop printers typically have less functionality than MFDs and only more recent models have started to provide duplex printing as a default option.
The Ministry for the Environment provides sustainability guidelines for office consumables such as paper and ink cartridges, so these are not repeated here. Refer to the Ministry’s website for this information.18
(a) Replace desktop printers with shared MFDs, especially those without duplex printing capabilities.
(b) Set printing defaults to duplex, black and white, and ensure that when users over-ride these defaults for special purposes, the defaults are automatically restored.
(c) Instruct staff to turn off the devices at the end of the day.
Multi-function devices, with photocopying, printing, scanning and fax functionality, are proving to be the most efficient equipment for producing paper-based documents. They provide good management tools for setting printing defaults (duplex, mono) as well as for powering down after preset periods of inactivity, saving power.
MFD suppliers should be able to assist with work-flow studies19 to determine the optimum deployment of equipment. Excessive loading can cause equipment failure ahead of the design life, increasing the turnover of equipment and generating additional e-waste. Service contracts can help to extend the life of equipment.
As mentioned previously, the “Secure print” functionality also enables users to send a file to any printer on the network, but the device holds the print operation until the user enters a PIN code at the device, enabling the prints to be produced. Again, duplexing copies and printing reduces the amount of consumables used.
(a) Set printing defaults to duplex, black and white, and ensure that when users override these defaults for special purposes, the defaults are automatically restored.
(b) Ensure staff are trained to make use of the “secure print” functionality.
(c) Require potential suppliers to undertake workflow studies to optimise the deployment of MFDs and maximise their useful life.
As with scanners, fax functions are typically built into MFDs and, as noted above, these are the most efficient. However, some offices require a greater level of confidentiality, and this would justify the deployment of stand-alone fax machines.
Unless prevented by confidentiality requirements, consolidate fax functionality into MFDs.
17 S Round, Computer Power Consumption Tests, Department of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, University of Canterbury, 2005.
18 Ministry for the Environment, Guidelines for Office Consumables. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/issues/sustainable-industry/govt3/topic-areas/office-consumables/.
19 Advising clients on what equipment they need and where.