A couple of weeks ago, Aspiration (SSC’s mama organization) held the 2008 Nonprofit Software Development Summit which basically brought over a hundred nonprofit techie geeks together in Oakland, CA to hash out the current state of affairs with regard to, you guessed it, nonprofit software development. So many people and organizations were represented, I really recommend perusing the Wiki to see what was discussed.
One (of the many) session topics that I found intriguing was about a nonprofit’s Carbon Footprint and how an organization can work to make their operation more environmentally friendly. Community IT Innovators facilitated the discussion as they are developing a tool “to calculate the carbon footprint of server and desktop configurations.” The discussion focused, for a large part, on factors that people over look when looking into green operations. For example, we all know that servers must be kept cool and that this cooling can significantly increase the amount of energy that your organization uses. However, many people don’t realize that by organizing their servers in a certain physical orientation, they can use less energy for cooling by creating an air tunnel in the room. These innovative little tricks usually don’t make it on the list with “Use less printer paper” and “Replace old Light bulbs.” One of the things that Greg from CITI stressed, though, was that old adage: REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE. Reconsider buying that second server and you may not have to worry about its noxious chemicals leaking into the environment when it eventually ends up in a landfill.
Peter Campbell of EarthJustice recently wrote an interesting post on greening your IT called The Lean, Green, Virtualized Machine over at Idealware where he advocates for virtualizing your servers in order to be more environmentally conscious as well as using hosted applications which take the strain off of your in-house servers. I felt as though this was an interesting argument in the Software vs. Hosted Services debate. I think, however, that at a certain point, trying to find the source of environmentally detrimental actions can get laborious. For example, should we consciously limit the size of website files to limit load time in order to curb strain on the servers which then leads to harm to the environment? On the other hand, it would be interesting to see numbers on the energy use per kilobit of webpage. It’s interesting to start down the “How is this harming the environment?” path and see how far down you get.
EPEAT, a system for evaluating the environmental friendliness of an organization’s computer set-up, was put together by the Zero Waste Alliance with a grant from the US EPA. Federal agencies are required to purchase a certain percentage of EPEAT-registered products for their operations. Does your nonprofit use EPEAT or another similar tool?
So much emphasis is put on environmental hardware considerations, but do environmental concerns play into your decision for software tools? Do you seek out tools like GreenPrint? Do you research a company’s green practices or concentrate on hosted applications? What connections do you make between tools and the environment (if any at all)?