Environmental awareness was a recurring theme at this year's CeBIT show, with technology companies from all over the world keen to show off their green credentials.
An entire hall – dubbed 'Green IT Village' – was turned over to environmental issues and Greenpeace got in on the action, staging a press conference on the green credentials (or lack thereof) of a basket of mobile technology. All this makes quite a change from holding noisy demonstrations outside the venue and taking photographs of piles of scrap IT products that have been deliberately dropped under the show banners.
Steve Balmer hosted a keynote on the opening day of the show, boasting about the new power monitor Microsoft developed with a nuclear power company. IBM showed off its power-saving devices in an impressive display promoting 'green responsibility', and both Intel and Cisco's new product demonstrations emphasised low power consumption.
It's not difficult to understand why technology companies are keen to promote themselves as green. With the WEEE Directive keeping the issue on the industry's radar and the public at large becoming more aware of environmental concerns, products deemed environmentally friendly are eminently marketable.
Yet this is only the tip of the iceberg. Today's businesses use a lot more IT equipment than those of yesteryear. It's a symptom of rapid improvements in technology and tumbling prices over the last few years. As a result, where a shop floor of data entry staff might have once used aging computers, small CRT monitors and a printer shared between two dozen people, today they might enjoy powerful Windows PCs, large flat-screen displays and a printer for every three or four staff members.
But of course, more equipment means more power consumption, and more power consumption means bigger bills. So the savvy buyer will opt for computers and accessories that boast low power requirements. As an IBM spokesman outlined at CeBIT, given the increased quantities of equipment used by today's average business, choosing products which boast a low power consumption makes excellent economic sense. "It's driven by proliferating IT and rising energy costs", he explained. So in the long run, going green doesn't cost, it pays.
The Channel Speaks
"VIP has implemented a number of initiatives to help reduce the company's carbon footprint. We recycle on average 50 per cent of the cardboard received from suppliers to reuse for packaging and filling of outgoing orders, and we recently switched waste collection suppliers to a company that recycles at least 50 per cent of all the waste generated on site.
Across the VIP Group changes have been introduced to create as much of a paperless office as possible. Invoices, credit notes and statements are issued electronically via email as standard, and most customers now pay by BACS following initiatives by VIP to switch to electronic payment methods.
VIP is currently working on reducing the number of physical servers in use by investing in virtualisation software technology which enables multiple operating systems to run on a single physical machine as virtual machines, reducing electricity costs and hardware decommissioning. Regular reviews are ongoing to try to reduce our carbon footprint even further."
Marketing & Communication Manager
"Sitecom is constantly developing new solutions that use less energy or raw materials, and as a result are more environmentally friendly. First of all, Sitecom is developing routers that connect on demand, which means they automatically switch off when none of the connected computers or notebooks require an internet connection.
Sitecom will soon introduce switches equipped with a cable length feature and a link down application that use up to 70 per cent less energy. The cable length feature measures the length of the cable. If it's less than ten metres, the switch automatically uses 20 per cent less energy, and ten per cent less when the cable is between ten and 50 metres. The 'link down' application detects when there's no connection and automatically switches to 30 per cent of its normal energy usage.
Because of the environmental disruption caused by the use of paint, Sitecom is one of the first producers of computer connectivity products to use coloured raw materials instead. We'll soon introduce casings in different colours which are produced without the use of paint. We've also changed the designs of our new routers in order to use less PVC. Sitecom is constantly on the look-out to improve the operation of its business in order to make it more environmental friendly."
Solar Technology International
"Solar Technology International designs and produces a range of solar products that enable users to use the sun for free energy. Our solar panels let you capture the sun's energy and convert it to electrical current to power a range of appliances. Solar Technology's panels use crystalline silicon technology, the latest in solar technology, to harness power which is more efficient than amorphous or thin film solutions, particularly in the lower light conditions found in the UK."
"Our new range of compatible cartridges for Epson and Inkrite NG, are truly ecologically friendly. They use recyclable materials and allow consumers to reuse half the cartridge over and again, replacing only internal sealed ink tanks. The cartridge is a two-piece cartridge, with only one part being replaced, so wastage is far lower as a portion of the cartridge is reused. What's more, the tanks have much more ink inside them so they last much longer."