Since technology is distributed so widely across any university, and nearly every person on campus uses it, it’s impossible to make broad sweeping changes in a "top down" fashion. Instead, big improvements can only be achieved if we can engage people from all parts of our campus.
As we've worked with people at the University of Michigan, we have found two interesting things:
First, most people don't realize the amount of natural resources that the University uses to support information technology (it may make up as much as 5% of the electricity that the University uses).
Second, most people want to do the right thing, but they aren’t always sure what they should do. For example, many people have been told that it's fine to leave their computer on all night (we disagree).
We've also learned that while most people agree that we should conserve resources, unless it's easy to do they typically won't change their behavior. According to our experts, most environmental problems are actually people problems.
Therefore, our approach focuses on individuals. We have events, projects and materials, designed to engage and inform our students, faculty and staff so they make conscious choices to reduce energy consumption relating to IT devices. If everyone can make small behavioral changes, it will add up to big improvements for the University. Simple changes like avoiding printing whenever possible (do you really need that email on paper too?), and using power management settings on your computer results in significant positive environmental impact.
But, it's not all about individual behavior; we also need to make institutional changes as well.
The University’s Climate Savers Computing Initiative is trying to incorporate green IT practices into all facets of operations. For example, we are working on changing the University's buying practices so that power utilization (not just initial purchase price) is an important consideration in the purchasing decision. Also, we’re working on shutting down some of our most inefficient computer data centers.
Environmental change is not an easy task. It takes all of us. But, individuals and organizations can make a difference if we all work together. So save a tree, turn off your computers and unplug.
Join us by taking the Climate Savers green computing pledge too.