Seven Steps for Greening PCs

PCs and associated peripherals contribute approximately 31 percent of worldwide information and communication technology (ICT) energy use, and many companies would like to pare this down, but don’t know where to start.

Gartner has identified seven key steps of a program to improve environmental performance throughout the PC life cycle.

Step 1 - Survey Your Environment

Understanding current energy use is crucial in assessing progress and determining the appropriate metrics, but it can prove challenging as few companies are able to track office facilities’ electricity use. Gartner advises against relying on vendor-provided figures for PC hardware draw and instead advocates the use of a simple power meter. Power meters provide a basic understanding of how much it costs to power PCs and the savings that organizations can accrue if they started managing their power states.

Step 2 – Create a Policy

Gartner recommends that a policy document start with a statement of enterprise intentions and link it to a set of goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), such as increased energy efficiency, highest vendor environmental standards, and the exclusion of specific toxins by a given date. As with other corporate responsibility programs, the success of environmental programs are primarily affected by users and their behavior. Success for a user policy is often a question of balance as being too aggressive can negatively impact the users’ perceptions.

Step 3 - Set Realistic Goals for Energy Efficiency and Waste Management

Companies often set unrealistic goals for PC energy reduction. A blanket goal of “50 percent reduction” sounds good but may be unachievable because different parts of an organization will have different starting points and will be able to implement different practices. It is important to define localized goals for specific target user groups or business units, which contribute to the wider corporate agenda.

Step 4 - Budget for Tools to Reinforce the Policy

Free tools to manage power settings are available but may not always be effective in all cases. Power management tools can support the enforcement of policies on energy use and reduce energy consumption without compromising security and desktop support. Although power management tools are relatively inexpensive, and often fully recover their costs in energy savings, they should still be budgeted for.

Step 5 - Establish Reporting and Auditing Mechanisms

Many companies have been disappointed by a lack of impact on their monthly power bills directly attributable to a PC power efficiency program. However, even when power savings are negligible, the ability to report on emission reductions will become increasingly important. Gartner recommends that enterprises purchase a power auditing program, which is typically included as part of a power management tools package.

Step 6 – The Right PC for the Right User

Different PCs have very different power consumption levels and equipping users’ systems with the right configuration and capacity can be an important step in reducing electrical usage. Although newer PCs and monitors are becoming increasingly efficient, companies should not use power savings as an excuse to replace systems earlier, but should ensure that when systems are replaced, power management features are implemented as part of the deployment process.

Step 7 - Disposal

PC disposal is probably the toughest issue to deal with because it can involve additional expense, particularly in the current economic downturn, when markets for recycled materials have crashed. Enterprises should carefully balance their environmental principles with the potential costs.

Additional information is available in the Gartner report “Seven Steps for Greening PCs’ The report is on Gartner’s Web site a t