Hardware

What's your green goal: Money or trees?

Buzzwords can get old and jumping on the bandwagon can quickly become nothing more than riding on other's coattails. Overuse of a term or idea can muddy the waters around what that term or idea is really supposed to denote. When it comes to "green", Scott Lowe takes a cynical look at green efforts, which are often about a different kind of green - money - even as said efforts are purported to be about saving the world.

Today, everything is "green".  From the latest line of network switches to virtualization software to anything that can be linked to saving one microwatt of power, companies are tripping over themselves to sell the green benefits of their products.  This bandwagon approach to marketing reminds me of the mid- to late 90's when having the word "Internet" in a product name meant instant success and connection with the masses.  I wish I was kidding, but I distinctly remember seeing mouse pads and computer desks labeled as being compatible with the Internet.  Today, I wouldn't be surprised to see a mouse pad being marketed as having a lower coefficient of friction and, therefore, putting off less heat than other mouse pads resulting in that product being stored in the green aisle of the store.

I'll be the first to admit that, as a civilization and for our future, we have to take care of our planet and our environment so that the next generation can have the experiences that we enjoy without having to worry about the doomsday scenarios we sometimes see as a result of global warming.  But, think about your company and ask this question: "Why are we going green?"  Most organizations don't go green because it's the right thing to do.  Rather, they're interested in the potential for major cost savings that comes with the effort and the good PR and lesser impact on the environment are just nice side-effects.  Remember, we're talking here about American corporations that have lost the ability to think beyond the end of the quarter and will do anything at any cost to make the numbers that are expected.

Think I'm wrong?  Imagine this scenario:  You walk into your executive boardroom with a plan to reduce the company's energy usage by 25% just by implementing some kind of new energy efficient technology.  However, said technology will result in a 40% increase in overall costs.  Don't ask me to explain how this would happen, but just bear with me here.  If you presented a plan to your executives that basically read "We'll spend a lot more money, but we'll reduce our carbon footprint" there are probably not a ton of companies out there that would jump all over the plan.  Sure, there are some companies out there that have altruistic tendencies that might go down this road, but with cost savings and green benefits going hand in hand, green initiatives can easily move forward.

Don't get me wrong; I'm happy to see green initiatives being undertaken, but the whole thing tends to lose its meaning when every new product being released, from blank DVDs to switches, is labeled a being green.  The whole effort also loses some meaning when every organization puts out marketing material indicating their commitment to the environment when their commitment is really to the bottom line.  As you move along in your own green planning, the bottom line is probably the driver of your effort.  Greening your data center is more about reducing costs that it is about environmental impact; buying green hardware is probably more about long-term reduction in energy costs that it is about keeping the global ecosystem intact.  This isn't a bad thing!  After all,  you're killing two birds with one stone in the effort, but be genuine about the purpose.

Now, I need to go to Staples and look for an eco-friendly mouse pad.

About Scott Lowe

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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