Following Saturday night’s Earth Hour feel-good event, now’s the time to take action—to change the way you do business to reduce your environmental impact. Here’s some IT-related tips to get you started.

1. Turn off equipment that isn’t being used:

  • Turn off computers at the end of the day. If you can remember to lock the door, you can remember this too.
  • If you need to leave computers running (perhaps to run your backups after hours), then use the operating system’s timer feature so the computer turns itself off when it’s finished.
  • Turn off computers at the power point, rather than leaving them on standby.
  • Unplug mobile phone and camera chargers unless they’re actually being used.
  • Even servers and Internet routers can be turned off overnight or across the weekend—unless they must be left on for remote access.
  • Re-arrange power cords so you can turn everything off with one switch—- and still leave vital equipment running.

2. Discourage printing: Read documents on screen wherever possible.

  • Before you press “print”, ask yourself whether it’s really necessary.
  • Use your software’s “print preview” to check the layout, rather than printing a proof.
  • Set up an electronic filing system and backups, rather than printing documents “for the files”.
  • Format documents for on-screen reading, rather than for printing. Use legible typefaces, wide line spacing and landscape format.
  • Send documents by email, not the post.
  • If you absolutely have to print it, use both sides of the paper.

A hat-tip to AMP, who print the following message at the bottom of every email: “Please consider the environment before printing this email.”

3. Buy more energy-efficient systems: And if you’re worried about cost, think about the entire life of the system, not just the purchase price.

  • Laptops typically use less energy than desktop computers.
  • LCD screens use less energy than old CRT screens—and they’re better on the eyes.
  • If you buy bigger and better screens, people will be less likely to print things.
  • Two screens provide an even bigger work surface which makes you more productive.
  • Inkjet printers use less energy than lasers.
  • Do you really need a big, power-hungry server just to share files in a small office? Networked hard drives are much cheaper, smaller—and use far less power.

4. Moving away from IT:

  • Consider whether air conditioning really needs to freeze your office in summer and turn it into a furnace in winter. If you don’t need to “dress up for customers—and most office workers don’t, business is done on the phone—then dress appropriately for the weather.
  • Avoid pointless meetings and cut down on travel. You don’t need a face-to-face meeting just to discuss a document. Email the document and book a phone call. Explore on-screen collaboration tools and video conferencing. Your kids can use “video chat”, why can’t you?
  • Turn down the lights, you’re not in an operating theatre.
  • Turn off the lights in empty rooms.
  • Install motion detectors on infrequently-used lights.

5. And finally…

Post a graph of your business’ energy consumption where everyone can see it—and celebrate when you reach your targets.

Thanks to the Sydney Morning Herald and Eicolab for some of these tips.