Wednesday, January 31, 2007

EnergyStar Advancing on all Fronts

The EPA is doing a bang up job on the new EnergyStar standard which will include servers as well. A lot of added gains in efficiency need to be attacked at the design and material levels, and IBM and Intel are doing just that with new materials like high-k; sounds like a breakfast cereal. EnergyStar is supporting that work but is also addressing the macro level such as the fact that half to two thirds of your servers' costs are hidden away in power and cooling.

Unbelievably, only half of the juice ever even makes it to the CPU! It's a one to one relationship - one kilowatt for the server, one kilowatt to cool it. Per kilowatt, that translates into $12,000 minimum for upstream hardware and another $3500 for site costs. It's hard to win the battle when you don't know the casualties count, but EnergyStar is definitely helping out with that.

Vista Will Eliminate Your Vistas

Generally I'm not one for posting the same story twice in a row but the environmental damage from Vista is all over the press. The sound bites are telling - GBN called the resulting environmental damage "massive", BAN claimed it was a "digital dump" perpetuating the "digital divide", the UK Green Party mentioned that "Future archaeologists will be able to identify a 'Vista Upgrade Layer' when they go through our landfill sites." Harsh light.

Microsoft has already shored up a defense against the environmental claims which is telling in and of itself. They told letsrecycle last night that "nearly all PCs on the market will support Vista". Is this legerdemain? Are they referring to existing PCs, or new PCs you can buy right now? If the latter, it's probably true, but if the former, then it is almost certainly inaccurate. For example, one study found that half of the existing PC base couldn't run Vista. They have also responded to the Green Party, claiming that they are "doing their best to improve their environmental standing." Ok, but Computer Aid thinks 10 million PCs will be scrapped as a direct result of Vista. And while I did see plenty of references to Reuse and Recycle, the biggest R - Reduce - was completely absent from the article.

The first big company to announce full conversion to Vista will get hammered in the press for being unfriendly to the environment, and the press will be right. From the green perspective, Vista is poison. Touch with care.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Solitaire Never Looked So Good

Vista has come out amid much fanfare after a five year, 10 billion dollar investment. Microsoft is pulling out all the stops to sell this thing, including suggesting that the patriotic thing to do is to buy a copy of Vista. Flag waving? I'm staring into my coffee.

The waste that Vista will generate has gotten a surprising amount of coverage. The main concern is the hardware requirements, which generally exclude older machines, not purchased in the last two years. The Green Party is running an anti-Vista campaign on these grounds, based on the fact that millions of perfectly good computers will be scrapped to run Vista.

Some are more concerned than others -
Peter Lewis wrote up a review of the new product. The review is funny - I don't know if he's being supportive or droll. Take quotes like this:
"[Vista has] some significant headaches but no deal breakers. One big hurdle is that you'll need serious hardware to take advantage of the best features. Only the most expensive versions of Vista - Home Premium and Ultimate - offer the new "breakthrough Vista experience" Microsoft is touting, including the glassy Aero interface and fancier graphics. Older PCs lack the horsepower to run it. If you haven't bought a new PC in the past year or so, you'll probably have to grab your wallet and a screwdriver to upgrade your hardware. That's not including the hundreds of bucks you'll spend for new Vista-enabled versions of your favorite applications."

So buying a new computer to run Vista isn't a deal breaker. And I need a screwdriver. Good to know, good to know. I'll just grab my wallet.

Clearly Microsoft is on the ropes here, with more and more folks suggesting that this will be the final push away from Windows into Linux. And with Dell now offering Vista-free computers, they are losing hardware support. Maybe the best market for this thing is the 13 percent on Americans who have never heard of global warming.

The LifeDrive Murder Mystery

The LifeDrive from Palm has been discontinued in Europe, killed off by RoHS. Actually, it was killed off over a year ago. What happened? It was such a promising product, and so young. Let's look at the progression of events in the LifeDrive's life:

  • Spring, 2005 - LifeDrive debut, selling for $500.
  • January, 2006 - Price cut, dropped to $450.
  • March, 2006 - Another price cut, dropped to $400.
  • July 1, 2006 - LifeDrive pulled from Europe due to RoHS, not widely announced.
  • July 10, 2006 - Rumors circulate that the LifeDrive is going out of production, only a little after a year in production. Palm denies it.
  • January 29, 2007 - LifeDrive labelled 'End of Life' at Palm's store.

A little suspicious if you ask me. Three price cuts, then pulled from Europe, but still widely available in the US. With the hush-hush, doesn't it look like Palm is dumping these things on US soil to extend the product cycle a little bit? Because they didn't do their homework on RoHS. Now they probably figure that it would hurt their image to keep it out there. What did Palm know, and when did they know it?

Monday, January 29, 2007

Computacenter Going Into Green IT

Looks like I have a little competition from Computacenter, a fairly large IT outfit from Europe that is getting into green IT auditing. To my knowledge, I think they are the only other firm who is doing this type of work. They have a cut sheet and briefing paper on the services that they offer which is pretty good; I might have focused more on the money part of it, the power and compliance costs, but maybe Europeans don't need the 'fisc stick' to get it. From Green Business News.

See The eWaste

CNet has a little number on transforming eWaste into art. 'kay. As a friend of mine says, art is what gets noticed.

Emergy-C, The Low Wattage Palette

After the Black Google post, many folks said that I should redesign my site to make it more energy efficient. I did that, but took it one step farther by designing an energy efficient palette too. Starting with the EnergyStar wattage ratings for different colors, Jon Doucette of Jonathan Design came up with the six colors at top. On average, this palette uses only about 3 or 4 watts more than a completely black screen. White is included as an accent color.

The hex codes are as follows:

#822007 (rusty red)
#000000 (black)
#b2bbc0 (blue grey)
#19472a (forest green)
#3d414c (cobalt)
#ffffff (white)

What can you use it for? Any application that is displayed on a device that uses CRT, Plasma, or OLED technology. Any device where white costs money - handheld units, web sites, TV. Enjoy.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Three Watts

That's what the net difference is between staring at a black page, and staring at ecoIron with the new look. Three watts of power. Thanks to Fat Knowledge for doing the testing with his Kill-A-Watt. I will be publishing the palette shortly.

Red With Anger, or Herrings?

It's so hard to tell with China and their eWaste problem/policy. According to BAN, they are mad as hell and aren't going to take it anymore; eWaste that is, from other countries such as Britain which handed them 1.9 millions tons in the last eight years. They even have their own State Environmental Protection Agency, and the site is in English for concerned folks like me to read. The link is slow, go make yourself a sandwich while it loads.

I guess you don't stop accepting 70 percent of the world's eWaste overnight. One thing that would really help is to establish recycling in the host countries, but when you can send a 26 ton shipping container of waste plastic to China for 500 British pounds, it's hard to make an economic argument. In true Chinese fashion,
they made themselves the world leader of waste processing, unmatched in processing quantity or price. And they did this by using business-friendly, loose regulations. It's not unlike the United States.

If they want to change, they do have at least one friend, and that friend is England. Judging from the numerous self-critical reviews in the Independent and New Consumer that have appeared recently, they seem mostly likely to start a solve for the problem. Now the only question is whether China is serious.

IT Crisis, Kismet Cuts Both Ways

Dave Girouard has an interesting one here on the crisis in IT. With quotes referring to the current 'insane complexity' of IT and the 'amazing innovation' of Google, it reads like a firm sell. On the other hand, it validates what I have been saying for years. And who can resist validation!

Because of course he's right - when you are spending 80 percent of a budget just fixing what you have, there's a big problem. When your CIO can't innovate, due to no money and no leadership, you're going to have problems. And when your competition is spending $10 a year on Google Apps when you are spending millions, egad.

A few minor trifles though. One is that you just don't turn over your information security to someone else as mentioned, even if it is Google. Give me a bonded, insured SLA, then we'll talk. The second is that 'Googlevision' doesn't provide any options for the IT staff that is now redundant - I say put 'em into green technology projects. Finally, kismet cuts both ways. When you're reducing that 'insane complexity', take a look at your Google AdWords budget too. You might find that's not doing anything for you either.

Believe me, I'm not in the Google marketing department, but I should be for all the great advice I'm giving them. Maybe they should just hire me and get it over with.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Feds Knocks 'em Into Tomorrah!

This just in from eWasteInsights. George Bush issued an executive order on January 24 which, amongst other things, essentially declares that all Federal Gubberment IT purchases must be compliant with the EPEAT standard. This is big news! Hey Rock, I mean George, I didn't think you had it in ya. And for a goofy doll to commemorate the occasion, click on Burgess.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

IT Managers are Not IT Leaders

Paul Murphy hit on a few points here that touched off a fuse. In talking about the proverbial Joe mid-level IT manager, Paul hits the nail the on head; it's not that these guys fail to plan, it's that they plan to fail. Calculatingly, deliberately, IT management puts all their effort into screwing things up. As Murphy put it:

...we have the quintessential IT bottom line: in IT failure succeeds and success fails.

Joe's career wouldn't be helped by becoming the guy who fixes the phones: that guy's systems work, and nobody knows who he is. What Joe's career needs is bigger budgets, more staff, face time with the bosses - things he gets by being the photocopier guy: that guy's systems fail a lot, but he's known and liked by everyone because he's always there to shoulder the load when crisises hit. In an industry defined by backpackers, the guy with the truck can't be seen - and doesn't get promoted.

Yep. I can't begin to express what this does to corporate IT budgets, with the gross misappropriation of funds and resources on this self-indulgent quest to the top of the pyramid. And most ironic of all is the fact that think they are leaders, moving the company in the right direction. Heads up, Mr. CEO; management optimizes existing processes, and leadership invents new processes. Fact is, your IT people aren't doing either.

This simple fact is why nothing happens when 77 percent of Americans say that their companies aren't doing enough to promote green technologies. I've said before that I think the best strategy is to crunch IT spending to the bone, then use the people freed up by that to get to work on green projects. But that's not going to happen until you separate your IT management from your IT leadership. The IT management optimizes the existing processes, they crunch your 80 percent maintenance costs for IT down to 50 percent. If they don't, you accept resignations. The IT leadership, they invent new processes - solar cells on the roof, telecommuting, wind powered data centers, whatever. If they don't implement the new processes in the given amount of time, you accept resignations. It's about business people, it's about money. And if you can't get your act together, you probably deserve to go 'rupt.

What The Other Guy is Doing

My ongoing series in posting what the competition is doing; survey says that most companies only adopt new ideas when their competition has already implemented it. So here goes:

Something Biggus This Way Comes

A short post to inform all the commenters that said I should redesign my site, that I am, in fact, going to redesign my site. I'm not giving it away, but here's a hint.

End Your Career. Please.

A recent survey of executives found that 60 percent believe telecommuters are less likely to advance in their careers than people who show up at the office. Oddly enough, almost 50 percent said they enjoyed working flexible hours, and almost 80 percent said that telecommuters were more productive!

Another survey of US Government managers found that only 35 percent of them think telecommuting is supported, despite being mandated by law. The biggest reason why it's not happening? Fear of losing control. From the article:

Fear of not having control over employees' activities was the biggest concern from managers who do not manage teleworkers, while productivity concerns were the largest among managers who do manage teleworkers. Those fears are understandable, Brunson said, but many companies use performance metrics to track teleworker production, and several studies have suggested that teleworkers are more productive than their in-office counterparts.

The rise of telecommuting is inevitable; it is just one of those inherently green technologies like centralized email where eventually the resources used in the traditional office - building them, getting to them, heating them, maintaining them - will be too inefficient for a five day a week commitment. Managers will need to reassess their role in such a situation, forget about control, and get back optimizing the processes they are responsible for - that's why they were hired, right? And if they can't deal with a little telecommuting, how are they going to handle interviewing in virtual reality, where they never even meet the person on the other end?

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

If I'm a Monkey, You Get Bananas

Looks like that crafty Federal government is going to try and make a monkey out of me. As reported by the AEA, Hilda Solis (D-CA) is now running the House Energy & Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Hazardous Materials, and is going to make a big effort to get "RoHS-Like" legislation passed. Of course, I've already said that I don't think it will happen. So I'm going to make a bet with Hilda and her gang; if "RoHS-Like" legislation is passed before one year from today, I'll give bananas to all my readers. I have a few conditions - actually, they are the same as the AEA's. The regs must:

  • Have a strong basis in science - not merely copy what was done in California and the EU;

  • exceed the current California and EU RoHS restrictions;

  • Not preempt any existing state RoHS laws; and

  • Create mandatory take-back requirements or impose advanced recovery fees for waste electronics.

How's that. Better hurry though, states like Nebraska (bad link to html text here) are already working on WEEE.

Your Childhood, Our Coal

clement asked today how much energy do we use just for the bandwidth on the Internet. I started by finding the biggest, blackest picture of coal I could find.

It is often claimed that it takes a pound of coal to deal with every 2 megabytes of data. This includes creating the data, moving it around, and storing it.
This comes from a 1999 study called "The Internet Begins With Coal" (which I can't seem to find on the Internet), but was revised in 2002 by Johnthan Koomey and associates down to maybe 10 or 20 megabytes. Unfortunately, that number is also five years and millions of new computers old as well. Since this is the best data I can find my answer is same the as Jack Nicholson's in A Few Good Men - I don't have the first damn clue.

I'll tell you what I do know; everyone has a worldview on how much energy use is ok, and a lot of people start with the worldview of their childhood. Here's what I remember; three hour trips in the car on Sunday for no purpose except to drive around; throwing out everything in big black bags; setting army soldiers on fire with gallons of leaded gasoline just for the fun of it. Energy was plentiful and free. And when that green army man plastic melted it smelled cool too, like war.

And so it is with computers now. We live the high life with all this so-called free IT; three year cycles, mass emailing movies, animated screensavers, leaving our machines on 24/7. Except, as Nick Carr points out, that it's not free anymore. Really, aren't we just living out the giddy, vicarious thrills of wasting that we learned in childhood? So when we hear that each computer uses 1.8 tons of raw materials, it's a bummer. When we hear that Avery Lovins reported on energy efficient computing in 1993, we don't care. And when we hear that the Chinese recycle copper wires by pouring gasoline on them to burn away the insulation, we think good for them. Because we are reminded of our childhood. Because melting plastic is cool. And, as Robert Duvall said in Apocalypse Now, it smells like victory.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mail Bag

I got hundreds of comments on the "Black Google" post. First, thanks for posting. I'm sorry I couldn't get back to every person individually.

The comments ranged from the thoughtful and the funny to the sublime and bitter. Many gave advice on how to fix the numbers so that they were more accurate, which was obviously needed, thanks. Some were adamant on the idiocy of the whole concept, repeatedly posting their message multiple times on multiple forums (see Tireless Rebutter for an explanation of the meme.). Others thought it had something to do with the racial disposition of the Google staff, and at least one person proposed "Black Google" for the title of the next Quentin Tarantino movie. If that happens, I want a cut.

The ones I liked best were those that took the idea and ran with it - the two guys who actually did some testing; the one who proposed some alternative color schemes using navy, maroon, and green, which only use one more watt than black; the stylish extension for Firefox; the guy who ran right out and made the interface, the guy who made a religious site based on a misspelling on the previous interface. Ha ha, all very clever.

Many people tried to justify the white background in a variety of ways, some valid, some questionable, and some just weird. One guy said he regularly worked with all the lights off and used the white screen to light the room. Many thought that the black screen would be depressing to users, or ugly, and a few justified it because the heat generated warmed the room! I didn't know Google, the monitor makers, or the planet were particularly interested in the heating business at this point in time. Some thought that turning off your monitor and 'taking cold showers' were better ways to save energy, suggesting that somehow the amount of energy one could save was finite in nature.

Finally, there were lots of mathematicians out there who shovelled out facts and figures, many of which were no better than my first estimate e.g. 95 percent of all monitors out there are LCDs, Google would lose half their business going to a black screen, making the switch would only save .00001 % of the US energy consumption. Of the ones that were valid, most concluded that it was a waste of time, that a few hundred thousand dollars was nothing. I guess I can only respond by saying that I'm sorry I'm working outside your framework for change; would you prefer gas rationing, and the worldwide riots that will come with it? Personally, I like society pretty much as it is, more or less; I wish something would match my socks up when they come out of the laundry, but I realize we have to change a few things. And if we reject spending a few days pondering a simple change that will save .00001 % of the energy in America, maybe a lot more, then I'm wondering what we are going to consider. Because doing nothing will end up in violence.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Last Piece

I think we have it. DisplaySearch has a table on LCD monitor penetration rates by region, which we can use to adjust our "Black Google" number. The table is interesting in itself, indicating over 99 percent LCD penetration in Japan, and only 37.2 percent in Latin America. Worldwide, as of first quarter 2006, they estimate LCD penetration at 74.7 percent.

Therefore, making the same assumptions as before, we can reduce the original 3000 Megawatt-hours to about 750 Megawatt-hours for "Black Google". Check out Alexa's Global 500 for a hint on how much juice could be saved; Yahoo, for instance, serves up 3.4 billion (mostly white) page views a day. Or Qq, the Chinese instant messaging service, with 9 million users using their (mostly white) interface at any given time.

They Paint School Buses, Don't They?

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recommends that every school bus be painted National School Bus Glossy Yellow, except for the hood (optionally) and bumpers which must be certain shades of black. Similarly the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control devices dictates the red on every stop sign (and it's caught on in a bunch of other countries as well).

Is it time for an energy efficient palette as well? Maybe, maybe. Thanks to Microsoft and HP, we already have RGB hashed out, but I'm talking about developing a palette of colors to use in broadcasting and web design that minimizes the amount of energy used for display. Like the stop sign, it might only take one country to mandate it for it to go global.

God Save the Queen, or at Least Her IT Department

The best green IT commentary comes out of England. Take James Murray for example, who is not afraid to mix it up with the PM when he states that the UK's implementation of the WEEE directive is:

...another little horror story emerg[ing] from the IT sector, further illustrating that if the prime minister has a legacy it will be of an administration defined by good intentions and woeful execution.

Or Phil Muncaster, commenting on free IT (podcast here) where he mentions that:

As more time and money is invested in maintaining the high performance and availability of these systems, the stakes will surely be raised and staff need to realise these are no longer free, infinite resources. This is no mean feat, of course, as ingrained cultural habits are always the hardest things to change. Perhaps penalties for misuse or overuse of systems would help things along a bit?

I love it. Seriously, you have to go across the pond to find the word 'penalty' and 'computer' in the same article. Finally, throw in the Stern Review. It's fitting that it is written by a Brit; somber, earnest, imploring. Besides making the claim that it's already too late to stop some global warming, it goes on report that the time for half measures are past, particularly when it comes to energy consumption. And with energy requirements of the typical UK data center doubling in five years, it seems timely. Up the Brits!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Magic Color

Ok, we have some movement here on the topic. Fat Knowledge and mr.snrub have posted some actual results in the comments section. Both of them plugged a Kill a Watt meter into their monitors, and then took measurements using the white Google page, and then a black Google page. Both pages were full screen when measured. Here are the results:

For an Acer 24" AL2423 monitor, the white Google was 65 watts. The black Google was 64 watts.
White is more expensive by 1 watt.

For a 19 inch CRT, the white Google was 83 watts. The black Google was 60 watts. White is more expensive by 23 watts.

Finally, for a 19 inch LCD, the white Google was 35 watts. The black Google was also 35 watts. They are the same.

So stay with me here. The white numbers are similiar to what was in the original article; the spread is a little bigger between black and white, probably because the CRT is also a little bigger as compared to the one used in the Energy Star test. I don't think anyone is in disagreement that CRTs will use more energy showing an all white page as compared to an all black page. If so, say so.

Now for the LCD monitors. From our very tiny sample set of two, we see that it either (a) doesn't make a difference whether the page is black or white, or (b) that white is 1 watt more expensive to show. That pretty much agrees with the comment gallery, except that most thought that black should be a little more expensive. I'm going to make the grand assumption that they are very close to equal for right now.

Now I'm going to explain why I think the magic, energy saving background color that every global site should use is very close to black. Based on our tiny sample, and I understand it is tiny, LCD monitors use the same amount of energy regardless of the color of the page. True, we don't have any data yet for any other colors besides white or black (like red, green, blue...), but based on the data we have it makes no difference energy wise what is on the monitor. If that is the case, we can remove them from the equation. They don't matter. So forget about every LCD monitor out there, they don't matter in terms of energy and what is being displayed.

So what's left? All the CRT monitors. These are the ones where everyone agrees that showing a white page uses more energy than showing a black page. We can conclude then, just for the sake of the CRT monitors out there, that every background page should be black. For LCD monitors, it doesn't matter, but for CRT monitors, it does.

Finally, to calculate actual savings, we need a little bit more data. We need to know what the worldwide distribution of the monitors is in use, by type. We need to know how many CRT monitors are out there, how many LCD monitors are out there, and if there are other monitors (like plasma ,OLED, etc.) we need to find out what they do as well. If we had these numbers, then we could calculate some real savings. I'll tell you right now that that there are CRT monitors out there, and I think it's a pretty good size number. I'll also state that if we expand this out, and stop just looking at Google, and look at say, every single web page out there, we are talking about a lot of energy being saved.

It's Always Better With Two

or so it would seem, particularly when it comes to screen real estate. According to this article from Johnathan Blum, adding in a second monitor will really do wonders for your productivity as work. This idea has been kicking around for a while, and while I don't have two monitors myself, I have heard from coworkers that productivity does skyrocket. My only problem with it is that so does your electric bill and hardware costs, particularly if you are on the self-imposed or mandatory three year cycle. First person to lay down how to do this right wins the prize.

Shades of Grey on Black Google - Interview

We have the author of the "Black Google" post with us today to answer a few questions, and see where we are headed with this interesting topic.

Mark: Welcome to ecoIron.

Mark: It's good to be here, Mark.

Mark: Let's start off by mentioning that the post was incredibly popular - it was on Digg for a while, then it also appeared on Reddit as well?

Mark: Yes, we got about 40,000 hits yesterday. That's about 400 times what we normally get. Good thing we use Blogger to host this site, it handled the traffic well.

Mark: Why do you think the post was so popular?

Mark: Well, I think that there is some general concern about the greening of the IT world out there, a general sense that all this electronic gadgetry is costing us, as a society, some money, and maybe some other costs as well, such as health and environmental damage. Also, there is a growing awareness that there is a lot of waste in the industry, and that technological solutions can and need to be done smartly, and more efficiently.

Mark: I can certainly see that. Almost every vendor now has some sort of green IT campaign going, and there are a lot of eWaste regulations, such as RoHS and WEEE, that have been passed in recent years. It seems like people are waking up.

Mark: They are waking up, and it's exciting. It's exciting because when you start to look for these solutions, a lot of them are right under your noses. Like the Black Google thing.

Mark: Okay. Now there were a lot of comments on the post, including some that it wouldn't work on LCDs, or was misguided in general. Could you respond to that?

Mark: Sure. A lot of posters responded that the 'color' black costs no energy to produce, or even costs a little energy to produce, on most LCD systems. That's fine, I didn't get any links to any studies on that, but if that is true then that would change things a bit. But, the point is that it would just change. So maybe the most efficient color is not black for a global site like Google - it might be the right color for your Intranet, where you have nothing except CRT monitors. Or, as one poster pointed out, it might be the right thing for TV commercials, broadcasting, where a lot of the receivers are still CRTs. I do disagree with the statement that everyone has a LCD monitor out there, I just don't think that's true. And if so - say there are still 20% CRTs left in the world - then the right, most efficient color is probably a shade a grey. For big sites like Google.

Mark: That's why the background is changed on ecoIron today.

Mark: Right. But I'm tiny. (laughs.)

Mark: Is/should Google going to do anything about this?

Mark: I don't know, and ironically it's not important. I chose Google because it is a high volume site; I could have chosen any site, the site is not important. A lot of readers mentioned that Google would never "go black" because it would be too hard too read, it's not their brand, etc. These are very valid observations which I agree with, it's not so simple. You know, every company has to work within their customers' framework for change, and Google is going to do exactly that. Just like every IT professional who reads this is going to do. That's really the point.

Mark: I completely agree. Anything final words today?

Mark: No, that about covers it. But if there are any studies, or experts on this topic in the audience, I'd love to hear from them. I'd like to pursue this more, come up with more definitive results. Thanks for having me on your blog.

Mark: Great! Thanks for your time.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Black Google Would Save 750 Megawatt-hours a Year

As noted, an all white web page uses about 74 watts to display, while an all black page uses only 59 watts. I thought I would do a little math and see what could be saved by moving a high volume site to the black format.

Take at look at Google, who gets about 200 million queries a day. Let's assume each query is displayed for about 10 seconds; that means Google is running for about 550,000 hours every day on some desktop. Assuming that users run Google in full screen mode, the shift to a black background [on a CRT monitor! mjo] will save a total of 15 (74-59) watts. That turns into a global savings of 8.3 Megawatt-hours per day, or about 3000 Megawatt-hours a year. Now take into account that about 25 percent of the monitors in the world are CRTs, and at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, that's $75,000, a goodly amount of energy and dollars for changing a few color codes.

[ed. This got Dugg. The link to the wattage for different colors is from EnergyStar.]

[ed. There's a follow up as well.]

[ed. And now there's a FAQ too! 7/28/2007.]

[ed. OK seriously, this is the definitive piece on this, very long Wiki-esque post that covers everything to date. 8/6/2007]

Employees Don't Bring Home to Work

at least when it comes to energy conservation. According to a recent study in the UK of 1,000 employees, most employees are much better at conserving energy at home than in the workplace. This includes switching off lights (94 percent to 66 percent), and turning off PCs (85 vs. 53), among other, very British, questions such as boiling just enough water for a single cuppa (54 vs. 10)

Surprising? Not really. What is surprising is that half of the respondents said that their companies don't care about environmental issues. Here's where the savvy really kicked in; for example, 75 percent pointed out that their companies recycle paper, but don't use recycled paper themselves. Or the fact that 75 percent of them have access to double sided printers, but only 25 percent were given training on how to use them.

I see this type of response all the time, companies think they are doing something, but their efforts are far outpaced by workers' expectations, producing nothing but backfire. Close the loop - if you are going to recycle paper, use recycled paper. If you are going to print double-sided, show employees how to do it.

Earthquakes, Tornadoes, Hurricanes Threaten Data

If you're in the business of locating data centers, you want to avoid the onslaughts of mother nature as much as possible. The Royal Pingdom can help you out a little bit with these maps that identify some hazards in the US. Of course, your cables are still at risk. Finally, when the big one comes you will want to know about it; get on this guy's mailing list, he can predict them.

Black Pixels are the New Green Pixels

Terrific article from Rising Phoenix Design that points out a rather obvious-when-you-think-about-it fact; black pixels take less energy than white pixels. Background to background, black comes in at about 59 watts, white is at 74, a full 15 watts higher. I'm convinced; the look you see at ecoIron is now permanent. More colors here, and here's a link to Varlath's blog that explains why we changed from black to white in the first place.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Goodbye, and Thanks for All for Fish and Copper

Seems like every time you pick up a blog these days something is peaking. The baloghblog reports that we are running out of oil, copper, and even wood chips. Since 2000, the price of copper has quadrupled, gold has tripled, and oil has doubled. South Africa, the largest gold producer in the world with one third of all supply, is in rapid decline.

The tin is almost gone, only 20 years left. We've got 18 more years of lead, 69 more years of bauxite, 64 years of steel. Platinum will probably be gone by this century as well.

Gone means different things to different people. When we talk about oil, the peak is generally referred to as the half way point, where half of the oil that is available is used, and the other half is in the ground. Many think peak oil will occur between 2008 and 2020. When we talk about metals, we're talking about the fact that it is uneconomical to extract material from virgin sources, such as ore. In this case, we will still have what we have already mined, but that stockpile will slowly whither away as the resource gets turned into non-recycled garbage. For example, a recent study suggested that 26 percent of the copper we have already recovered is now lost in non-recycled waste. We've lost 19 percent of our zinc too.

It's hard to do without, at least in the short run. When I wake up in the morning and don't have half and half for that morning coffee I can go a little nuts. Right now, I can go to the store and get some more, but what if I could never get any more half and half? I don't know what I would do, probably adapt, eventually. One astute blogger pointed out that resources only peak if you still need them; for example, horseshoes peaked long ago but no one cares. It is surprisingly hard to find examples of a resource that is still wanted but is now completely gone; the Newfoundland groundfish industry however, which is now completely destroyed, is a good example. Now it's happening in Maine too, where the traditional 200 year old chowder recipe has changed because there's no fish.

I enjoy my fish dinners as much as anybody, but I never planned a permanent goodbye to them. I love my computer too, and my iPod, and my TV, etc. too, but I never planned to love them to death. We have already said goodbye, and thanks for all the fish. Let's try and do a little better with the copper, and the gold, and the tin, and the steel, and the bauxite, and the platinum.

The Other Guy is Always Greener

Studies show that the best way to get a new organizational strategy on its feet is to point to the competition. Here's what the leaders for the green computing movement are doing:

Lloydminister is adding on recycling fees to computer equipment and big screen TVs. Looks like British Columbia is going this way as well.

Fannie Mae and Highmark build the first LEED certified data centers. Read more on data centers at Super January by Searchdatacenter.

Salesforce goes carbon neutral.

HP beats Moore's law. Ultimately, this will shrink chips to only 4 percent of their current size.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Emails Bouncing to Greener Pastures

The New York Times has an interesting article that illustrates how certain technologies are becoming as efficient as they can be, and how natural it is.

Take email, for example. Apparently IT staffs are having fits because savvy workers are forwarding their internal email to Google. Why? They are tired of the multiple passwords and the lack of accessibility that corporate email offers. And this is more than just a few bubbleheads; according to the article, in some firms 30 percent of their workers are forwarding their mail to an web mail service such as Gmail.

I have every expectation that this email bouncing will continue; furthermore, it is inevitable. As I have said before, global, centralized email is the best way to deliver that service - it's a fast, efficient, one password, accessible solution. And with spam approaching 95 percent of all email, it solves that problem as well. Of course, the security issues still remain but those should be solved at the policy (not IT) level, where the understanding is made that if you send sensitive data irresponsibly, you will need to submit your resignation. Problem solved, and we will all be greener because of it.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Maine Takeback Now in Effect

Maine is a great place. That goes double for their electronic recycling, as their producer takeback law went into effect last week. This reg requires manufacturers to recycle used TVs and monitors that they produce; in addition, they also have to take a share of the old kit that is being recycled by vendors who are no longer in business. Maine is the first state in the nation to have this law. It will be an interesting experiment.

And it's already having an effect. Lyman, for example, population 3,795, is now dealing with eWaste. And a new business has popped up in Waterville called eWaste Alternatives, pictured at right, that is reselling used kit. It's an great opportunity to profit off of a green business model, let's see where it goes.

Federal RoHS - Not the Best Idea

With RoHS gaining a full head of steam in Europe, there have been several commentators wondering if the US is going to come up their own RoHS-like regulations. I think there are a few arguments for and against whether this will happen. Let's play crystal ball for a minute.

First, RoHS is triggering a lot of end of life (EOL) notices for product parts. In 2004, there were 240,000 EOL notices; that went up to 1.6 million is 2005 and 1.88 million in 2006. That means that these parts will no longer be sold in Europe, so the question is what are the manufacturers going to do with them. I don't think its too much of a stretch to say they are going to dump them in countries with no regs - say China, Latin America, and the US - maybe even at a premium. All this stuff will be toxic under RoHS.

At this point the EPA can either let it happen or enact similar legislation; let's say they try get something passed. In fact, according to this article, this has already been tried with the formation of the National Electronics Product Stewardship Initiative (NEPSI). NEPSI died in 2004 killed by business interests. EPA had a seat at the table but couldn't make it happen.

It is little known that the EPA has never completely eliminated a single substance from use in the US. Probably the strongest case can be made for DDT, but there is a clause for
unlimited use in emergency situations. They also tried with asbestos and failed. History suggests, then, that the EPA has peer status with most businesses interests, and is trumped by other government agencies, particularly the military. So I don't think Federal RoHS will happen, and we will have toxic goods dumped upon us.

Ironically, I actually think this is the best thing! For what will happen is that states and even cities will start passing their own regs to restrict these goods from being sold in their jurisdictions. Manufacturers will then have to comply with hundreds of different laws, instead of just one. And when that happens, most will strive to comply with all of them; no one wants their monitors banned in New York City, or their routers banned in Illinois. This is exactly what is happening with cell phone manufacturers; they are all being made greener just because of RoHS. And this, I think, is the best solution.

American Inmates Cleanup Toxic eWaste

This looks bad.

Christopher Moraff has written an article on the computer 'recycling' industry being run by Federal Prison Industries (FPI). I've written before about some of the human rights issues related to the manufacture of electronics goods, particularly the coltan industry (see the Black Gold Rush.) In this case, prisoners are being paid between .23 and 1.15 per hour to disassemble eWaste, often without the proper tools:

“When the operation began, most glass room workers would heft the CRT to head height and slam the CRT down on the metal table and keep slamming it on the table until the glass broke away from whatever they were trying to remove,” said one prisoner quoted in the report. “We were getting showers of glass and chemicals out of the tube.”

The program is now operating in six federal prisons. According to the article, inmates are working without proper protective gear and are suffering from health issues, including slow-healing wounds, sinus problems, headaches, fatigue, and burning skin, eyes, noses and throats. This is not at all dissimilar to the symptoms reported by 'recyclers' in China and India.

The first thought that strikes me is that a baseline needs to be established on this type of activity. Not in a workplace, not in a federally mandated guide, but in peoples' minds. Computers are hazardous, they are filled with hazardous chemicals and materials, and need to be treated like hazardous waste. Like nuclear waste. Not like something that can be smashed down on tables by inmates.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Few Products

Lots of new products are coming out in the tech space, particularly for dealing with power and compliance related problems. CNET has a nice survey of several of the coolest solar powered gadgets. For your server and desktop needs, you can look into the Bubba server (draws only 10 watts) or the Jack PC which runs off the power of the Ethernet cable (only about 5 watts). Finally, Papros has announced a new software suite that will help you manage all of your RoHS regulatory issues. These should help keep you in the green.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wearing the Chinese Glasses

Still trying to get to the bottom of China's eWaste problems and policies. China Daily reports that there are new rules that will require producers to deal with eWaste. Still not sure if this is talk, teeth, or very strong gums. Maybe I need to clean my Chinese glasses to figure out what rules and contracts really mean in China (hint: it's a lot different than the West.)

At the same time, Basel Action Network reaffirmed that China is the eWaste dumping ground for the world. The article states that:

...Some of the waste is shipped to inland provinces of China from the coastal communities where processing plants are located, China Radio International said Tuesday. If the government doesn't intervene, the shipment to interior provinces will increase.

Suggesting that the government hasn't intervened. Similarly, Hu Tao, a spokesperson, said:

The Basel Convention, adopted in 1989, bans countries from transporting hazardous wastes across boundaries for disposal, especially into developing countries. Tao said a number of countries did not sign the treaty, so the dumping has been able to continue.

Suggesting that the problem is that exporters are letting this stuff slip by their own customs people. Hmmm.....

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Greenpeace and EPEAT

Finally found an article (other than mine) where Greenpeace and EPEAT are mentioned together - James Murray put together something yesterday. GP now claims that they are 'looking at the whole company' when they do ratings. One might wonder why you performed any testing, working at such a high level, but ok.

There's a few other items here on their new policies, such as GP doesn't give credit for RoHS compliance and they are requiring firms to ban mercury, PVC, and BFRs. It's a good cruising altitude, but the justification and decision framework is missing, and you have no vendor buy in. I haven't seen any mention from any vendor that they are proud of their GP ranking. Nokia? Dell? If I'm wrong here let me know and I'll revise, but it seems like no one will touch it. This is in contrast to EPEAT that has hundreds of products listed.

Every media release is an opportunity for Greenpeace revise their opinion, and they are doing it admirably, professionally. Unfortunately, like many politicians have discovered, the Internet doesn't lie; it locks history away forever, and the order that it occurred. Folks like Steve Abrahamson take this history and sum it up in a few paragraphs, then come to the same conclusion I do; we get it. Thanks. Apple isn't perfect, but (your words) they should be because they are leading everything else. Now don't make us hate you.

Disclaimer: my wife got an iPod shuffle for Christmas. It's the only thing made by Apple that we own.

Update: Heard from Tom at Greenpeace on some press. I was looking for press from vendors that were 'proud of their GP ranking' - these aren't that but here they are:

Hi Mark,

I work for Greenpeace on this campaign. So just to take two issues you raise, on your blog you say no company will acknowledge our ranking. To quote from an article today here's Lenovo doing just that:

"Mike Pierce, the company's director of environmental affairs, said Lenovo "worked closely with Greenpeace to make sure we understood their concerns." One change that came out of the dialogue was Lenovo's decision to phase out some chemicals that environmentalists have long considered hazardous to the environment, such as brominated flame retardants."

And just as one example of much positive press, MacUser magazine editorial:

Obviously you don't like our methods but with companies like Dell challenging the PC industry to offer free global take back services its good to see some companies moving in the right direction

Update 2 - Tom found another story. This one is more on the mark, as Dell actually did mention the Greenpeace report in one of their 'plant a tree' press releases. Not exactly glowing coverage, but it's enough to print:

Take a look at Dell's press release from January 9, 2007. Leaving aside the dubious benefit of the tree planting headlines it does specifically mention the Greenpeace ranking: "Dell works with a number of stakeholders to help set environmental policies, and will continue to work to meet the environmental requirements of customers around the globe. Dell shared the No. 1 position when Greenpeace last year released its first Guide to Greener Electronics report. It ranks the environmental practices of the electronics industry, including product recycling and chemical use policies. Updated quarterly, the December 2006 Greenpeace report ranked Dell second, maintaining its position leading the computer industry."

Friday, January 12, 2007

Coming Soon to a Street Corner Near You

I've written before about the neat cultures around the world that fix electronic goods instead of throwing them out. This article from StreetUse discusses Ugandan cell phone charging booths. It interesting and ominous at the same time - didn't know Ugandans use a car battery to power their house there. With all the tech giants targeting the third world, I wonder if they took this into account - will the OLPC run off a car battery?

Green IT Auditing - The Seven Signs

With all of the recent changes in enviro regs and the push to run IT like a business, it's definitely time for your company to consider auditing your IT department with the green goal in mind - doing so will definitely save your company several percentage points on your IT budget, reduce risk, and improve your environmental policies. Green IT Audits often begins well, but then run into difficulties when mid level IT management realizes that head counts or budgets may be cut. In all probability, this will in fact happen, but as I have said before the best strategy is to reallocate these people to other, more interesting green business projects.

Be that as it may, your IT management probably saw this coming long before you did and could have built up a pretty good Maginot Line against an audit; ironically, the best prevention against this practice is to audit them regularly. Here are seven signs that you need to get moving on your green audit:

  • Refusal to be Audited - This takes many forms but the most common defense is that IT is too strategic, complicated and systemic to be evaluated (Bull.) Extreme cases might have helped the process along by keeping minimal records and have nothing projectized, where IT spending comes out of one big pot.
  • Budgets Keep Getting Bigger - You get routine requests for more hardware, software and people. These requests are typically made in a linear relationship with head count of the company, or with every new project that comes along. Generally, this is just an effort to expand existing maintenance functions.
  • Energy is Free - Claims that energy is a cost of doing business, not a specific IT cost.
  • Impenetrable - You have no idea what certain IT divisions do; they produce no measurable results or they work on projects that have no scope, schedule, or budget. These divisions usually have a couple of passive aggressive individuals running the show who aren't particularly keen on sharing their knowledge. In addition, their work is invariably proclaimed as "too complicated to understand", and/or with "immeasurable strategic benefits" to the organization.
  • eWaste Doesn't Happen - The focus is on recycle instead of reduce. In this case, your two or three year hardware cycle is justified by the fact that old equipment is donated to charities or employees take their old machines home.
  • Flock of Stooges - That IT promotion list is full of toadies who support anything their boss says, particularly in budgetary meetings. Really, they are just trying not to get fired.
  • Greenwash Aplenty - Claims are made that they are pushing the envelope of efficient IT, by providing such low-lying examples as double-sided printing, or getting rid of all the CRT monitors.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Tin Rocket Runs on RoHS

Tin has rocketed up in price, charting a 66 percent increase from December 2005 to December 2006. A lot of this is fuelled by the enactment of RoHS legislation that require no lead in certified products. Since solder has traditionally composed of a lot of lead, 96 percent tin-based solder is the new, RoHS compliant solution.

Parts are starting to hit end of life (EOL) as they are replaced with RoHS approved substitutes. That means if your have a 1992 VAX with lead circuit boards you may be SOL, PDQ. And with peak copper and peak gold just around the corner, peak tin will give you just another reason to care about WEEE in IT.

Buy metals, young man.