Reduce IT use to go green

"Reduce, don't excuse" is the message emanating from tomorrow's GreenCard Conference at Earl's Court in London.

The mantra of "reduce, reuse, recycle" is fundamental to sustainability, said Tracey Rawling Church, chair of the "Greening ICT" conference and UK head of marketing of sponsor Kyocera.

However, companies need to better focus on reduction, she said, rather than trying to buy their way out of trouble.

"I'm seeing companies using carbon offsetting as a means of assuaging corporate environmental guilt," she said. "People think they can continue consuming at previous levels as long as they pay someone to plant a tree for them."

"It's a way of excusing consumption - our theme this year is 'reduce, don't excuse,'" she added.

Because of new regulations - specifically the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive - green ICT is no longer a question of personal choice, she said.

Rawling Church advised companies to buy IT and other office devices specific to the functions needed, such as buying a single multifunction device rather than separate fax, copier and printing machines.

As well, she said technology should be used to avoid environmental drags, such as printing. "Paper consumption is still increasing despite people using digital documents," she said. "People still print them out, read them once and then put them in the recycling tray and think it's a job well done."

Another way to turn a company's IT green is by buying smart, she said. "It's often to do with smart procurement," she said. "But it's hard to measure one technology against another." She noted the debate between CRT and plasma screen monitors. CRTs are hard to dispose of and contain toxins, meaning many are simply shipped off to third-world landfills. Plasmas, on the other hand, consume more power.

"You need to judge the relative merits, and make an informed decision," she said. "It depends on volume of use, application and life cycle - all sorts of things."

As part of the GreenCard conference, Kyocera has awarded "Greenlight" prizes to Birbeck College at the University of London, recycled paper firm M-Real, car share network Liftshare and office product supplier the Green Stationary Company.