The primary objective of such a program is to account for the triple bottom line, an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational (and societal) success.
The goals are similar to green chemistry; reduce the use of hazardous materials, maximize energy efficiency during the product's lifetime, and promote recyclability or biodegradability of defunct products and factory waste.
Approaches to green computing
With virtualization, a system administrator could combine several physical systems into virtual machines on one single, powerful system, thereby unplugging the original hardware and reducing power and cooling consumption.
In addition, a system may hibernate, where most components (including the CPU and the system RAM) are turned off.
Some programs allow the user to manually adjust the voltages supplied to the CPU, which reduces both the amount of heat produced and electricity consumed. This process is called undervolting.
Some CPUs can automatically undervolt the processor depending on the workload; this technology is called "SpeedStep" on Intel processors, "PowerNow!"/"Cool'n'Quiet" on AMD chips, LongHaul on VIA CPUs, and LongRun with Transmeta processors.
An industry initiative called 80 PLUS certifies PSUs that are at least 80% efficient; typically these models are drop-in replacements for older, less efficient PSUs of the same form factor.
As of July 20, 2007, all new Energy Star 4.0-certified desktop PSUs must be at least 80% efficient.
Smaller form factor (e.g. 2.5 inch) hard disk drives often consume less power than physically larger drives.
Even at modest sizes, DRAM based SSDs may use more power than hard disks, (e.g., 4GB i-RAM uses more power and space than laptop drives). Flash based drives are generally slower for writing than hard disks.
A fast GPU may be the largest power consumer in a computer.
Energy efficient display options include:
- No video card - use a shared terminal, shared thin client, or desktop sharing software if display required.
- Use motherboard video output - typically low 3D performance and low power.
- Reuse an older video card that uses little power; many do not require heatsinks or fans.
- Select a GPU based on average wattage or performance per watt
Computer systems that have outlived their particular function can be repurposed, or donated to various charities and non-profit organizations. However, many charities have recently imposed minimum system requirements for donated equipment. Additionally, parts from outdated systems may be salvaged and recycled through certain retail outlets and municipal or private recycling centers.
Recycling computing equipment can keep harmful materials such as lead, mercury, and hexavalent chromium out of landfills, but often computers gathered through recycling drives are shipped to developing countries where environmental standards are less strict than in North America and Europe. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition estimates that 80% of the post-consumer e-waste collected for recycling is shipped abroad to countries such as China, India, and Pakistan.
Teleconferencing and telepresence technologies are often implemented in green computing initiatives. The advantages are many; increased worker satisfaction, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to travel, and increased profit margins as a result of lower overhead costs for office space, heat, lighting, etc.
The savings are significant; the average annual energy consumption for U.S. office buildings is over 23 kilowatt hours per square foot, with heat, air conditioning and lighting accounting for 70% of all energy consumed.
Other related initiatives, such as hotelling, reduce the square footage per employee as workers reserve space only when they need it. Many types of jobs -- sales, consulting, field service -- integrate well with this technique.