I want to assert that each of us needs to take personal responsibility when it comes to the carbon dioxide and other gasses that are emitted by our activities. These activities constitute our carbon footprint: The quantity of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere as a result of our transportation, housing, food and work on this planet. Amid rising populations, each of us has the responsibility to reduce our carbon footprint within reason. Our subsistence and the very existence of suitable habitat for our children depends on it.
When it comes to figuring out what our carbon footprint is, many of the questions we might ask are somewhat obvious. Do we car pool? Do we use public transportation? Do we work from home so as not to commute at all? Do we conserve electicity with fluorescent lighting and making sure we only light the rooms in use? Do we try to reduce our home's energy footprint through better insulation, windows and technology?
As you tick down the list of questions you might ask to determine your carbon footprint, you might find some of the answers to the questions difficult. Not that they are hard to answer, but changing the behavior to reduce your carbon footprint might be hard to accept. You might find yourself in a struggle between your conscience and your comfort level. I don't know about you, but I don't mind conserving on the things I write about in the previous paragraph. But when I start to think about how my computer use affects global warming, I start to sweat.
Unfortunately, the earth is starting to sweat from the explosion in electrical demand from computers. Some reports indicate that IT data centers will soon fly past the airlines in global greenhouse gas emissions. Considering that there are nearly 50,000 flights per day world wide, it gives you a sense of the tons of C02 power plants emit each day to satisfy the demands of data centers. The biggest offenders are the massive data centers filled with aging, power-hungry servers.
Fortunately, I work for a company that has been improving server energy management for quite a few years. From chip inventions to virtualization innovations to supercomputer breakthroughs, IBM is on the leading edge of reducing data centers' carbon footprints.
As pleased as I am that IBM is developing more energy-efficient data-center technologies, I still have a nagging sense that this IBM employee can do more. How often do I think of the drain on data centers when I use the Web? Of course I'm not advocating less Web use. I think the Web is the answer to a host of other global problems, especially third-world education. And I do try to reduce the number of sites I visit to those which are absolutely necessary for my ongoing education. But when I visit a Web site, especially one that receives a lot of traffic, how do I know that its data center is green? I often wish I could just run a tool in my browser that tests the host data center for electrical efficiency. That is a long ways away, but if any enterprising developer is reading this blog, consider that a noble FireFox plug-in.
We do have a standard certification for green data centers, a part of a whole building's environmental impact. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification is the benchmark against which more and more data centers will be built or retrofitted in the future. Perhaps the certification can be put into the metadata of the templates for the sites hosted in LEED-certified data centers. Then enterprising developers can develop a widget or plug-in that displays the LEED certification on those sites.
It would be a great incentive for sites to have this seal if it leads to more traffic from environmentally conscientious computer users around the globe. And it would ease this Web user's conscience to know that I can continue to use the Web as much as I do (almost constantly) and still reduce my carbon footprint.[Read More]