S1E9: Green IT - Malinda Lowder Discusses Dramatically Reducing Energy Usage To Save Money And The Planet
Narrator: ASCII Anything, a podcast presented by Moser Consulting. Join us every Wednesday to find out who from Moser's more than 200 resident experts we'll be talking to and what they're focused on at the moment: trends, security set up. ASCII anything, and we'll give you our best answers.
Angel Leon: Hello everyone. And welcome to another edition of ASCII Anything, presented by Moser Consulting. I'm your host, Angel Leon, Moser's HR advisor. And on this episode of asking anything, we are talking with Malinda Lowder, Moser's marketing lead and brand ambassador, and we want to talk about green IT. Malinda has been a creative specialist in Indianapolis for 25 years doing advertising and marketing work for retail stores, non- profits, radio stations and technology companies. At Moser, in addition to leading the marketing efforts, Malinda has supported conservation initiatives and started green programs. It is great to talk to you about this topic today, Malinda. Thanks for being here.
Malinda Lowder: Thanks Angel. It's great to talk to you.
Angel Leon: Let's start with the questions. Every company should be environmentally conscious in this modern world. But why are computer technology companies particularly interested in this?
Malinda Lowder: Well, a technology company has all of the normal environmental concerns as any other office, such as using paper, resources, like lighting, heating, cooling the office space. But tech has more responsibilities. Computers use a lot of power. Data centers full of servers use a lot of power and they produce a lot of heat. That heat has to be cooled all year round to keep them functioning. And computer hardware uses a lot of resources in their production. Parts of computer equipment are made from toxic materials, such as lead, mercury, PCBs. And those need to be both responsibly sourced and disposed of properly. Green IT is kind of a complicated ball to unravel.
Angel Leon: Yeah, I agree. And if anybody that's worked in IT out there has ever been to a server room, they know for sure that those things could get very hot. So Malinda, you mentioned green IT. For those of us that don't know, what is green IT?
Malinda Lowder: So the term green IT, or green information technology, is really about using computer resources efficiently. You have to combine reducing hazardous materials, maximizing energy efficiency during a machine's life cycle and recycling older technologies and outdated products. So green IT really tries to minimize the negative impact of essential IT operations on the environment by designing manufacturing, operating and disposing of computers in environmentally friendly ways.
Angel Leon: Interesting. So it's really about power usage, e- waste handling and green manufacturing, right?
Malinda Lowder: Yeah. Those are really the three major branches of the green IT tree, green usage, green disposal and green design and manufacturing. Green usage is really the first part. It's really about the power that our machines use and trying to be aware of that. Part of green IT thinking is really cooked into our modern hardware to begin with. Early computers in the eighties, nineties consumed large amounts of power. There was no thought put into things like sleep modes or power down cycles. In'92, the EPA came up with the Energy Star labeling system. And what it really did was make people aware of the energy usage of the machines they were buying, not just computers, but all appliances. And the result is that people became aware of it and they started purchasing things that were more efficient. Computers really took off in that area. As a result of the rating system, computing devices, they now use up to 40% less energy than they did back in those days. And there's a lot of ways besides just how they're manufactured. There's a lot of other ways we can watch our power usage and be aware of it. When you go out to purchase a new machine, think about whether you need a desktop computer or if a laptop will work for you. The average laptop now only consumes one fifth of the energy of a desktop PC. So if you're only going to own one computer, you should probably consider if a laptop would work instead of a desktop model. If it doesn't, if you have to have a desktop model, think about maybe you can go to the smaller form computers that are desktops. They use a little bit less power, take up less space. If that works for you, that's a good option.
Angel Leon: Yeah. And those small form factor PCs or for many of the other brands, they do use less power, they do consume less. And so the heating factor like we were talking about with the server room, you can definitely feel it. When you put a laptop on your lap, for lack of better term, you feel that heat emanating, especially when you got several different software running at the same time. So that's really interesting how you put that. But power usage is not just about the abilities of the machine. It is about how we use it. Correct?
Malinda Lowder: Yeah. That's absolutely true. There's a lot of education that needs to be done about misunderstandings of computer usage. Some people think that shutting down and then restarting your machine later consumes more energy than just leaving it running the whole time that you're gone from it. I am literally the worst offender of this. At this point, we're sitting here today, my computer hasn't been shut down in months. But the truth is the surge of power that your PC uses to boot up is far less energy than if you left it on for just three minutes. So shutting down your PC when you're not using it, not only conserve power, but it adds time to the life of your machine by not wearing it out quite so quickly. And it's also modern machines have a lot of settings that can help us save power and save wear and tear on our machines. If you go into the settings of your computer, there's a lot of power saving modes you can turn on. You can make your computer go to sleep if you're away automatically so you don't have to think about it, inactivity modes and other options. Software development in general has a role in all of this too. There are three major operating systems. And Angel, I have a question for you. Of the three operating systems, macOS, Windows, or Linux, which do you think is the most green operating system?
Angel Leon: Well, I'm going to be honest. I use for the most part, a macOS. I do have a Windows PC at home as well. I want to say macOS. I don't know that much about Linux, to be honest, but I would say macOS because I know Apple has made a lot of strides in that department in some of their machinery, in some of their software when they do software updates, they've done a lot of new work related to the development of just their operating system being more green overall. But I would like to hear your answer.
Malinda Lowder: Mac has put a lot of work into their operating system, their machines, and have put a lot of energy efficiencies in. But of the three, macOS, Windows and Linux, Linux is actually the most green operating.
Angel Leon: Wow.
Malinda Lowder: Yeah. So it's also the least popular. It is the one that has the least market share, but it is definitely designed and written with a lot of green IT initiatives built into it. And it's primarily due to the efficient power consumption of the operating system. It's estimated that thousands of megawatts of power are wasted every year due to just idling computers. And Linux from the beginning almost, has had features that are built into their system, native hibernation utilities, and other power conservation and efficiency things.
Angel Leon: So it's interesting because nowadays I'm just talking in general. I hate to take on macOS, but just because it is what I'm currently using at the moment. But as I look at my battery resources right now on it, I know that they have a feature in there that basically allows me to optimize my battery charging that I know necessarily doesn't have to do with green technology. But the fact is that it conserves the energy that I'm wasting basically to charge it. And it kind of puts it on hold for a certain amount of time if it figures that I'm not going to be doing anything big, as far as just developing, or maybe just watching a movie or watching a video off of YouTube. So I find that interesting how those things correlate with what we're talking about in that these new systems have put these options in place so we can optimize our batteries towards a longer run of just basically having better consumables, right?
Malinda Lowder: Yeah, absolutely. And all of the companies, all of the major systems, operating systems, are putting these things in place. When you buy a new computer, a lot of them will default to the more power efficient options. And you can go into your settings and sometimes even make it more efficient, make your sleep happen earlier of your system and things like that. But we're seeing a lot more of this built and cooked into the operating systems.
Angel Leon: Yes.
Brian: I have two quick nerdery point of information based on an article that I was reading late last week, Apple OS is no longer the second most popular operating system out there. It was recently overtaken by Chrome. And this is producer Brian, by the way. Hi everyone.
Angel Leon: Interesting note. Thank you, producer Brian. So let's dive a little bit deeper into the latter part of the process about greet IT. And I'm talking about green disposal. So disposal and recycling of older equipment is starting to become a larger issue overall. What can you tell us about that?
Malinda Lowder: Yeah. The more years that go by, I don't know about for you, but for me it means more computers, more laptops, more tablets, more phones that we own, and they start piling up. I know my local county had an electronics recycling event last year, and we went through our closets and our storage locker and we took out every old computer, monitor, phone, headphones, power cords. We really pulled out everything to take to this recycling center. We had a truck full and I found even more after it was over, for next year. But I tell you, when I took one of those laptops out of my closet, I found out that the battery, and this laptop was probably five or six years old, it was a couple versions back. The battery had swollen up and was bulging. It was very scary to see. These machines are filled with caustic, toxic chemicals, and they have to be disposed of properly. They shouldn't just be sitting around.
Angel Leon: Right.
Malinda Lowder: So we need to think about that and not just throw them in the trash or in a landfill, about really taking these to somebody who's a professional and can recycle these. And I know Apple even is taking their old phones and you can turn in your phone at almost all of the vendors now, when you buy a new phone. And they're taking it back and pulling, they actually made robots specifically to pull components out of old iPhones and recycle them and melt them down and make new components out of them. And that's a big change in thinking from even just five years ago for these companies. Go ahead.
Angel Leon: Oh, no, absolutely. I was going to agree with you because this, this new world that we're living in, where phones get updated every year, computers get updated every year as well, new models come out every year. And like you were mentioning Malinda, we get iPads for our kids, iPads for ourselves, new computers for ourselves, new laptops for our kids that may be in high school or college. A new iPhone, new Samsung comes out, we're all running to the stores to get them. And so there has to be an end game to these old devices. There has to be something that we can do. And like you were mentioning, some of these places are now taking these in, they've built a technology so that humans don't have to be on the same room, basically where they take all these toxic components and get rid of them. What else can you tell us about this?
Malinda Lowder: There's a lot more options now for recycling your electronic equipment. I know, like I mentioned, our local government has every year and electronics recycling day. I've seen other charities do it. They can get some money from recycling things. I know some big box stores, like Best Buy, they have recycling programs. Sometimes you have to pay a little fee for them to take certain things, other times there may be a little bit of reward for bringing it in. But I know Best Buy, on their website, they say they've recycled 2 billion pounds of electronics. That makes them literally the largest electronics recycling program, but they're definitely not the only one. I know our company, Moser Consulting, every year, they bring in an outside company that comes to our office one day a year and they take our electronic recycling, the machines that Moser has replaced and we no longer use. But they also take any for any of our employees. And that is just a nice service to offer, help people get this stuff done properly. But even with all of these efforts, half of the computers out there are still not disposed of properly and they end up in landfills or uncontrolled places.
Angel Leon: Yeah, it's interesting because we do offer that service here at Moser, not just for the equipment that we use, but also for our employees. But you're right, I for one have, I hate to keep mentioning their name, but I have a MacBook that's about eight years old, that last year, late in the year, I had the hard drive replace because it's still a good working laptop. So once I got that, I actually got a new SSD drive and now it works very quickly. It works like it did eight years ago, so I'm very happy.
Malinda Lowder: And that's other things we could do. One of the things we can do is just use our equipment for longer periods of time so that we don't need new equipment quite so often, like you did, we could get our things repaired or improved or sell it to someone else who is going to use it consistently if you are going to upgrade to something new.
Angel Leon: Right. So green usage and green disposal are things we can do something about. But what about green computer design and manufacturing?
Yeah. We can't control how companies make computers, but we can become educated consumers. We can ask companies if they are using responsible sourcing for the raw materials to make the machines, and we can make sure that we buy and create a demand for energy-efficient machines and devices. So if you're comparing qualities of several new laptops you're going to purchase, also make energy efficiency and responsible sourcing checkboxes on that list. Most major companies are taking notice of this trend and waking up to responsible sourcing and recycling. Every major company has a conservation page where they've gone through what they're doing in this area. I know that I mentioned Apple earlier, who developed the robots just to take recycled parts out of old phones. They have a deep recycling page where they go into exactly how they're recycling elements and using them in new phones. And they say on there that every iPhone 11 now has recycled rare earth elements in it. They're really into energy efficiency, as are most computer companies. But the iPad 11 is 60% more efficient than Energy Star even requires it be.
Angel Leon: Yeah. And I like the way you put it, that companies now are looking into this, but also you as a consumer out there should be taking a look at what you're buying. You shouldn't just buy something, I guess I shouldn't say shouldn't buy something because you like it, but if you are somebody that's thinking about staying green and helping the environment, this would definitely be a good moment to actually do a little bit of research and find out what laptop, what tablet, what phone might be best equipped for a greener environment. So that's something that you can do by just researching the topic.
Malinda Lowder: Yeah, absolutely.
Angel Leon: So moving on, how does cloud computing fit into this environmentally conscious way of thinking? Because when people think of the cloud, people might not think this is a green environment using the cloud. But how does that work?
Yeah. Cloud computing is providing an opportunity to enact more green thinking on a really large scale. Back in the time of on-prem servers or in-house server rooms, every company had a large server room, using a lot of power to operate those servers, and each one produced a lot of heat. And they had to cool the room all year to keep the systems from overheating. Most data centers use as much energy to cool the computers as they do to power them. They just produce so much heat. This makes a huge energy drain. And every company used to have this. With moving things to large centralized server centers in the cloud, more large-scale energy-efficient systems can be put in place. Some large data centers have started pulling in cold winter air to pump into the data centers instead of using air conditioners all year round, in the winter months at least. The air only has to be purified and humidified instead of chilled, and that uses much less energy than an air conditioner in the middle of winter. Green data centers also allow for server consolidation, scaling up on demand, managing computer consumption, and all of these things that help with energy efficiency. I know Amazon Web Services did a study recently that showed their infrastructure is more than three times more energy-efficient than the average enterprise data center. More than two-thirds of this is attributable to the combination of energy efficiency in the server population and a much higher server utilization. AWS data centers are also more energy-efficient than enterprise data centers due to these types of comprehensive, large-scale things that they can enact.
Angel Leon: I'm sorry to interrupt, but I had to say something about being in a place where you brought cold air from the outside. I used to work at this office that we had our server room, it was so heated that they did that. They actually had to pull in cold air from the outside. They had to build sort of its own system so that they could get the cold air from the outside. And like you mentioned, it just wasn't cold air. They had to use humidifiers and everything in there because then they had to purify the air. But this is a room that was probably, I don't know, 20 by 20. It didn't have that many servers, but the fact that those servers were running 24/ 7 so that they can have their communication set up, it was amazing just how hot it got. Especially during the summer. When you got summer heat outside, 90 degree weather, and you've got a room that's full of servers that is not going anywhere, it's not going to be turned off or no time at all, it can get pretty heated. So all those sources of energies that you can use, the natural source of energy in this case, just bringing in that colder air during the winter, that definitely helps save some energy.
Malinda Lowder: Yeah. And it's unrealistic maybe to ask 200 individual companies to pay for these energy efficiencies, like doing that. Each one of them to set that up would be very expensive. But instead, we can have one large company, one large in the cloud data center set up a green IT, spreads the costs through an economies of scale to all of the people who subscribed to it. And it's a much easier way to build green IT thinking into these data centers than having 100 or 200 individual companies trying to do these things on their own.
Angel Leon: Yes, absolutely agree. So what can the average corporation do now to help with green IT?
Malinda Lowder: Well, it's really about making sure you have good general green corporate practices, buying responsibly sourced and energy efficient machines for your employees. Be sure that you're recycling those with a good electronics recycling companies at the end of life. Like we just talked about on the cloud computing, consider switching to cloud computing where it makes sense for your business. I know right now most people are working from home, but it's also about doing as much as you can in your office to promote energy efficiency in all aspects of your office. I know our company, Moser, has switched to LED lighting in our offices. We've put in motion detectors on the light, so if nobody's there, they turn off. And we even have electric vehicle charging stations in our parking lots for the general public, as well as for our employees. And just being conscious of other things that our computer- driven lifestyle require. I know one of the things we noticed was that we were going through a lot of batteries at our corporate office, a lot of AA, a lot of AAA. And when we looked into it, it was for everybody's wireless mice and keyboards. So many people had wireless mice, wireless keyboards, wireless peripherals. The office managers were buying packets and packets of batteries. So we switched over to rechargeable batteries for those. And it not only helps the environment, disposable batteries in landfills are really just a waste, but it helps the bottom line. It's cheaper long- term to just recharge those batteries and get them back into people's devices.
Angel Leon: Well, and those are things that a lot of people probably don't think about, right? When we talk about changing batteries on your wireless mice and keyboard. I know I have a keyboard that takes basically any sort of light and turns it into power, and that's how it works out. My mouse I know has batteries, but I know I turn it off whenever I'm done for the day. I just flip a button and it's off. But that actually segues nicely into the next question, which is with everybody working from home at the moment, what are some small things that we can do to be more green in our habits, in our home offices? And just looking at what you just said about something as simple as changing just a pair of batteries on your mouse, what else could we do?
Malinda Lowder: Sure. And there's tons of things to think about. When you're buying a piece of computer hardware, like a thumb drive or something like that, or even a new laptop, when you're thinking about the hard drive think about SSD drives and HDD drives. There's two different kinds of drives you can have. The SSD drive uses less power than HDD drives, and they're faster. Now they're more expensive, but it is a lot more efficient, in energy and time, to use the SSD drive. Also, like we talked about, just be aware of your Energy Star ratings and your energy efficiency. Definitely use the sleep mode or hibernate feature that's in the settings of your operating system and enable any power management you can. Turn off your computer when you're not using it and don't use your screensavers. I know screensavers are fun and they're probably a habit that I got into back from the old days of monitors that would get burnt in. But screensavers use a lot of power and they keep your machine running and working instead of resting.
Angel Leon: So you mean I shouldn't use my screensaver with my cat on it?
Malinda Lowder: Probably not. As cute as he is and as much as you like to go in there and just see him, it's probably not the best use of power.
Angel Leon: That's terrible.
Malinda Lowder: It is terrible.
Angel Leon: So besides that, what else could we do? I have to say this point about the screensaver. This is something that when we were discussing this, it kind of blew my mind because I for one, and I joke about the cat screensaver, but I for one, in my old laptops, I always used to do this where I would put a little collage of a couple of pictures, stuff that if I go to travel somewhere, I take a nice picture I put it in there. And I always, when my computer went to sleep or went to hibernate, it just showed the little screensaver around of the pictures that I took. So I liked seeing that. But now you're telling me that I shouldn't do that because they're consuming power. And it makes sense because always, after I would pick up my computer, I could still feel the heat coming off of it.
Malinda Lowder: Yeah, it really is a waste of power. The screen saver thinking is kind of leftover from the old days when our monitors weren't as great as they are now. And if the same image was on there too long, it would get burned in. So we can have so many great screensavers and cool things and you can make so many neat things. And I love it, but if you think about what it's doing, it's sitting there and using power. It's using your computer's tech, it's working your computer and putting hours of work on your computer. Even though it's simple work, it's still making it process things the whole time and just using power. If you really like that picture you took your vacation, make it your desktop image so that you can see it the whole time you're there, not the whole time you're gone and things like that.
Angel Leon: That's definitely a good tip. That's definitely a good tip. And I really appreciate it. Malinda, it has been an honor to talk to you today about green IT. I really appreciate it. I learned a couple of things today. I shouldn't be using my cat screensaver anymore. But I guess it's important to save the planet to make sure that we're doing everything in our power to be more green, to be more conscious. So thank you very much again for talking to us today.
Malinda Lowder: Thank you.
Angel Leon: All right, everybody. That's our episode for this week of ASCII Anything. We hope you enjoyed my conversation with Malinda about green IT. We will be back next week with another episode of ASCII Anything, presented by Moser Consulting, your technology partner. Until then, so long everybody.
It's not easy being Green. Especially in Technology.
A technology company has all of the normal environmental concerns as any other office such as using paper, resources like lighting and heating an office space. But tech has more responsibilities.
Computers use a lot of power. Data centers full of Servers use a lot of power. They produce a lot of heat that has to be cooled all year round. And computer hardware uses a lot of resources in their production. Parts of computer equipment are made from toxic materials such as lead, mercury, and PCBs. Those need to be responsibly sourced and disposed of properly.
Green IT is a complicated ball of string to unravel.