ICT Sustainability

Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

An Online Graduate Course & Book by Tom Worthington MEd, FACS CP

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Computers and telecommunications equipment contributed 1.52% to greenhouse gas emissions in 2005 (ACS 2007). Data centres and client equipment can be made more efficient to reduce these emissions.

Client Equipment

Client equipment (desktop computers and printers) consume more energy and materials than data centres. The Natural Edge Project (2008) suggests four steps to minimise energy and materials consumption in Client Equipment:

  1. Assess energy consumption by monitoring client equipment

  2. Consolidate operating client equipment only when necessary and removing unnecessary equipment

  3. Innovate by:
    • Right-sized client equipment: do not buy more, or more powerful, equipment than needed

    • Power management strategies: Turn off client equipment when not needed and turn on power management options in the equipment.

    • Low-energy equipment: Select low energy component and equipment, such as processors, monitors, power supplies, RAM, flash memory and hard disks.

    • Eco-Labels: Look for equipment meeting low energy standards.

  4. Manage and monitor the equipment and schedule high energy activities out of peak periods.

Data Centres

Data centers are centralised facilities built to house computer systems, telecommunications and data storage equipment. These may be equipped with power conditioning equipment, backup power supplies (uninterruptible power supplies: UPS) and air conditioning.

A shortage of data centre space and need for increased computer systems has resulted in increasing density of Data Centres equipment and consumption of large amounts of energy, both by the ICT equipment and the air conditioning needed to cool it.

The Natural Edge Project (TNEP, 2008) suggest seven steps for minimising energy and materials consumption in Data Centes:

  1. Determine the required services for the client environment.

  2. Consolidate and virtualise servers, turning off unused equipment and reducing the amount of server hardware required.

  3. Invest in low-energy IT equipment with power management technologies, low processors, efficient power supplies and low power storage.

  4. Optimise the layout of the data centre equipment to reduce the cooling load.

  5. Optimise airflow around equipment by orienting and spacing equipment to reduce hotspots.

  6. Invest in low-energy cooling technologies, such as direct liquid cooling.

  7. Practise energy conscious management by allocating accountability for energy consumption and costs, and providing reports.

Now Read

  1. Client Equipment (Lecture 3) and Data Centres (Lecture 4) of the Sustainable IT Lecture Series (Natural Edge Project, 2008). Note: it is not necessary to undertake the "Required Reading" listed in the Natural Edge notes.
  2. Browser Power Consumption, By Robert Hansen (2008).
  3. Google container data center tour, Video from Google (2010).


  1. Categorise the major uses of energy in your organisation: Categorise the major uses of energy in your organisation you identified last week into types of Client and Data Centre equipment. Include references to your sources of information (with links to any web based information).
  2. Minimising energy and materials consumption for client equipment or data centres: Explain any recent examples of steps for minimising energy and materials consumption in you organisation's client equipment or data centres. This could be by techniques such as Assessment, Consolidation, Innovation, or Management, determining required services, consolidation, virtualisation, low-energy equipment, layout and airflow optimisation, low-energy cooling or energy conscious management.

Next: Materials Use

About the book: ICT Sustainability: Assessment and Strategies for a Low Carbon Future

Edition Notice

ICT Sustainability is about how to assess, and reduce, the carbon footprint and materials used with computers and telecommunications. These are the notes for an award winning graduate course on strategies for reducing the environmental impact of computers and how to use the Internet to make business more energy efficient.

Copyright © Tom Worthington, 2018

Third edition.

Cover shows Power on-off symbol: line within a circle (IEC 60417-5010).

Latest version of materials available free on-line, under at Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license at http://www.tomw.net.au/ict_sustainability/

Previous edition, 2017:

ISBN: 9781326967949 (Hardback)
ISBN: 9781326958503 (Paperback)
ISBN: 9781326967918 (PDF)
ISBN: 9781326958497 (ePub eBook via Lulu and Apple)
ASIN: B005SOEQZI (Kindle eBook)

Editions of these notes have been used for the courses:

  1. ICT Sustainability (COMP7310), in the Graduate Studies Select program, Australian National University (first run July 2009), and
  2. Green ICT Strategies (COMP 635), Athabasca University (Canada). Adapted for North America by Brian Stewart.
  3. Green Technology Strategies: offered in the Computer Professional Education Program, Australian Computer Society (first run as "Green ICT Strategies" in February 2009),