eWeek Europe recently published the article “Pure Green IT Strategies Are Dead, Says Analyst,” stating that the old Green IT movement is dead but a new sustainability movement has emerged in its place. It has taken too long, but the Green IT community is starting to realize that reducing IT energy consumption is the smallest part of the sustainability challenge. The real issues are using IT to make the broader economy more energy efficient, and solving the knotty problem of ever-rising piles of electronic waste.
When it comes to environmental sustainability, the information technology industry’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. The flip side of our industry’s relentless technological progress is rapid product obsolescence and ever-rising piles of electronic waste (e-waste). Put simply, Moore’s Law, the driving force of IT innovation for more than fifty years, is fundamentally not green, and perhaps not even sustainable (at least not yet).
Within the LEF, we have been making this point since our first Position Paper on ‘Green IT’ back in early 2008. But the results of our latest sustainability research project have re-confirmed that, while the IT industry appears on track to be energy-neutral in terms of its net energy consumption and savings, there is still no credible scenario for safely managing the global production and disposal of literally billions of personal computers, mobile phones and other electronic devices. Yet in recent years, energy savings have been the overwhelming focus of the Green IT community – this needs to be rebalanced to give the e-waste problem the attention it deserves. You can read more about the importance of addressing the e-waste crisis in my recent research report, “Sustainable IT Must Become More About e-Waste, Not Just Energy.”