Kobuszewski: The new green

Going green may be easier to achieve than you think — if you’re willing to use refurbished IT

W hen most people in the government hear the question, “Are you green?” they immediately think of score cards. You mean Exhibit 300s? The President’s Management Agenda? Not even close.

The new green refers to recycling and reusing information technology to help preserve the world’s natural environment and address the growing problem of global warming.

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that in 1999, recycling and composting activities prevented about 64 million tons of material from going to landfills and incinerators. Today, the EPA notes, the United States recycles 32 percent of its waste, a rate that has almost doubled in the past 15 years. How much of that is IT equipment? I’m not a betting man, but if I were, I’d have to say a minimal amount.

Many government IT professionals are unaware that they can use various buy-back programs and procure reconditioned, used and refurbished products. Equipment recycling is viable, legal and endorsed by the Federal Acquisition Regulation and the General Services Administration. GSA has a policy called exchange/sale authority — Federal Management Regulation 102-39 — whose goal is to reduce waste, increase the useful life of IT equipment and stretch budgets. Developed with feedback from federal agencies, the exchange/sale authority promotes the exchange or sale of government-owned property — including IT infrastructure — for replacement products and credit toward upgraded hardware.

Executive Order 13101 also promotes green practices. That order, “Greening the Government through Waste Prevention, Recycling and Federal Acquisition,” urges agency executives to make waste prevention a part of daily operations.
Reuse significantly reduces pollution and solid waste, and it is an important component in any plan to expand the government’s use of environmentally preferred products. FAR 23.703 requires agencies to establish cost-effective contracting preference programs that promote energy efficiency, water conservation, and environmentally preferable products and services. Agencies must employ acquisition strategies that establish a number of environmental objectives, such as maximizing the use of environmentally preferable products and using recovered materials and reducing waste.

Using reconditioned or refurbished IT equipment is a viable means of waste prevention and reduction. Extending the useful lives of existing products leads to reuse and reduces the solid waste stream. EPA recognizes the use of remanufactured instead of new equipment as a means of reducing electronic waste.

Contrary to popular belief, refurbished or reconditioned technology presents no greater risk than new equipment. Quality-control programs and warranties or maintenance initiatives offered by the provider mitigate risk.

Perhaps just as important, those programs help agencies cut costs and save money by directly supporting the Office of Management and Budget’s IT investment management priorities and providing upgraded systems in times of limited budgets.

Protecting the environment and stretching scarce budget dollars are good government. Investigate the possibilities of using refurbished IT equipment in your office to help your agency get to the new green.

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