Feds' green computing initiative takes hold

Bush directs feds to be energy-efficient

The Transportation Security Administration is in the final stages of replacing older computers with newer environmentally friendly desktop PCs that meet a recent presidential executive order’s provisions.

TSA refreshed computers at 450 airports and its headquarters with Dell PCs at a cost of $24 million starting last August and will complete the installation this month, said Kathryn Jones, environmental protection specialist in TSA’s Office of Occupational Safety, Health and Environment and the business lead on the project. She spoke this week at the 2007 FOSE trade show and conference.

In January, President Bush directed agencies to improve energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through reduced energy intensity by 3 percent annually through 2015, or 30 percent.

Among the provisions, agencies are to use electronic products that meet the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) standards and enable the Energy Star feature on agency computers and monitors. Agencies are to establish policies to extend the useful life of their electronic equipment and dispose of that equipment in an environmentally sound way.

The federal government can use its purchasing power to support environmental products, said Rick Goss, vice president of environment affairs for the Electronic Industries Alliance’s Environmental Issues Council.

“Federal purchasing of EPEAT products is a driver for environmental design improvements,” he said.

Because it is a major purchaser of information technology, the government is a major contributor to the electronic waste stream, said Holly Elwood, headquarters program manager for the Environmental Protection Agency’s EPEAT and project manager of the Environmentally Preferable Purchasing Team, the group charged with assisting federal agencies in factoring the environment into purchasing decisions

EPEAT has produced environmental standards for PCs, laptop computers and monitors. EPEAT has started to create an energy-efficient specification for servers and plans next to develop standards for copiers and other office equipment. EPEAT lists 386 registered products from 15 manufacturers that meet its criteria.

The Office of Management and Budget is considering a business case for EPEAT environmental criteria to become part of federal acquisition regulations, Elwood said.
Agencies would have to report the number of EPEAT-registered products they have acquired.

The EPA’s EPEAT team will report in June its first round of verification of use of environmentally friendly products. It will decide a standards-development road map in May and begin a process for it in the fall, Elwood said.

Agencies already using EPEAT products include the Energy, Interior, Transportation and Homeland Security departments. NASA’s latest version of its Scientific and Engineering Workstation Procurement contract will have EPEAT products in its catalog.

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