How to advocate green IT in your office

Advocates can get their offices to think “green” by dealing with everything from senior leaders to printer paper.

In a new report on green IT, the Government Accountability Office outlined the most successful ways to go green.

First, advocates can turn their agencies toward green IT products if leaders understand their importance. If convinced to go green, those senior managers can then remove roadblocks to advancing the effort.

Advocates have to consider budgets and the current climate in the government, which means green initiatives must fit an agency’s budget, GAO said.

Advocates need to prove that green IT is a good deal in these tough economic times and should evaluate the return on investment of buying green IT. GAO said those evaluations are tools for determining what might be worthwhile in the face of reduced agency budgets.

When looking at buying green, agency officials should go all the way whenever practical, GAO said. If an agency replaced 500,000 laptop computers and monitors with IT products that have the highest certification under the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, it would save the agency the amount of energy that 183,570 households use.

Officials need to buy in bulk when they buy green IT, GAO said. But procurement offices might be decentralized, so they aren’t taking full advantage of their buying power. They need to buy strategically, whether within their agency or with other agencies.

Agencies should save paper with green policies. In 2009, an IT provider estimated that federal employees print roughly $1.3 billion worth of paper each year, and one-third of the money for paper and printing is spent unnecessarily, according to GAO. Agencies should set up printing policies to save money that go beyond printing on both sides of a sheet of paper.

Agencies should also find new IT tools. GAO recommended an alternative to desktop computers called a thin client. A thin client is a computer whose software and processor are on a network. GAO cited the State Department’s efforts to use thin clients.

By the end of fiscal 2010, officials replaced 8,187 standard desktop computers with thin clients. They said it saves 630,399 kilowatt hours annually and 422.7 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. GAO said the environmental impact is equivalent to planting 1,900 trees or the amount of energy needed to power 71 households year-round.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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