Past, present and future of green tech | part 1
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If you are into saving the environment, you must have heard about living clean and green. This includes planting trees, recycling and segregating your wastes, using LED lights, and more. But have you heard about "Green Tech?" In IT, Green Technology is the application of gadgets and other devices to help conserve energy and save the environment. It is also known as "Clean Tech."
Some of the well-known IT applications of Green Tech include the electric and hybrid cars, solar panels, smartphones, tablets and computers that use less battery power, cloud computing, smartphone-car tech, and Industrial Internet.
Let's answer some questions about Green and Clean Technology: the history, applications, growth, and rising popularity among businesses. What are some of the world's largest tech corporations doing to promote and/or apply Green and Clean Technology?
A historical perspective of green technology
While a lot of people think that green technology is the future or at least a fairly recent phenomenon, the concept of environmentally friendly technology has been with us for quite some time now. You would only need to be reminded of the windmill and the electric taxis of the 1900s. Even solar and wave energy were existent more than a century ago.
In talking about his book "Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology," author Alexis Madrigal notes that the technology and "breakthroughs" we have under green technology today are the same as in the 1900s. For example, Madrigal notes that during that time, there was a competition between electric cars and gasoline-powered cars. The consensus back then was that electric cars won over gasoline-powered cars by a mile.
So when it comes to green technology, nothing is exactly new. But people, it seems, took green tech seriously only as recently as the 1990s.
Applications of green tech
By strict definition, green technology refers to the use of technology to come up with features, functionality and cost savings that would benefit the environment.
Right now green technology can mean very different things, such as waste management, alternative power, air and water purification, renewable energy and energy conservation. In truth, however, all green technologies fall under two very broad classifications:
- Technologies that help you deal with global warming and
- Technologies that help make growth sustainable
Technology for sustainable growth includes processes such as recycling and resource management.
Green technology and business
Over the years, we have seen the rise of products that are called "eco-chic" or products that help you save the environment or cut costs or pare down your energy consumption. Take a look at eco products such as hybrid cars running with great fuel efficiency, or perhaps energy efficient monitors that meet the EPA's Energy Star requirements (Samsung's SyncMaster 305T or Dell's G2210t).
There's even an eco-friendly phone, Motorola Renew, which is made of recycled bottles that come in a packaging made of recycled parts. Some products are designed with green in mind, such as the Voltaic Backpack that has solar panels for charging your gadgets.
And of course, cloud computing options eliminate the need for having more hardware and gives rise to more energy efficiency, at least on the end user's side.
For computer manufacturers, there are just a lot of clean tech initiatives going around. You have the Energy Star program from the Environmental Protection Agency that helps rate a hardware's energy proficiency. There are also power management systems in many operating systems that help the user save on energy costs by making the computer hibernate or sleep when not in use. They are also creating more reliable and durable computers so that a user will not have to replace their units with a new one as soon.
Of course, there are the big businesses that have wonderful green tech initiatives.
For example, Microsoft's much-maligned Vista OS was the first Windows OS that included superior energy management features.
Apple, on the other hand, has been at the forefront of making greener products. Their initiatives include:
- Removing toxic chemicals, such as lead, cadmium, decabromodipheyl ehter, hexavalent chromium, mercury, arsenic, and brominated flame retardants, from products and processes.
- Recycling: In 2006, the company recycled 13 million pounds of their old products.
They are also currently working on minimizing their carbon footprints. The company estimated that manufacturing and transporting products, plus consumer use and other related processes, was responsible for 23 million metric tons of greenhouse gases emitted to the atmosphere. To help reduce this, they are designing newer products to need less materials, while also shipping them in smaller packaging. They are also looking for ways to make their products more energy efficient and recyclable.
Meanwhile, IBM goes beyond just making greener products and having green offices. They are looking to promote the environment outside of their four walls, including founding the Green Sigma Coalition that provides technology solutions for water, waste, greenhouse gas and energy management. Hewlett-Packard, on the other hand, has a trade-in program to get their customers to bring in their old laptops and computers in exchange of new ones.
Google uses renewable energy in more than 30% of its operations. They also strive to have very efficient data centers that translate to 50% savings on energy consumption. Further, they try to incorporate green ideas into their products, such as giving tips on the safest biking trails and walking directions on Google Maps, making it easier to track environmental issues such as deforestation and climate change on Google Earth and Earth Engine, telling people about a company's environmental ratings on Google Finance, and even making sure that all their other offerings give businesses savings that would help them and the environment.
Amazon, for its part, is using clean tech for its packaging. They make use of lesser packaging that may be different from the traditional packaging in an effort to reduce packaging waste. They also developed a program that rewards employees who can come up with a better and more efficient way to do things. If that is not enough, Amazon moved its corporate headquarters to Seattle where they have a complex of 11 sustainable and energy efficient buildings.
The list of businesses, whether big or small, joining the clean tech bandwagon is growing exponentially. Why? Learn more about it in the next installment.