Can Enterprises Reduce E-Waste With Greener IT Practices?

Over the past two years, the number one cause of employees’ carbon footprints has dramatically changed. While much of their energy use once came from long commutes and in-office waste, it now stems from at-home computing habits.

As Yassine Zaied stated in an article published by Forbes, due to the nature of remote work, many companies and employees are not aware of the emissions output their digital devices are producing daily. With companies like Amazon preparing for continuous remote and hybrid work models while striving toward going carbon neutral, it is time for companies to reconsider their e-waste in order to create a more sustainable future.

The indispensable tools of today’s workforce is hardware and digital solutions, so cutting back on e-waste may seem like an impossible task. However, there are several changes organizations and employees can make to create a more sustainable future by eliminating common poor IT habits and supporting employee device health.

Rethinking Hardware Refresh Cycles And Optimizing Device Startup Times

The recent Quantifying e-Waste in Corporate IT study analyzed 3.5 million anonymous devices, and the results showed that most IT departments refresh company computers every 1 to 3 years. Yet only 2% of devices with a low performance score need to be replaced with new hardware. The majority—98%—older generation devices of three or more years were fixable with a simple memory upgrade or by optimizing startup performance.

Imagine not having to buy new hardware for 98% of your workforce. One busy city hospital in North America budgeted $2.5 million to replace 3,000 computers but was able to save over $900,000 by simply upgrading the memory of some of the devices in question rather than replacing them entirely.

The financial benefits alone should be enough for organizations to rethink frequent hardware refreshes. But monitoring, improving, and lowering the frequency of refreshes, such as by lowering a device’s startup time, can also have a major environmental impact. According to the earlier “Quantifying e-Waste in Corporate IT” study, when computers throughout a large enterprise take more than five minutes to load, the slow startup time can equate to about 450 tons of CO2 emissions per year, the equivalent of 50,636 gallons of gasoline. Organizations that are opting to focus on making small fixes and updates to devices rather than completely replacing them are not only saving millions but also helping address the issue of global e-waste.

Understanding Computing Habits And Educating Employees On Green IT

With employees working from home, the lines between work and personal life are more mixed than ever before. Employees rely on dozens of applications daily to successfully execute job duties as well as for personal use, but most aren’t aware of how their habits impact the environment. While employees may not consider the environmental impact of streaming their favorite songs or joining virtual meetings, the truth of the matter is these simple acts may be producing a heavy amount of CO2.

The “Quantifying e-Waste” report also shows that collectively, streaming platforms like Spotify or communication applications such as Slack and Zoom can generate up to 33 tons of CO2 emissions per year. The environmental impact associated with this use is astounding, as it would take 300 trees a year to absorb 33 tons of CO2 emissions from the atmosphere. By educating employees on green computing habits, such as closing applications not in use, turning off devices when office hours conclude and unplugging devices once they are fully charged, organizations and employees can collectively make a significant impact and create a more sustainable workplace.

Creating A More Sustainable Future

While fewer employees commuting to a physical office translates to lower carbon emissions, it doesn’t mean zero: More work must be done to address the global e-waste problem. With more employees working remotely, the importance of the devices we rely on has increased, as has the amount of time employees spend online communicating with one another. In a digital world where enterprise organizations continue to accommodate a flexible workforce, it’s time to reevaluate how our hardware habits contribute to the mass amounts of e-waste emitted yearly.

Not only will these practices allow organizations to become more sustainable, they will also lead to more productive and satisfied employees. There are no more excuses for companies unwilling to invest in and focus on creating a more sustainable future. The impact enterprise companies have on our environment is vast and will have lasting consequences. With better visibility into the health of devices and an emphasis on practicing green computing habits, organizations can cut back on e-waste and costs and help move us toward a greener future.

At eSmart Recycling, where we work to recycle computers to optimize their function by donating them to children and families without access to these devices in our community and in emerging countries. Maximizing usage allows us to contribute to the recycling of technology that socially benefits people so that they can have a more competitive future.

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