Can computing be green?

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Alarming perhaps, that we continue to digest all the cool tech toys we can, with this kind of environmental war taking place. The long term effects of these heavy metals and organic compounds concentrated in the human environment (and diet... and blood stream) was recently exemplified in the graphic and powerful film 'The Cove', showing the physical deformities possible in children born to parents with high levels of lead and mercury in their blood stream, as a result of eating 'high in the food chain' animals such as dolphins and whales, fished from polluted environments.

Saving the world. Re-writing the wrongs
The promise of a cleaner, greener world has been made by many of the electronics giants. Schemes do exist. Plans are in place. Unfortunately, these schemes and plans have been less than adequately publicised and not reliably enforced. The current big names in environmental standards of consumer and enterprise electronics 'greening' are:

* RoHS - Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive.
* WEEE - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive.
* The Basel Convention.
* The Green Grid.

RoHS is the most common logo and certification you'll find on computer parts packaging and components. Adopted and officially enforced as of 2006, the standard seeks to prevent and minimise the usage of six hazardous materials, all of which are listed earlier in this article. Interestingly, RoHS EU and RoHS China are entirely different entities, and operate with completely different principles, but still ban/prohibit the use of the same six materials.

WEEE is a directive in a similar vein to RoHS, with a more global outlook on 'commodity' and 'industrial' applications. The WEEE directive is responsible for the very public and prominent branding that disallows/demotes the active disposal by normal means of electronics and electrical devices.

The Basel Convention is more like the Sea Shepherd of the hazardous computing waste world. They take no prisoners and cross international boundaries. The point of the Basel Convention seeks to control the movement through international boundaries of said hazardous waste. The convention has been in place since 1992. The Basel Convention is far wider reaching than RoHS or WEEE, in that it is a front line mechanism for the prevention of illegal trafficking of 'waste'. Basel is an authoritative source for landfill and incineration engineering, OSPAR chemical definitions and hazardous waste minimisation. In short, if you have Basel on your tail, you've got a lot to worry about. They're the bull terriers of the hazardous waste import/export prevention world.

The Green Grid is all about large companies doing what they can to cool down the enterprise, and make sense of the waste it creates. The Green Grid is backed by the largest big iron vendors, including Sun, EMC, Dell, HP, APC, AMD and Cisco. The Green Grid's all about strategic decisions, and influencing the biggest of the big, to make the right choices now so we don't suffer later. This is through promoting common goals, and putting the biggest players in the industry together so that their technology ends up doing better in terms of the green footprint when it comes to using non-hazardous materials, using less power and generating less heat. This is achieved through a common set of metrics and standards, and stringent reporting mechanisms.

Breaking it down
So, we thought as a real world demonstration of what comes from where, we'd take a generic home server box, and profile just what was inside, in terms of the hazardous material factor and environmental impact. For this scenario, we decided to use the Atomic ZFS fileserver project box, from late last year (issues 96 and 97).

* Gigabyte Aurora 3D Chassis
* 5 x 1TB Samsung "EcoGreen F1" 5400RPM drives
* 6GB DDR2 Corsair Dominator PC-2 8500 RAM
* 1 x Gigabyte Nvidia 8800GT PCI-E GPU NX86T512H
* Gigabyte P35-DQ6 motherboard
* Intel Q6600 Core2Quad CPU
* Antec TruPower 750W PSU
* 2 x Front of case blue LEDs
* 4 x back of case blue LEDs

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This Feature appeared in the January, 2010 issue of PC & Tech Authority Magazine

See more about:  green  |  computing  |  science  |  xray  |  feature

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