What Is Green Computing and Can You Balance Performance With Sustainability?

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With all the buzzwords being thrown around, such as “going green” and “carbon footprint,” it’s no wonder that sustainability has become a major global issue.

The IT world is not left out in this sustainability drive. Efforts are being put in place to make computing more environmentally friendly, hence the term “green computing.”

This article will explore what green computing is, how it impacts design, and if you can balance performance with sustainability.

What Is Green Computing?

Green computing is a term that has been around for a while, but what does it mean?

In the simplest terms, green computing is a way to design, produce and use computers that minimizes the impact on our environment.

It can also be defined as any form of energy-efficient computing that includes using less power, using renewable sources for electricity, and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

For example, green computing discourages wasteful practices such as continuously running a device when it’s only being used intermittently.

What Techniques Are Involved in Green Computing?

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Several techniques make for green computing. These include green manufacturing, green design, green use, and green disposal. Let’s now look at these techniques in detail.

Green Manufacturing

Green manufacturing is the process of being green from the start. This involves using green materials and minimizing power consumption during production.

For a green system to be manufactured, it should have components that do not use harmful chemicals, such as halogenated flame retardants. It should also have components that meet stringent energy efficiency standards certified by an environmental organization, such as Energy Star, and green building standards, such as LEED.

Green Design

Designing green systems involves making green decisions during the design process to improve the green attributes of a system. These green decisions should consider energy efficiency, environmentally friendly materials, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and reduction of energy use.

Related: How Much Energy Does Your PC Use? (And Ways to Cut It Down)

Some green decisions involve assessing the life cycle of a computer during design. For example, green computing will focus on designing systems that have longer useful lives so that they aren’t replaced as often. It also aims to consider how a system is used in its design.

A green computer also should be recyclable and use less energy for transportation. Creating a sustainable product cycle that starts from the point of manufacture to when its components can be recycled into a new computer.

Green Use

The “green use” technique involves using computers in the most energy-efficient way possible. For example, users should not have to deal with excessive waits when powering up a computer. The computer’s speed should also fit the user’s needs so that it doesn’t waste battery power.

Ensuring green use also involves the proper and efficient use of green systems. For example, green computing recommends shutting down a computer when it’s not in use to reduce energy waste.

Other simple practices include turning off your computer screen or even adjusting its power settings to consume less energy while still operating are also green computing techniques.

Green Disposal

Green computing disposal speaks to the recycling of computers in a responsible and environmentally friendly manner. It also means ensuring that computers can be recycled into new computers or other products.

How Do Green Computing Requirements Impact Design?

Best Laptop for Designers

Green computing impacts design in several ways. For example, green computing requires meeting energy requirements through power management features such as sleep modes and green technology like low voltage processors, which need less electricity to operate.

Another way green computing impacts design is that green devices are recycled or reused instead of trashed, which provides green technology for other green devices.

A third way green computing impacts design is green manufacturing, which assumes efficient use of resources based on environmental impact. That means manufacturing processes should be designed to maximize the reuse and recycling of materials or should minimize any harmful effects during production or assembly.

Balancing Green Computing and Performance

Although green computing aims to reduce energy and greenhouse gas emissions, it is sometimes at odds with performance.

For example, green computing machines may implement power settings that result in slower system performance than a user expects. It also means green computers might be designed with components that are not as powerful as other consumer electronics.

However, green computing is not at odds with performance because the goal of green computing is that computers be used in the most efficient way possible, not that computers be made intentionally slow just to be sustainable.

The percentage of energy spent on actual computing compared to the energy spent on powering computers underscores this. For example, a paper published in the International Journal of Engineering Research & Technology (IJERT) revealed that out of the $250 billion spent yearly on powering computers worldwide, “only about 15% of that power is spent computing—the rest is wasted idling.”

Related: Leaving Your Computer On All the Time: The Pros and Cons

The primary goal of green computing is to reduce the energy use and environmental impact of computers. Performance sometimes suffers, but green computing is not at odds with performance; green computers can still be high-performance if designed efficiently.

Green computing is more about designing high-quality computers that fit users’ needs than about designing low-performance computers.

Any Trade-Offs, Even Small Ones?

Hand holding a green plant in front of a pale wall.

Yes. There are trade-offs with green computing. The main trade-off is that green computing may require users to sacrifice some performance for green use. However, this doesn’t mean a complete loss of performance or a user’s ability to access high-performance features.

The difference in performance is most likely going to be negligible for most users. If you’ve not noticed any difference when switching from optimal mode to battery saver mode on your PC, chances are the drop in performance will be negligible for you.

Green Computing Preserves the Environment

Green computing requires green technology to reduce energy waste, green disposal practices to protect the environment, green manufacturing, making efficient use of resources, and efficient power management to save electricity. It is not at odds with performance, but it may require users to sacrifice some negligible performance for green features.


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