[LINK] Carbon Neutral Linux Computers, Canberra, 21 November 2007

grove at zeta.org.au grove at zeta.org.au
Tue Nov 20 23:21:37 AEDT 2007

On Tue, 20 Nov 2007, Rick Welykochy wrote:

> Tom Worthington wrote:
>> Topic: Carbon Neutral Linux Computers

I think the whole idea of a carbon neutral computer is a furphy. 
While the end product can be designed to use little power 
and not have a large footprint on the environment, in truth,
computers are an environmental hazard.   The processing of the 
various components, sourcing of base and rare metals for the 
technology, oil based plastics for the cases,
forging of silicon substrates, the toxins used in the 
circuit boards all have a carbon footprint on the whole many times bigger
than the carbon footprint over the life time of the device itself.

And the software industry, Linux notwithstanding, is fuelled on 
greed, planned obsolescence and cycles of usability that are measured
in much shorter periods than the ability for that equipment to 
recover its environmental cost of production in the same time frame.

I estimate it would take a laptop about 15 years of useful productivity
to return on its basic construction and fabrication costs, which 
we all know doesn't happen in reality - how many of you still use 
your PowerBook 150 for any real purpose, for example.   It's now 
toxic landfill or at best a plaything.

With servers, the cycle is thankfully a bit longer - we have 
servers that are well over 10 years old at work, still doing something
useful, even if it is better that it doesn't.   But servers have the
same problem in the end and they are even better at being useless
boat anchors at the end of the day.

The number of obsolete units occupying space in various storerooms
or garages around the country locks up those resources that are 
irreplaceable, something that doesn't get factored in.   And then 
recycling them for the scrap metal such as happens in certain places
in 3rd world countries and China, contributes even more waste 
back into the environment, mostly in an unfettered manner.

I will believe in carbon neutral computers when someone makes 
one that reflects the true environmental cost of production, 
has a lifespan of 15 years or more using renewable components
whereever possible and has, over its cycle of usefulness 
contributed back something to the enviromment that goes a bit beyond 
being a musuem piece in a hackers closet or toxic landfill.

Perhaps one way to start this is to slap a big yellow sticker
on anything electronic that has a star rating that includes
and factors in the cost of production on the environment and its 
obsolescence factor.   More wasteful and useless products 
have less stars and garner a bigger carbon tax on both the end user
and the manufacturer..... ?!


>> A study sponsored by the Australian Computer Society has shown that 
>> computers and telecommunications equipment in Australia generated 7.94Mt of 
>> carbon dioxide in 2005, 1.52% of national emissions. The ACS issued a 
>> Policy Statement for Green ICT, which includes suggestions on initiatives 
>> ICT professionals, government, consumers and ICT manufacturers can take to 
>> help reduce carbon dioxide emissions attributable to the use of ICT 
>> equipment. Tom Worthington, chair of the ACS Green IT Group, will discuss 
>> options available and demonstrate a new low power "thin client" computer 
>> using a "carbon neutral" processor.
> One wonders if and by how much the use of computer technology has offset
> and/or saved on carbon emissions in other sectors. Without the use of
> computer automation, bookkeeping, monitoring, control etc. would there
> be comparatively more emissions in industry and at the domestic level?
> Surely this must be the case, since microprocessors are being deployed
> in more and more consumer products to provide "greener" white goods, to
> monitor and advise on power useage, etc. How does one quantify the effect
> of leveraging emissions caused by using computers against not using them
> in the first place?
> That is not to say that we can be flippant and ignore the emissions caused
> by computer technology. Your typical desktop system nowadays has "super
> computer power" and could easily support a dozen thin clients and still
> have breathing space.
> One of my clients is looking into replacing full blown desktops in smaller
> libraries (used for OPAC catalogue in the main) with a single host and
> perhaps six thin clients.
> cheers
> rickw

Rachel Polanskis                 Kingswood, Greater Western Sydney, Australia
grove at zeta.org.au                http://www.zeta.org.au/~grove/grove.html
David Hicks, Nuclear Power, WorkChoices, Reconciliation, Tampa, Iraq, AWB,
Children Overboard, Global Warming.  "Who do you trust?" - John W Howard

More information about the Link mailing list