Carving a Path to Energy-Neutral Technology

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As the IT industry grapples with mounting e-waste, how can your company do all it can to reduce its environmental footprint?

Storing your tape libraries offsite in a climate-controlled vault is far more resource-efficient than using your own office space.

The basic principle behind energy-neutral technology is simple: Don’t take more than you make. An energy-neutral home, for instance, is full of enough energy-creating features (such as solar panels) to offset its energy consumption. It’s a potentially difficult goal to achieve, especially in the business world.

Yet for both environmental and economic reasons, many technology-related companies are looking for ways to cut energy use. And according to, the IT industry is already doing a fairly good job. Estimates indicate that data centers, PCs and networks consume between 1.5 and 3 percent of the world’s energy, and that’s more than offset by the efficiencies technology creates (using videoconferencing rather than flying to Tokyo, for example).

What more can individual companies do to reduce their energy consumption and move toward an energy-neutral state in which they save as much as they consume? Consider the following steps.

Step 1: Grow—or shrink—your office.

It’s simple: A smaller office consumes less energy. So how can you downsize? One way is to move your archived data offsite and let a trusted information management service provider take care of it.

Think about your tape archives, for example. When you opt to store them offsite, they’ll be housed in an optimized climate-controlled environment around the clock. That’s far more energy-efficient for your office than having tapes share valuable square footage with your employees. When you move archives offsite, it may also free up office space you can use to grow your business. Your company may even consider downsizing.

Step 2: Get to know the power ratio.

If your business runs its own data center, you should know its Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) ratio. This measurement reveals how much of the data center’s power is used by its computers versus other overhead. A perfect ratio of 1.0 is theoretically impossible, since some energy will always be lost. But data managers should try to get the ratio as close to 1.0 as possible. The bigger your data center, the more important its PUE ratio becomes.

Step 3: Energize old media.

Here’s a fun fact: Decreasing your paper output by one ton saves 10,785 kWh of electricity. That’s enough to light 4,500 100-watt light bulbs for 24 hours. But paper isn’t the only media that’s prime for energy-efficient disposal. Consider CDs, DVDs, backup tapes, microfilm, photos, X-rays and more; a data destruction service provider is equipped to destroy all of these.

Iron Mountain handles 1,500 tons of X-ray film annually, from which chemicals are extracted for reuse in manufacturing. Iron Mountain also sends materials to energy-from-waste facilities, which in 2010 turned more than 4,000 tons of material into energy, saving more than 8,250 barrels of oil and generating enough power to supply 404 homes for a year.

Step 4: Send e-waste to its proper resting place.

According to the EPA, only 25 percent of electronic waste, including old computers, monitors and printers, is recycled. Putting all that old hardware into landfills creates an enormous environmental burden. You can help by taking care to properly recycle your obsolete equipment. As the EPA notes, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent of the electricity used by 3,657 U.S. homes in a year.

Besides, you may have no choice. Since 2004, more than 93 bills concerning end-of-life electronics and landfill disposal bans have been introduced at the state and federal levels. Finding a recycling partner to help you manage your old equipment may become essential. On the bright side, clearing out old assets is another way to save space and labor costs and become more efficient.

Partner to Reduce Resources

Remember that energy neutrality isn’t just about saving electricity. It involves saving resources and preventing the need for the costly pursuit of more raw materials to make more new products. A trusted data management and secure media destruction partner can help you play a part in that effort. You’ll score big environmental points while helping your company’s bottom line.

What Is E-Waste?

Though wordsmiths have yet to define “e-waste,” one of the organizations dedicated to fighting it has taken on the challenge. The nonprofit e-Stewards Initiative defines e-waste as any piece of electrical or electronic equipment or gadgetry that contains potentially toxic materials, including (but not limited to) cell phones, laptops, and televisions.

When burned, the already poisonous mercury, lead, cadmium, arsenic, beryllium and brominated flame retardants often found in e-waste generate even more toxins. Eventual health perils to anyone inhaling smoke containing these compounds can include cancer, reproductive disorders, endocrine disruption and many other health problems. For these reasons, it’s easy to understand why dumping, burning or exporting e-waste is not a long-term sustainable solution.

To win the war against e-waste, U.S. businesses must explore ways to improve upon our current 11 to 14 percent recycling rate for electronic equipment.

Iron Mountain Suggests: Work with a Recycling Partner

Iron Mountain delivers comprehensive e-waste recycling and asset management services through its partnership with an e-Steward Electronic Recycler. A key advantage of partnering with an e-Stewards Electronic Recycler is a certified, auditable process which ensures that your e-waste is not exported, landfilled or incinerated—regardless of the kind of electrical or electronic equipment you’ve discarded.

Do you have questions about data backup and recovery? Read additional Knowledge Center stories on this subject or contact Iron Mountain’s Data Backup and Recovery team. You’ll be connected with a knowledgeable product and services specialist who can address your specific challenges.

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