Make ’green’ pay

With rocketing fuel prices, our minds are all being focused on what we can do to shrink our energy bills. Some look to the government to solve the problem, through lower duties or investment in indigenous power sources. But the government has its own money problems, which I won’t go into here, for fear of getting political.

As with most things in life, it’s better to be self-reliant if it is within your capabilities. And that goes for all aspects of life, not just energy.

Until recently, the ‘green’ argument was the one most used to encourage us to change our ways. Of course, that had very little effect, except among those paragons and young people, who were untroubled by long payback times.

Suddenly, the equation is changing. Whether the oil madness will continue, we have no idea, but it makes sense to consider where we go from here. When I say ‘we’, I’m thinking of the British Isles. Local oil has served us well but we seem to be on the downward slope. We still have masses of coal under the ground, but no way to exploit it cleanly. Our nuclear power stations are creaking and need replacement. We don’t have enough sun or space to warrant solar collector installations. I could go on: waves, wind, tides, geothermal… But you get the general picture. We either need more power or we need to use less.

And the ‘use less’ does seem to offer the quickest answer, although it still doesn’t change the underpinning structural and political issues concerned with energy availability and security of supply.

Some of the answers are easy – when replacing vehicles, use more energy efficient ones. The same for computer and communications equipment. In fact, it’s the same for everything except you’ll hit the law of diminishing returns.

‘Dematerialisation’ is a word that has been bandied around in legal and environmental circles for many years. But it has a particular resonance now because dematerialisation means less fuel and resources consumed during manufacturing, less power needed during operation and a lower impact at end-of-life. In fact, many IT companies that are committed to dematerialisation are also maximising the recyclability of their products.

Examples of dematerialisation are the switch from printed to electronic money, the replacement of travel with the telephone or videoconferencing, the expansion of the mobile phone as a computing device, the switch from full scale desktop computers to ‘thin clients’ and their derivatives. Wherever you look, opportunities to dematerialise your operations exist.

It’s not a case of rushing out and changing everything now. But it is a case of bearing in mind the possibilities so that when the time comes to change your technologies, ask yourself a few questions:

Can I keep this going longer?

Can I reuse it elsewhere in the organisation?

Can I donate it to a charity that can reuse it?

If it has to be recycled make sure it goes to an organisation that will handle this responsibly.

Do I need a replacement?

What do I really need?

No-one’s going to do this for the love of the planet. But if things last longer, cost less to buy, cost less to run and deliver environmental bonuses, what’s not to like?

It’s just a case of making it part of your consciousness.

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