All stakeholders in the ICT industry from enterprises and end-users through to vendors and solutions providers need to take responsibility for ensuring that the use and manufacture of computing equipment has minimal effect on the environment.
That's the word from Nic O'Connor, channel manager at Acer South Africa, who says that a number of environmental concerns have come to the fore as a result of increasingly widespread use of computer equipment from PCs and servers through to monitor displays over the past 30 years.
O'Connor says: "PCs have become major part of our working and home lives, bringing with them a host of benefits as well as a range of risks to the environment that suppliers and users of the equipment need to manage as best as they can. Waste, pollution, energy efficiency and use of hazardous material are just some of the concerns that we need to address."
According to O'Connor, Acer is focusing on making its products more environmentally friendly by ensuring that they are based on as many components that can be recycled as possible; limiting and eliminating the use of hazardous substances in the manufacturing process; designing its products for power efficiency; and ensuring that there is as little waste as possible in the packaging of its products.
"Various restrictions have been imposed on the use of hazardous materials in the manufacture of electronic equipment by governing bodies such as the European Union," O'Connor says. "In addition, there are strict laws about how by-products from the manufacturing process are disposed of. Manufacturers such as Acer have introduced various mechanisms to ensure that the component suppliers comply with these regulations."
Energy efficiency is a major R&D focus for Acer and for its key business partners such as Intel, O'Connor says. Customers are asking for products that offer low-power consumption not only because it's environmentally sound, but because it also helps them to save money on their electricity bills.
New processor technologies consume less power, generate less heat and take up less desktop and data centre real estate than older solutions. Examples include the Atom processor and the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and Intel Core 2 Solo processor Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processors.
"ULV have the added advantage of allowing us to create notebooks that have longer battery life than was possible in the past," O'Connor says. An Atom-based netbook can deliver up to six hours of battery life with a six-cell battery while an Intel Core 2 Duo or Intel Core 2 Solo ULV processor can offer up to eight hours.
In the LCD market, technologies such as simplified connectors and inverter power board designs and efficient LED backlight technology can produce enormous energy efficiency. LED screens that use 30% less power than the TFT screens used in most notebooks today are also likely to become more common in 2009 and 2010.
Responsible manufacturers use the Energy Star standard to indicate the level of energy consumption per product when it's in full use, hibernate, standby and idle modes. O'Connor says: "A typical PC can waste more than 50% of the power it draws. The energy is wasted as heat, which in turn increases the demand for energy to be used for cooling in the form of air conditioning units. For that reason, we are focusing on power management technologies as part of our green strategy."
Another element that computer manufacturers need to consider is how their equipment will be disposed of once it's obsolete. Practices such as disposing of equipment in the city rubbish dump and 'donating' it to schools and charities in disadvantaged areas results in a great deal of waste and pollution, says O'Connor.
"Manufacturers should educate end-users about the importance of disposing of their e-waste in a responsible way and introduce processes for recycling and disposing of equipment," he adds. "For example, they could offer centrally located recycling and product disposal bins where users can drop off their old equipment."