The Data Aficionado’s Guide to Reducing Your Carbon Footprint

by Modis on April 22, 2013

With big data comes big consequences. Today’s gadgets, data storage systems, and cloud computing powerhouses are changing the world. From healthcare to banking and online media, information moves at lightning speed.

Yes, IT aficionados, technology is revolutionizing life as you know it — but at what costs? Your MacBook Pros, statistical programming processes, and beautiful Retina displays are all emitting CO2. It adds up. In September 2011, Google reported its annual emissions at 1.5 million tons.

Even if you’re a data mastermind, it’s probably impossible for you to grasp that magnitude of waste — and rightfully so. Don’t hide from the facts, though— put your data hat on and approach this topic like your most complex business questions. The following pointers will help…

Data Scientists: the Next Environmental Leaders
As a quantitative leader and technological visionary, you are uniquely positioned to spearhead the charge for a healthier world.

Just take a lesson from Google’s executives — their data centers consume just 50% of the industry average. That’s because Google’s executives prioritize consistent independent studies to keep the company on track, utilize renewable energy to minimize waste, and ensure that all buildings are green-certified.

It’s close attention to numbers that keeps Google on track. That’s where the data scientists step in. Whether you’re a business analyst or healthcare researcher, your quantitative mind is exactly what your company needs to stay accountable to the world around you.

Here are four key ways to reduce your company’s technical carbon footprint:

1. Keep Quantitative Tabs: Leverage your organization’s research talents to monitor key metrics such as electricity across business units — in data centers, office buildings, and employee workstations. Slice and dice the data to identify core trends. Why is it that workstation power usage seems to be peaking after hours at 9 p.m.? Why is the graphic design team consuming more energy than the programmers?

Deploy your analytical talents to influence core company goals. Advocate for change over time — to make the most compelling business case possible, make sure to align missed opportunities with your company’s bottom line.


2. Push for Efficiency: Cloud-based services can be exponentially less polluting than running everything in-house. According to Google, Verdantix, and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), cloud computing has the potential to reduce organizational emissions by millions of metric tons.  Not to mention, when you streamline your operational and programmatic processes into a cloud environment, your company saves money, has the potential to achieve heightened security, and boosts productivity.

It’s your job to step in and guide your company through a thorough due diligence process, especially if you’re a team or organizational leader. Remember that you are your company’s technology visionary — sell your cause, get buy-in, and influence your business’s leadership strategy.


3. Dot Your ‘i’s, Cross Your ‘t’s: It’s common for  programmers and data analysts to let complicated statistical processes run over night. Sometimes, this processing need is inevitable — but to what extent?

‘Slow computers’ better not be the answer to that question. If there’s an opportunity for processes to run more efficiently, it might be time for your team to get a technology upgrade.

Especially if you’re at the management or director level, it’s up to you to be the primary advocate for your group. When you’re ready to propose your annual or quarterly budget, make sure to emphasize the hidden yet measurable benefits of new machines — higher efficiency and saved energy.


4. Clean Your Room: As a data aficionado, you’re probably well aware that the ‘little things’ can really add up. Make a conscious, team commitment to make every lunch break, evening, and mid-morning count, that is, not count toward your total carbon footprint.

Turn off your monitors, shut down your computers, and turn off the lights when you step out. Imagine what could happen if the 30,000 people at your company (or other companies) took the same conscious steps to be green. Leverage effortless opportunities to achieve impact at massive scale.


How has your company reduced its technical carbon footprint? How do these environmental commitments funnel into your group’s bottom line?

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