Life Cycle Analysis and Eco PC Review
Welcome to Eco PC Review! Despite the wave of environmentalism sweeping the world in the shock of escalating oil prices and energy wars, there are few websites dedicated to "eco-computing". This is our term to encompass all the ways in which environmentalism applies to computing. EPCR is focused entirely on this relevant topic. We have an activist, user-centric, and practical focus on the ways that the environmental impact of computer proliferation and usage can be minimized. We aim to establish a leadership position in providing environmental information about computers relevant to both individuals and enterprises.
What is Green Computing?
When computer users hear the term Eco or Green Computing today, they most often think about how much electricity is consumed while they're using a computer, and about how it will be disposed of at the end of its life. This is precisely what I thought before embarking on the self-directed crash course in environmental issues around computers that led to the creation of this web site. The natural focus on what we can directly control during the use and end-of-life phases is not wrong. But they represent just the tip of the iceberg. What I learned is that much of the harm a computer does to the environment is done long before it arrives in your hands, during the production, transportation, distribution and retailing stages of its life cycle. It seemed unintuitive, but after reading about the topic off and on for nearly a year, and hearing experts talk and present for three days at a major environmental conference for the electronics industry, there's no denying this fact.
This brings us to another fact: I am no expert in this field, and I am learning constantly as I go along, perhaps just a half step ahead of the audience EPCR hopes to address. Most of the writers and editors for Eco PC Review are also non-experts in the field of environmentalism and computers. All of us are long time computer users, some of us have professional and specialized education in IT, and most of us have a strong interest in environmental issues around the computer.
I believe our mostly "amateur" status is an advantage. The community we hope to gather and build with this site cannot be led by the experts. They are busy doing what they do for governments, large corporations, and non-governmental agencies. And teaching at universities. It is their livelihood to study and report environmental matters in great detail and as much precision as they can achieve. Naturally, such tasks require a specialized vocabulary and conceptual framework that may seem almost like a foreign language for those who encounter it for the first time. It requires time and effort to understand and translate information from experts into plain language facts, causes, and practical actions for people outside the field.
Eco PC Review will be a bridge between ordinary computer users and the world of environmental experts, government agencies, and computer industry professionals. The job that most of EPCR's staff will do is journalism. You might call it technical journalism. We'll wade through the reports, talk to the experts, pull together disparate data and information, and poke about in the IT industry to distill the practical and useful information you really want and need to know: What are the truly greener buying choices in computer gear? What are the best ways to minimize their ecological footprints as you use them? And what are the responsible options at its end of life? How can I encourage greener practices and discourage unecological ones among the companies that make the gear? What are the technologies that will impact greener computing today and in the future? These are, in fact, questions we ourselves want answered.
ISEE/IEEE Conference: Experts Gather
That may have been a digression; hopefully it's a useful one. Moving on to another topic mentioned above, the conference I attended in early May was the 15th International Symposium on Electronics and the Environment (ISEE) organized by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). It was held in conjunction with the International Association of Electronics (IAER) Summit. It was some 400~500 individuals working in electronics and/or environmental disciplines from all over the world, coming together for a few days' exchange of information, including unpublished research, via formal presentations, discussion groups and constant face-to-face networking. As a neophyte in this world, I felt as if I'd leapt off a cliff into the rock pool at the bottom of the waterfall, to discover to my surprise that I was still kicking and breathing on the surface... or was that just my fantasy from within a deep coma?
As educational and interesting as the content of the ISEE/IEEE conference was, the most significant part of the event for me was that it's been happening annually for 15 years. The idea of making electronics greener isn't new, people have been thinking and talking about, and working on it in a concerted fashion of some kind for nearly two decades. But it's only in the last couple of years, with the wave of media attention on global warming, that major companies are actually paying serious attention and putting substantial resources to greening themselves and their products. As one environmental consultant explained, it was hard to find anyone outside the top 10 or 20 Fortune 500 companies paying anything beyond lip service to the notion of green a couple of years ago. Now they are all scrambling to put some real substance into their green talk.