Green Corporation Overview Halifax NS
Green Corporation Overview
By David Haskin, ComputerWorld.com,
Business travel can be exhausting. Just getting to your flight in these days of traffic congestion and long security lines can be a trial. And once you're at your destination, there are meetings to attend and phone calls to return, not to mention keeping up with what's happening back at the office.
Who has time to think green under such difficult circumstances? Andy Abramson, CEO of Communicano, a marketing communications agency, does.
"I've been on the road for five days a week on average since the first of the year," Abramson said. "Before that, I was on the road three days a week. I'm a Bedouin, a global nomad, but I'm very conscious of being green."
The Travel Industry Association says that 26% all travel in the U.S. in 2006 was for business. And air travel emits between 4% and 9% of all greenhouse gases, according to various estimates. Add to that the energy you use for computing and communications and road warriors have an excellent opportunity to help the environment.
Here are over a dozen ways your business travels can become greener. Most focus on the technology you use while you are mobile, but other tips are more general and could have an even bigger impact.
Greener technology on the road
Most of us take a lot of hardware when we travel. Laptops and cell phones are ubiquitous, of course. But we also carry devices to entertain ourselves, such as MP3 players or video players. These items use a lot of energy. Here are some tips to make mobile computing and communicating more efficient.
Use technology to stay home
Before you make arrangements to hit the road, ask whether you need to travel at all. Many organizations with tight travel budgets have turned to technology to replace travel. Even an inveterate road warrior like Abramson is increasingly relying on such tools.
"We typically have planning sessions with clients that use audio conferencing so people don't all have to jump on planes," Abramson said. "And we use videoconferencing if we need to see each other. People can participate the same way they would if they're there. They're on the same page, not the same place."
Besides audio and video conferencing, Web conferencing and even virtual trade shows can help keep you off the road.
Buy green laptops
Some laptops are greener than others. Before you buy, use EPEAT to find out how green a particular laptop is.
EPEAT is a non-profit organization that rates laptops, as well as in-office computing hardware, on a standardized series of 51 environmental criteria. These criteria include factors such as the amount of electricity consumed and the disposability of products and components. Most well-known brands in the computing world participate, making EPEAT one of the best ways to determine how environmentally sound your laptop and other hardware is.
Configure your mobile devices correctly
Michael Steiner, executive vice president of Ovation Travel Group, which focuses on corporate travel, notes that you can save a lot of energy by making the right settings on your mobile devices.
"Configure your laptop to be as energy efficient as possible," Steiner said. Make sure you configure your laptop so it either goes to sleep after a certain period of time or hibernates, which cuts down energy usage even more. He noted that cell phones and other small devices also have energy-based settings, such as the time interval before the screen goes blank. That means, for instance, in Windows you can set your laptop to automatically turn off the monitor after, say, 10 minutes of non-use and to hibernate after an hour or two of non-use. These settings are available in Windows Control Panel; Apple laptops have similar settings.
Turn it off
Many of us leave our laptops on in hotel rooms so they can constantly receive e-mail. That, of course, uses energy. If you'll be gone for more than a few hours, turn the laptop off. This will result in significant power savings.
Unplug when not in use
Better still, don't just turn your electronic gear off. Unplug the devices from the wall. That's because many devices that have been switched off still draw power.
"It's called the 'phantom draw,' " said Sara Snow, a green lifestyle expert and host of Discovery Networks' Get Fresh With Sara Snow show. "Cell phone chargers are one of the biggest offenders. I've heard that as much as 95% of the power that a cell phone charger uses is consumed when it's not even plugged into the phone."
In the home and office, most people user power strips. To avoid phantom draw there, turn off all your devices, then flip off the switch on the power strip, Snow advised.
Use alternative power
There are a surprising number of ways to charge your devices without plugging them into a wall socket.
"Some of our more forward-thinking clients are going to solar power and even wind-up power for (smaller) devices," Steiner said.
For example, Solio and Brunton offer device rechargers that use solar power. The Highgear SmartDynamo is a windup charger that features a port for your phone and also contains a radio and flashlight. Voltaic Systems, Eclipse Solar Gear and others sell laptop cases and backpacks with solar panels for charging laptops and other devices.
"Those backpacks work surprisingly well," Snow said.
Another option is to buy a universal 75-watt car adapter, which plugs into a cigarette lighter and can charge laptops and other devices from the car's alternator, which is virtually free power since the simple act of driving creates more power. Such adapters are available from a host of vendors such as American Power Conversion Corp. or APC, best known for its uninterruptable power supplies.
Abramson even uses a solar powered Bluetooth headset from Iqua. "It literally recharges as I walk around. It really works well and it works in any light."
Use fewer devices
These days, many mobile devices can perform multiple tasks. It's more energy efficient to use a single device instead of multiple devices.
"Use a smart phone for your music instead of both a cell phone and an iPod," Abramson said. "It's consolidation without compromise."
Snow is particularly adamant that we can help the environment by simplifying our lives.
"We live in a world of consumerism and disposability," she said. "We have a tendency to want a new cell phone every year. But you don't really need to do that. And when you do need to replace your cell phone, buy it from companies that leave the least amount of waste." For laptops, EPEAT is a good source of this type of information. Greenpeace issues a quarterly report on how cell phone companies and computer vendors are doing in this regard, although they don't list specific products.
Eventually, the useful life of a laptop, cell phone or any other electronic device comes to an end. Snow urges people to find a new owner if the device is still usable. If that's not the case, make sure you dispose of the old device carefully -- electronic gear is full of potentially toxic items.
In particular, find a recycling center that takes electronics, Snow said. Once hard to find, electronics recycling is becoming more common. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition offers a guide for recycling electronic gear and a list of recyclers nationwide that are committed to responsibly handling obsolete electronics.
Use less paper
E-readers and e-documents use electricity, but they don't use paper, which requires a lot of energy to produce. Plus, e-docs are easier to carry on the road.
Typically, smart phones can display documents in PDF format. If you require access to a lot of e-documents, think of buying an e-reader like Amazon's Kindle or the Sony Reader, which can store hundreds of documents and have larger, more readable screens. True, this runs counter to the earlier tip to use fewer devices, but there could well be a net energy gain.
Other green travel tips
The following tips aren't directly related to the computing and communications devices that you use while traveling, but they will help lower your carbon footprint when you are on the road.
This is a relatively new concept that, in simple terms, involves paying an organization a small amount to offset the carbon-related cost of your trip. That money is then directed toward organizations that are developing alternative methods of energy such as solar, wind or hydro power.
You can do this either by working directly with the organizations, which are listed below, or, increasingly, with your travel agent and even with a few airlines and rental car companies.
"We try to remove as many carbon emissions as possible," said Steiner. "But when that's not possible, some of our clients try to compensate for the carbon they are emitting." The fee typically is just a few dollars for, say, a cross-country airplane trip -- the exact price varies depending on the organization you use and the type of transportation you are using.
"We only have about a dozen corporate clients out of 400 that are doing it," he said. "But many who aren't doing it have plans to start in 2008."
For her part, Snow had a caution about energy offsets. "Some people think that offsets make it OK to continue with their big-consuming ways," she said. "I wouldn't use that as an excuse to, say, buy a bigger house."
Snow points out that take-offs and landings use as much as 25 percent of an airplane's fuel, particularly on short trips. To avoid multiple take-offs and landings, schedule direct flights whenever possible.
Carry your own water bottle
Snow notes that it is wasteful to buy plastic bottles of water in airports when you can carry your own empty, refillable water bottle and fill it at a drinking fountain after you've passed through security.
Use mass transit
Mass transit, particularly rail transit, is available from many airports in larger cities. It is not only more energy efficient and less expensive than using a cab but, depending on the time of day, it can be significantly faster.
Particularly if you are staying in a downtown area, ask your hotel when you make your reservation if mass transit is available from the airport.
Mass transit has the lowest carbon footprint, but sometimes you just need to rent a vehicle. When that happens, rent a hybrid car or other high-mileage/low-emission vehicle.
Choose your hotel wisely
When it comes to green initiatives, not all hotels are equal.
"Green hotels are those that have policies about, say, recycling and energy efficiency in rooms and things like how they deal with laundry," Steiner said. Call your hotel or visit its Web site to check out its green policies before you make reservations. Or ask your travel agent or travel department do so.
Keep your in-hotel footprint small
There is much you can do to lower your energy footprint once you are in your hotel room. Abramson suggested using the in-room thermostat to keep the room as cool as possible in winter and as warm as possible in summer.
Snow notes that you don't need daily refreshes of towels and sheets -- cleaning towels and sheets uses a lot of energy. She suggested hanging the Do Not Disturb sign on your door as a signal to the hotel's staff not to enter your room. That not only saves energy but is also more secure, she added.
Without question, being green on the road takes a bit of effort and can require you to change your habits.
"If you're going to be green, the key is to think green," Abramson said. "Think about what you're doing and how you're getting somewhere."
Copyright © 2008 IDG. All rights reserved.