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Green ICT and Bristol Wireless

A couple of days ago, Bristol24/7 reported that Bristol is entering the race to be Europe’s top green city in 2014, so it’s perhaps appropriate to have a look at what Bristol Wireless can do as regards green IT (although, of course, we’re not the only people doing stuff like this in Bristol. Ed.).

The first consideration in protecting the environment is naturally to cut down on consumption; is something really essential (like that new, shiny desktop machine, for instance)? For instance, the machine this post is being penned on is over 6 years old (i.e. 2x the usual business commercial hardware replacement cycle, yet it is more than capable of running one of the latest open source operating systems, in this case version 11 (the newest) of the Debian-based Mepis distribution.

After that comes reuse – and this is where Bristol Wireless can start to help. It’s been worked out that reusing a computer is 20 times more energy efficient than sending it for recycling and – as hinted at above – Linux systems have lower hardware requirements than some more popular operating systems. Putting Linux on an old piece of hardware can extend its life considerably (some of Bristol Wireless’ infrastructure is still running on Pentium III machines! Ed.).

This brings us nicely to the refurbished machines we sell. These are all donated to us. We check them over, then install Ubuntu Linux on them, complete with a bundle of software that should meet the needs of the vast majority of users (e.g. web browsing, email, social media, graphics production, photo management, office suite, etc.). However, we’re not the only organisation in Bristol selling refurbished hardware; fellow refurbishers range from Bristol City Council (if you’re in receipt of benefits) to small computer shops.

If you’re running an organisation of any kind just have a think about this: do all your staff/volunteers really need a full-blown desktop machine each? This is not just expensive in terms of resources, it will also cost you a lot in electricity charges – a not inconsiderable factor given the recent rises in energy prices, particularly as more price increases have been predicted. Perhaps you should look at using a thin client system running under LTSP. We’ve been running LTSP in the Bristol Wireless lab for nearly 10 years now, if you need a testimonial as to its reliability. For more information, please consult our non-technical leaflet (PDF).

Only after reducing use of resources and reuse/refurbishment do we come to the third of the green Rs – and the one that most people think of when thinking of the environment. That’s recycling, of course. Here we collaborate with local recyclers Byteback. However, this is a two-way arrangement; besides taking away redundant, broken hardware that has no future, Byteback also supply us with spares (e.g. memory) for our refurbished machines project.