Going Green in IT

Although there have been many eco-friendly advancements throughout various areas of the retail business, many have yet to explore the green opportunities available in the IT world. Choosing the right technology for your company can save dollars and the environment.

Jack Van Horn, U.S. product manager, point of sale solutions for Palo Alto, Calif.-based Hewlett-Packard Co., spoke with Chain Store Age’s associate editor/Web editor Samantha Murphy about how retailers are turning their IT departments green.

Chain Store Age: What are some green trends you’re seeing in the tech industry?

Jack Van Horn: There has been a lot of environmental focus within the IT industry recently, but companies often overlook how they can benefit from the latest energy-efficient technologies. The good news is that retailers are starting to choose more eco-friendly options for both their front and back offices. One of the biggest trends is leveraging more efficient power supplies, and energy-efficient and power-manageable processors. Companies are also using BIOS configurable management options that provide increased levels of power efficiency, and are looking for desktop PCs and POS systems with longer life cycles.

CSA: What should retailers be looking for?

Van Horn: Retailers should take a closer look at labeling and product information to understand which kinds of computing and office equipment represent environmentally friendly options. They should also understand their energy footprints and related costs. When making these choices, retailers should select a system configuration with an 80% efficient power supply to reduce energy consumption, provide peak reduction and offer improved power quality. They should also look for energy-efficient processors that will provide a maximum level of power efficiency.

Another important thing to consider for energy efficiency is to replace CRT monitors with LCD technology, such as flat screens. LCD technology provides up to 70% power savings and up to twice the lifespan of CRT monitors. Retailers should also look for companies that provide recycling services for computer equipment, printing supplies, rechargeable batteries and other items.

CSA: What else seems to be working right now?

Van Horn: Retailers can see energy savings through power-management technology. When retailers look at desktop PCs and POS systems, they should choose a system that has management options that can enable the technology on their systems when software activity does not require the full capabilities of the processor.

Processors recently released by both Intel and AMD include features that work to lower power consumption. Along with being more environmentally friendly, reduced power consumption results in reduced heat production. Less heat means lower fan-speed requirements. And this, therefore, provides quieter, more efficient computers.

CSA: What are some challenges for retailers?

Van Horn: Some of the biggest challenges include understanding what to look for and how to implement these technologies. They also have to contend with knowing which systems to buy and how to determine which are environmentally responsible. Other issues include knowing how much energy their equipment is using and options for disposal.

CSA: What is HP doing to go green?

Van Horn: HP has been building environmental features into many of its products from the ground up to be more energy efficient. For example, HP designed its latest POS system, the rp5700, to be more powerful, while integrating the top energy-saving components. It’s the only POS system in the industry that has a rating of EPEAT-Gold.

We are also shrinking our own energy use by reducing data centers from 85 to 6 worldwide. This would save enough energy to power the city of Palo Alto, Calif., for one year. We are also switching to flat-panel monitors and incorporating sustainable-building initiatives. In 2006, HP’s Telework program saved an estimated 2.5 million round-trip commutes, avoiding roughly 65 million miles of road travel and almost 28,000 tons of CO2 emissions.

HP is committed to reducing its energy consumption (operations and products) by 20% by the end of 2010. We also have an aggressive recycling goal. The company will recycle 2 billion lbs. of equipment by the end of 2010. It has just surpassed its initial goal of 1 billion lbs.

CSA: What work still needs to be done in this area to get retailers on board?

Van Horn: High-tech companies need to create more awareness within the retail industry. Many still don’t know that they can go green with technology, or that it’s even available in the marketplace. Some retailers also believe that it’s cost-prohibitive. But going green is good for the bottom line. Environmentally aware companies can make more efficient use of the money they must spend on technology by curbing long-term energy consumption and related recurring costs.