Green IT


While public awareness of global warming and environmental sustainability is growing, there is concern about the costs of shifting to a greener economy, especially in the current recession. In the case of climate change, the issue comes down to the relationship of economic output to greenhouse gas emissions, which has been labeled “carbon productivity.” Increasing carbon productivity means that economic growth, firm profits and worker wages can be sustained while emissions are reduced. If carbon productivity does not increase, there will be a stark trade-off between environmental stability and economic prosperity. Information technology has great potential to enhance carbon productivity, as IT is used to coordinate supply chains, make buildings, vehicles and highways more energy efficient, and allow workers to telecommute and videoconference instead of traveling. On the other hand, the production and use of computers is a fast-growing component of global energy consumption, a fact that must be balanced against the benefits of IT use. Other environmental issues such as disposal of electronic waste also must be considered. There is clearly a need for a broad-based academic research effort to address the relationship of IT to carbon productivity and other environmental issues, yet there is little published research on the subject. This tutorial will review existing “Green IT” research, raise issues for discussion, and lay out an agenda for future IT research.