While IT has made steps to becoming more green-friendly in recent years, it looks set to overshadow every major hardware purchase decision in the future.
Several major Australian organisations were part of a industry panel at IBM's Project Big Green in Sydney on Tuesday and the consensus is clear: organisations are increasingly focusing on environmental and energy concerns.
The discussion was preceded by comments from Rich Lechner, IBM's vice president of IT optimisation, who highlighted a number of trends he's seen including a realisation, from IBM customers, of just how energy-hungry datacentres are becoming and the need to make IT infrastructure "fundamentally more efficient than it is today".
Timothy Nelson, national manager for government and carbon affairs with Australia's largest energy provider, AGL said, "Who owns green IT? I think it's everyone on the supply chain -- from energy suppliers to end customers and end-users."
Nelson claims 27 percent of AGL's generation capacity comes from renewable sources. When quizzed on how much of the company's actual energy output is generated by renewable sources, he declined to give a specific number, only that it would be greater than five percent.
Geoff Mabbett, Sustainability Victoria's CEO, admitted that although "we don't wake up in the morning to do green IT", it is becoming a topic that affects all organisations.
Mabbett said that while "green IT" became an issue in early 2007, the tipping point was last year when organisations' attitudes changed from "yeah we should" to "how?"
Sustainability Victoria, part of the Vic government, has run its Byteback e-waste recycling scheme across the state since 2005 and announced an expansion to the program earlier this month, with a AU$2 million funding boost to take in more hardware.
"Everything has to be a green product [in the future] ... we don't have a choice," Mabbett said.
The program, which expanded from one site to nine, will be run by Sustainability Victoria and the Australian Internet Industry Association (AIIA), in partnership with technology vendors Apple, Canon, Dell, Epson, Fujitsu, Fuji-Xerox, HP, IBM, Lenovo, and Lexmark.
"In 10 years time, you'll be able to take these back to retail [stores]", he said.
While buying sustainable products is important, "mandating 'buying green' isn't how I think we should be heading", Mabbett said.
Somebody has to pay the cost to recycle obsolete hardware, said Mabbett, who believes that end users will foot the bill -- be it at the point of sale, though taxation or otherwise.
Mabbett also highlighted some practical ways businesses can reduce energy use, stating that the average desktop PC consumes 100W whereas a laptop only uses 50W, and shutting its lid, thereby deactivating the display, reduces consumption to a mere 3W.
Jo Best contributed to this article.