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The Sustainable Network: Not exactly green, but integral to sustainability movement

If there's one piece of technology that can aid the sustainability movement, it's the network. So writes sustainability consultant and former Juniper Networks sustainability manager Sarah Sorensen.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

A former manager of corporate citizenship and sustainability for Juniper Networks has published with a book exploring the NETWORK's role in (yes, THAT network, the Internet) in enabling (or disabling), speeding (or slowing) and propagating (negatively or positively) the worldwide sustainability movement.

"The Sustainable Network: The Accidental Answer for a Troubled Planet," was written by Sarah Sorensen, who is sustainability consultant, during her "spare evening hours after work. It was published by O'Reilly Media and Juniper Networks Technical Library.

So what makes the "network" sustainable? Sorensen is the first to admit that the technology underlying itself isn't green. Very few products in the world, come to think of it, could really be called green. "Only those that have no impact on (or that positively impact) the environment over the span of their lifetimes—including creation, use and disposal—should truly carry the 'green' moniker," she writes.

What makes the network sustainable, she believes, is its ability to inspire and support change.

"The sustainable network is the sustaining network, playing a stabilizing role by creating and perpetuating the vital relationships needed to tackle the problems that most threaten our world."

The bulk of the book is given over to illustrating how this is so from an Environmental, Economic, Social and Political perspective, which gives Sorensen's thesis serious weight.

For those green techies among us, this easy-to-digest book offers practical ideas that are more in the green IT realm, providing ideas for how to set up meaning carbon footprint tracking systems or maximize technology assets. There's also plenty of meat for those less technical: such as the very real fact that corporate sustainability is becoming less of an optional function for most businesses (especially those that have public stakeholders to keep happy).

I can't say that I was blindsided by any surprise revelations as I skimmed "The Sustainable Network," but Sorensen has packed a lot of good examples into her 300-plus page book. And, she supports her original thesis -- that the Internet is integral to the sustainability movement -- very well. Companies with a stake in the technology industry or that have staked on the Internet (ala Google or Amazon or any of the thousands of small e-commerce companies around the world) are likely to pluck multiple nuggets of wisdom from her book.

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