Guest Column | May 16, 2024

Green IT Strategies Set New Standards for Computing

Emily Newton, Revolutionized

By Emily Newton


Mounting climate concerns affect virtually every industry. The tech sector is no exception, especially given the energy-reliant industry’s role in rising emissions and waste. Many organizations are looking to embrace green IT strategies amid this trend.

Green IT is a broad category covering anything that improves sustainability within the IT industry. That includes both hardware and software, manufacturers, and end users. Given this openness, organizations can implement green IT strategies in varying ways.

Energy-Efficient Hardware

The most widespread example of green IT is the use of more efficient hardware. While vehicles may be more obvious sources of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, over 80% of energy-related emissions come from electricity. Consequently, the devices that rely on electricity to run contribute to a significant carbon footprint.

As hardware has advanced, electronic devices have become increasingly efficient. Much of this shift is because it makes good business sense on all fronts. Embracing lower-power computers, servers, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices reduces energy expenses in addition to GHG emissions, so most end users are willing to do it.

Of course, this strategy is easier for users like offices than it is for data center operators. Balancing energy efficiency with hardware redundancy can be challenging, but power-saving software and natural underground or geothermal cooling can minimize power withdrawals.

Renewable Energy

A more impactful approach is to power electronics with renewable energy like wind and solar. While this strategy is less accessible than the use of energy-efficient hardware, it’s becoming increasingly viable as renewables expand. Data centers now account for two-thirds of the corporate renewables market, and tech’s “Big Five” all have 100% renewable energy commitments.

Many businesses capitalize on renewables through carbon offsetting, where they fund renewable infrastructure elsewhere instead of installing it on-site. While this does reduce IT’s overall GHG emissions, it can be misleading. Renewable energy isn’t as efficient in all parts of the world, so carbon credits don’t always fully offset their sponsors’ emissions.

Lightweight Software

Organizations also can implement green IT strategies through software changes. Programming energy-efficient settings into apps and embracing less CPU-hungry, lightweight software will help a company’s hardware operate on less energy. The key advantage of this method is that even old, less efficient hardware can reduce its power consumption.

Many conventional software practices produce energy inefficiencies. These include excessive data storage, redundant communication, and overengineered apps. In-memory storage, abstraction layers, limiting data requests, consolidating microservices, and similar steps can make software more efficient.

Circular Hardware Economies

While most green IT examples address electronics usage, others tackle end-of-life concerns. More specifically, some organizations aim to reduce environmental damage from e-waste by creating circular economies for electronic devices.

Resource extraction and processing account for 50% of global GHG emissions, and most e-waste does not get recycled. A circular economy where old electronics are easier to send to recycling plants and manufacturers partner with recyclers to integrate more used materials would dramatically reduce IT-related waste and emissions.

This method requires extensive cooperation between supply chain parties, and recycling challenges remain an obstacle, especially regarding materials like lithium. However, as technology evolves and more organizations embrace this collaborative approach, a circular hardware economy will become increasingly viable.

Hybrid Approaches

Any green IT strategy can produce meaningful reductions in GHG emissions or other environmental damage. However, no single solution is complete by itself. Implementing some on a supply chainwide scale also can be expensive and complex. Consequently, hybrid solutions are often the ideal way forward.

Combining hardware, software, renewable adoption, and broader recycling strategies will produce more substantial environmental savings. This mixture is also more accessible for many companies. Some businesses may be unable to power all their hardware through renewables, but using more efficient hardware and software will close the gap.

How Green IT Will Transform The Industry

As more businesses embrace green IT, the tech sector will evolve. Organizations should understand these potential changes now to prepare for the future.

AI Adoption

Artificial intelligence (AI) is at the forefront of many IT professionals’ minds today and will undoubtedly reshape the industry. However, rising green IT initiatives could affect what that shift looks like.

AI’s explosive growth could push data centers to use more than 1,000 terawatt-hours of electricity by 2026 — roughly the entirety of Japan’s power consumption. Consequently, AI adoption could find itself at odds with the green IT movement, slowing this technology’s growth.

On the other hand, AI has the potential to reduce power consumption by enabling real-time responses to IoT-derived data and automated coding for lightweight software. Organizations could lean into this side of the technology and emphasize renewable-powered data centers and responsible AI usage to offset energy needs. Emphasis on more efficient, purpose-built AI models may also grow.

Cloud Services

Similarly, green IT strategies will likely affect the future of cloud services. Much of the software industry has moved to the cloud, bringing more attention to remote data centers and their energy consumption. As more businesses look to reduce IT-related emissions, sustainability could become a larger differentiating factor when choosing between cloud providers.

Just three providers — Amazon, Google, and Microsoft — account for 66% of the cloud market today. However, as sustainability becomes more important to businesses, smaller alternative providers could draw more customers by offering more eco-friendly data centers.

The big three all have zero-emissions commitments, but smaller organizations may be able to eliminate emissions faster. Businesses may also prefer to use geographically closer data centers to minimize data transmission-related emissions. In this way, growing green IT initiatives could foster a more diverse cloud market.


The growth of green IT also will likely impact compliance considerations. Right now, data privacy and ethical AI are the most prominent regulatory concerns for many IT professionals. That could change as more government bodies embrace sustainability laws.

More than 140 countries have net-zero emissions targets, suggesting emissions-related legislation will become more common shortly. As more eyes fall on the tech sector’s carbon footprint, many of these regulations could directly target IT concerns.

IT professionals will have to consider their technology and strategy’s impact on environmental concerns, not just privacy and ethics. This shift could complicate regulatory audits and considerations, but it could also spur faster adoption of green IT strategies. It also means service providers offering sustainable alternatives to conventional IT could see a demand spike.

Embrace Green IT Strategies Today For A Cleaner Tomorrow

Green IT is an important part of the fight against climate change. It also will reshape the tech industry before long.

Organizations must prepare for this shift today to ensure compliance and competitiveness tomorrow. While truly sustainable IT operations will take time to achieve, an early start ensures a smoother, more effective transition.