This week I thought I would take a look at environmental issues and IT. Having learned that it is allegedly more environmentally friendly (as smaller ‘carbon footprint’ is created) sending sea food from
Scotland to Bangkok for processing and returning it to the UK for sale. This is what seems to me a ludicrous claim by Young’s Seafood and I’m sure that operating costs come it to it somewhere!
So in technology terms, what use is saving trees if the very technology that made it possible to go paperless is shipped across continents, non-recyclable and so power-hungry it has a carbon footprint the size of a bear?
I came across this report about the German technology fair Cebit, the emphasis this year was very firmly on energy conservation: getting the most out of what you put in.
The German IT association, Bitkom, set out its stall on the issue, pitting a power-hungry office from 2003 against the leaner and greener 2008 workplace.
With technology converging, the modern office saves energy and money.
"For example, in the 2003 office there was a printer, a copying machine, there was a fax; maybe there was a scanner. That's four different products which all need electricity," said head of technologies and services at Bitkom, Dr Mario Tobias.
"What we see today and these are the products that are most sold to the customer, it is multi-functional devices, so there is only one product and that can do everything.
"This saves a lot of resources on the hardware side and also on the electricity side."
And some of the best green ideas can be the most simple. Fujitsu Siemens has come up with a screen that when it goes to sleep uses absolutely no power.
Wolfgang Haid of Fujitsu-Siemens computers said: "Most of us don't switch off the computer when we leave the office, so a lot of power is used when the switch is on standby mode.
"This product is the first that automatically switches to zero wattage when in standby."
Water-cooling of computers is being taken seriously by companies like IBM. This is because water can draw the heat out of sizzling data-centres better than air, so now companies can do without the air-conditioning which comprises 40% of their energy consumption.
"Water has a 4,000 times better thermo-conductivity than air and in addition to that we are using micro-technology to create very tiny channels, very much like in our circulation system and that improves the performance of this cooler," explained IBM's Dr Bruno Michel.
"Our carbon footprint is now about five times lower, and our goal is to create, in five years, a data centre that has a zero carbon emission."
Another way of reducing the environmental impact of data centres is to move them near to renewable energy sources such as hydro-electricity or wind-power.
Concentrating on energy consumption makes for a very business friendly shade of green - after all, what company is going to argue with the idea of cutting its electricity bill?
Emphasizing this side of the debate, however, may obscure some more awkward environmental questions being asked of the IT industry.
Environmental campaigners Greenpeace were tucked away from Cebit's Green IT Village in a hall marked Peripherals. Their choice! They felt there was not enough emphasis on IT materials, e-waste and recycling at the show.
Greenpeace argue that the production and disposal of IT components poison us and our planet. One of the biggest offenders? PVC!
"PVC - it's a chlorine, it's a plastic. It has many problems all along the life-cycle of the PVC from production to the end, because of dioxins, because of waste, because of it not being recyclable, so we really push manufacturers to get rid of it," said Yannick Vicaire of Greenpeace.
"What we want to see is a real comprehensive approach, where the consumers don't have to choose between toxic-free, recyclable or energy efficient. We want all of this in a packag