How “Green” is office technology?

At face value, technology might not look to be particularly Green in terms of its environmental credentials.

Most people know that it costs quite a bit of the earth’s resources to produce technological devices and that can be made even more obvious when one sees mountains of discarded tech building up in various recycling units.

However, before discounting all technology as being anti Mother Earth, it’s worth thinking about the bigger picture.

Technology has changed

True, it takes a lot of energy and natural resources to produce technological devices.  Although the production processes have been much improved over the years, nobody can dispute that fundamental fact.

Yet before throwing up one’s hands in horror, it’s necessary to consider just how far technology has come in terms of its cost-to-operate and by implication, its consumption of the planet’s resources.

For example, modern printers are more efficient in terms of their energy consumption by at least an order of magnitude than those that were around perhaps 20 years ago. In addition, manufacturers now make them far easier to recycle, meaning that many of their components can be turned back into productive purposes rather than simply being dumped.

The benefits side of the equation

If one is to consider the production environmental cost side of new technology, that must be balanced by looking at the positive environmental benefits it can generate.

Just a sample of those things might include:

  • Identifying ways in which food waste can be reduced in supermarkets and the food retail sector in general
  • Delivering advanced diagnostic systems to help in a wide range of human and animal health care
  • The better identification of environmental hot-spots and things such as the undesirable effects of global warming and other meteorological phenomenon
  • Helping to create production models which will allow things to be produced via methods which consume far less natural resources; etc

The broader perspective

Of course, there is still considerable progress to be made in terms of producing technology in the lowest possible environmental impact fashion.  There is no suggestion here that somehow the final destination has been reached in that respect!

However, the balancing of the need in our modern society to go forward and engage in activities that may ultimately be environmentally beneficial, whilst at the same time minimising the environmental impact of doing so, is an ongoing challenge.  This balance is sometimes referred to as the “Green Equation” or variations thereof.

Ultimately the only way of achieving a zero negative environmental effect when producing something is arguably not to produce it at all.  Yet do that, and you may lose any of the benefits that the thing delivers to both society as a whole and the environment specifically.

Few industry sectors are as aware of environmental impact as that of technology.  All elements of the industry continue to work to identify new ways of producing their items more efficiently and to reduce even further the cost of operating them.

The future

In theory, it’s possible to see a world within which technological devices will never become obsolete or need to be recycled or thrown out.  Upgrading technology, rather than simply replacing it, has gone on for years but there’s no doubt that further work in this area is required.

Already work has shown the feasibility of certain forms of technology working on a solar-powered basis and exceptionally long-life battery packs may again reduce electricity consumption.  Various forms of printers are under development which use far less ink (or none).

This is inevitably a big subject and one in which the future prospects appear to be positive and exciting in environmental impact terms.