Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Obama and McCain on the Environment

It’s October 29, 2008. We are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression AND we are just under a week away from what many are calling the most important United States Presidential election in their lifetimes (no matter what their age). To truly grasp what an historic moment we are currently living in would be impossible, so we’ll leave that to the real historians.

Today, I’d like to narrow the focus to something more palatable. Yes, we’ll continue to talk about the presidential candidates, but in relation to their views on the environment.

In so many ways, this election is very different from past elections. As it relates to the environment, we’re for the first time seeing two major party candidates who are both deeply concerned about protecting the environment. In the past, the environment hasn’t been given the same consideration. However, there are still some substantial differences between the two candidates’ approaches to the climate crisis. I found a good analysis of the different opinions from -

If you are still undecided, or simply looking to learn a little more about your favorite candidates’ position, this is a great resource to start with.  

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Price of Being Scared

For a few days over the last couple weeks, I was convinced the New York Times had shut down its offices and stopped updating its website. The same scary headline about the stock market’s dramatic decline coupled with a jagged graph showing a steep drop seemed to show up day after day. Of course, the Times didn’t close, but the market did continue to drop. 600 points here, 700 there, and you could literally see people’s retirement funds evaporating into nothing.

If you weren’t at least partially scared about the state of the world’s economy, my guess is you either have your entire life savings safely tucked away in a shoebox under your bed, or have decided to ride out the market fluctuations and try to ignore the daily trends.

From the enterprise perspective, there is a lot of fear about the prospect of spending money. The need to meet more stringent budget requirements has become increasingly commonplace. However, organizations that approach the issue as an opportunity are the ones that will likely be the most successful in the long run.  

While it may be challenging, the tightening of purse strings creates opportunities for researching new ways to save money. Coupled with companies’ recent attempts to become more environmentally-friendly, this need to better stretch budgets creates a perfect storm for getting companies excited about researching and ultimately using tools such as network energy management solutions that reduce energy costs and also curb harmful carbon emissions.

It’s a similar concept to gas prices. While no one enjoys paying over $4 a gallon at the pump, absurdly high prices do force consumers and car companies alike to put more effort into researching environmentally-friendly vehicles that cost substantially less to operate on a weekly basis.

The reality is, tough times make us carefully think about our options. To consider solutions that will serve our future generations well is a skill we haven’t always used in the past, but one we must increasingly use in the future.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Forrester Groundswell Award Entry - Social Impact

Name of entry: Edison

Name of company entering: Verdiem Corporation

Category: Social Impact

Edison Info & Download:

Availability: August 2008 to Present

Application Description
Created by Verdiem Corporation, Edison is a free PC energy management tool for everyone. It is an easy-to-use, consumer-friendly application that allows users to set energy savings controls on their PCs. To use the application, consumers merely have to download Edison, scroll the savings bar to the desired level, set schedules and forget it.

Verdiem chose to offer Edison for free to people who care about energy efficiency. Whether it’s about saving money or reducing carbon emissions, Edison offers a simple way to fight energy waste. In fact, by taking a few simple steps to activate energy management software, computers can require up to 80% less energy (source). We hope that as people use Edison, they’ll become more aware of the global energy waste problem and possible solutions they can implement at home and on the job.

Edison launched earlier this summer to tremendous enthusiasm and praise from organizations and individuals literally from around the world. At launch, Verdiem challenged consumers to help support the Climate Savers Computing Initiative’s goal of reducing PC-related carbon emissions by 54 million tons by 2010. If just 1% of the world’s PCs – or 10 million – used Edison, we could reduce PC-related carbon emissions by 7 billion pounds, which is equivalent to taking 500,000 cars off the road (source).

In addition to the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, Verdiem also worked with Microsoft’s Sustainability teams and the Alliance for Climate Protection (which is affiliated with the We Can Solve It campaign) to promote the launch.

Along with an environmentally-conscious virtual press conference, Verdiem chose to spread the word about Edison through a variety of social media tools, including our website, Power Alley Blog, Facebook page and the viral videos housed on the Verdiem YouTube channel. In addition, we’ll be interacting with users via regular newsletters that will offer tips and tricks for how best to take advantage of Edison and advice on other ways to fight the global climate crisis. Already we see current users who are so pleased with the tool that they have decided to pass it along to their friends, family and colleagues via personal websites, blogs and in some cases, even company websites.

Within all of the tools that we manage, Verdiem has received and continues to receive comments and questions about the application, and is working hard to keep up the open dialogue with users from around the world.

In all, we believe Edison offers concerned citizens the opportunity to make a huge contribution to solving the global climate crisis with minimal effort, and we look forward to continuing to see how consumers respond to the challenge.

How This Entry Accomplishes Business Goals
Verdiem is a mission-driven company committed to reducing the environmental impact of technology. The most fundamental reason that Verdiem created Edison was to make PC energy management easier for all – at home and at work.

By offering a free tool for everyone to use, we are taking another step towards reducing the burden that technology energy consumption places on the planet, and continuing to demonstrate our commitment to our mission.

However, it’s not enough to simply create and distribute this tool to the public; ultimately, the goal of Edison is to reduce PC energy consumption, which can only happen when people install it and use it on a regular basis. This is why the launch of Edison coincided with a challenge for all consumers to help support the Climate Savers Computing Initiative’s goal of reducing PC-related carbon emissions by 54 million tons by 2010. Verdiem believes that educating people about the incredible amount of energy PCs consume and how they can now address it in their own lives is the best solution. Once people understand the problem and how they can help, they are much more likely to become involved.

To date we have seen strong adoption of Edison from around the world. While we have not yet begun sharing download numbers with the public, we are pleased to see that Edison is being used today in more than 130 countries. In addition, we have received a lot of positive feedback from individuals regarding their impressions of the tool and how it could potentially help in their daily lives.

While our overall goal to reduce the environmental impact of technology, along with our Edison-specific goal of helping the Climate Savers Computing Initiative to reach its goal of reducing PC-related carbon emission by 2010 is far from completely achieved, the launch of Edison and the participation by each new user takes us a giant step closer to addressing the problem and meeting our goals.

Friday, August 29, 2008

From the Desk of Edison Support – How to Manage Multiple User Profiles on a Single Computer

Edison is a global user application, which means that the settings in the application are not user-specific and are subsequently applied to all users on a PC. This is something to keep in mind as you set your work schedule.

For example, if the users of a shared computer tend to use it at different times throughout the day, set the schedule to account for the times that the computer is generally in use for all users.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Check it out!

Wanted to let folks know we’ve now got a couple more channels for sharing information online. In addition to our corporate website and Power Alley Blog, we’ve got a Verdiem Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Facebook is a great way to track our latest news and read all of our Power Alley Blog entries, and the YouTube channel is a good way to learn more about our company and products (the Verdiem YouTube channel also includes a couple product demos for those interested).

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Edison featured on CNN and American Public Media

CNN’s “Energy Fix” program last Thursday included commentary on Edison from Verdiem’s Kevin Klustner. To watch the interview online, go here.

If you’re interested in radio coverage, check out this link to hear Kevin discussing Edison and Verdiem’s strategy and goals behind the product on American Public Media’s “Future Tense” program.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

According to CIO, SURVEYOR Helps Washington Mutual Cut IT Costs

CIO posted a great piece on how Verdiem SURVEYOR has helped Washington Mutual reduce energy costs, energy consumption and related carbon emissions.

According to the article, Washington Mutual has cut PC-related greenhouse gas emissions by 65% and is on track to save $3 million on electricity costs in 2008.

To learn more about how Washington Mutual has implemented and utilized SURVEYOR, read the article here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Forrester Analyst Doug Washburn on Green IT Strategies

In a post on, Forrester analyst Doug Washburn calls out two ways companies can easily begin developing their green IT strategies. I’ve reprinted both below, and recommend checking them out.

From the piece, “Green IT Strategy: Where's the Low-Hanging Fruit?”:

1. First measure, then manage. While green IT extends far beyond energy efficiency, reducing IT's energy consumption does offer tangible environmental and economic benefits. To get started, we at Forrester recommend that you measure your green IT baseline – an annual estimate of the energy consumption, CO2 emissions and financial costs of operating IT. By exposing the energy "hogs" within and outside of the datacenter, you’ll be able to prioritize what greening projects will offer the most bang for the buck.

2. Determine whether or not you're in compliance. Depending on your location, proper disposal and recycling of IT assets may be required. If you are not in compliance, now is the time to start. And here's a tip to save time and money: Use your vendors, since they're required to help. If you operate in Europe, the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive) imposes the responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the manufacturers (a.k.a. your hardware vendors).

Find the full article here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

From the Desk of Edison Support – Explaining Why Some PC’s Just Don’t Want to Sleep

In addition to the Power Alley’s postings on current events and product news, we’d like to use this blog as a forum to highlight some of the frequently asked questions (and answers!) we’ve received from Edison users since launch.

Today, we’re explaining why some computers simply will not go to sleep at the time they’ve been set for.

And the answer is…

Edison uses the built-in Windows power management functionality to put your PC and monitor to sleep. Within Windows is a tool called an idle timer which monitors idle activity on your PC and, when the idle timer deems a system idle for a specified amount of time, Windows moves the PC into a lower power state (i.e. sleep mode).

The lack of sleeping – or what we call PC insomnia -- is generally caused by various applications and processes that can reset the idle timer. Some common examples include search archiving, virus scans, backup processes, and interactive web pages. Media applications, when running, are also common examples of items that would keep your computer awake.

Unfortunately, this problem cannot always be solved. However, if you find it happening to you, you can try to close applications that are unnecessarily running on your machine, like a media player.

For the enterprise environment, Verdiem SURVEYOR solves this issue by instituting a separate idle timer that better monitors and controls sleep settings, ensuring PCs always go to sleep as directed.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How to Make the Most of Your Edison Experience

So you’ve downloaded and are using Edison on your PC, but are still looking for ways to maximize its impact in your home?

Here are a few tips and tricks to help you accomplish just that.

-Customize your “Work Time” and “Non-Work Time” settings – Take a few minutes to consider the ideal amount of time for your PC to stay on when you are using it for work and when you are using it for fun. For example, you may prefer for your display to turn off after 5 minutes when you are just surfing the Internet, but would rather it stay on for 15 minutes when you are using it for work.

-Carefully examine your work schedule – If you have Edison on a home PC that you don’t actually use for work, consider setting your schedule so that everyday is “Non-Work Time” with a stricter policy.

-Make sure your PC’s settings allow for you to wake it via keyboard or mouse activity – Enabling your PC to wake-up in multiple ways will create a better overall wake-up experience. Tip: If you choose to wake-up your PC using the power button, just make sure you don’t hold it down for so long that it shuts off completely!

How do you make the most of Edison in your home? Let our readers know so they can follow suit!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Verdiem announces Edison, the free PC energy management tool for everyone

We are excited to announce today the general availability of Edison, the free PC energy management tool for everyone. The announcement was just made a few minutes ago and in case you missed it, was delivered via virtual press conference with our President and CEO Kevin Klustner joined by Microsoft’s Chief Environmental Strategist, Rob Bernard and Climate Savers Computing Initiative President, Lorie Wigle.

We are really pleased to have the support of Microsoft and Climate Savers Computing Initiative in announcing this news, and look forward to sharing this tool with you and helping you to reduce your carbon footprint at home.

To learn more or get Edison now, just go to

You can also check out Verdiem’s new Facebook page.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Data Center Grade Energy Efficiency for the Rest of Us

James Hamilton has an interesting set of slides on his blog focusing on ways of improving efficiency of power consumption in large data centers. He examines factors end-to-end, from utility power distribution all the way down to server hardware itself. Data center size, geographic distribution, load characteristics, hardware profiles, power redundancy, etc. are all important variables to consider in the large data center space. An incredibly fascinating read.

What’s also interesting about what’s going on in the data center space is that it reflects in many ways a more laser-like focus on energy efficiency than one would typically encounter elsewhere. Given the scale that data center folks operate on, they’re thinking about the problems that many other types of organizations haven’t even dreamt of (yet). There’s a lot we can learn from what’s going on in that space, and perhaps even a few things large-, medium- and small-organizations can do to help increase their energy efficiency.

Of course, one thing I’ve always thought made sense was to “carpool” some types of server applications onto services like Amazon Web Services or Google Application Engine that are often served in-house (I’m not specifically endorsing any of these services – just throwing out a few possibilities). From an ecological standpoint, all of the energy (no pun intended) that folks who run data centers put into reducing power and cooling costs really does result in a significantly more efficient operation. Running your own application code in someone else’s data center (“carpooling” with many other applications that have been virtualized or are otherwise able to run well-isolated, securely and in parallel) means less energy wasted in your own data center (or more often, server room) in terms of power, cooling, and idle CPU cycles. This form of computing really is coming into fruition as a bona fide utility.

Naturally, not every application or service can be “carpooled” but given the excellent and in-depth work that’s been done in the data center, why replicate or re-invent the wheel? When planning or building new applications, in today’s world, it may make sense from both an ecological and economical standpoint (think of the reduced capital and operating expenses) to consider “carpooling” applications in an energy-efficient data center.

Al Gore Speaks Today on U.S. Energy Policy

A New York Times article from earlier today reported on a global warming speech Al Gore made in Washington D.C. According to the article, Gore called on Americans to work towards completely quitting our reliance on fossil fuels within the next ten years. The speech echoed Gore’s consistent messaging regarding the life-threatening danger the world is currently facing due to global warming, and also highlighted how the goal to end our use of fossil fuels “is achievable, affordable and transformative.”

A couple of interesting scientific facts re-stated in the Times are highlighted below:

“’We’re borrowing money from China to buy oil from the Persian Gulf to burn it in ways that destroy the planet,’ Mr. Gore said. ‘Every bit of that’s got to change.’

And it can change, he said, citing some scientists’ estimates that enough solar energy falls on the surface of the earth in 40 minutes to meet the world’s energy needs for a year, and that the winds that blow across the Midwest every day could meet the country’s daily electricity needs.”

To read more about this speech, visit New York Times or Al Gore’s website.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Did you know utility companies will pay your organization to use less energy?

Because of soaring energy prices, there are a large number of utility companies across North America that will actually provide rebates to organizations who implement tools to help reduce energy consumption. In fact, Verdiem’s SURVEYOR software is recognized by many utility companies across the country, and the use of this software frequently enables organizations to receive rebates from utility companies in their area.

A few examples of utility companies that rebate include:

· Avista
· BCHydro
· Bonneville Power Administration
· Hawaii Electric Company
· Idaho Power
· Manitoba Hydro/Saskatchewan Power
· Nevada Power/Sierra Pacific Power
· New York Power Authority
· New York State Energy Research &
· Development Authority (NYSERDA)
· Northeast Utilities
· Oregon Energy Trust
· PacifiCorp (primarily Utah)
· PG&E
· Puget Sound Energy
· Sacramento Municipal Utility District
· San Diego Gas & Electric
· San Francisco Energy Watch
· Seattle City Light
· Silicon Valley Power
· Snohomish PUD
· Southern California Edison
· The United Illuminating Company
· Wisconsin Focus on Energy
· Xcel Energy (Minnesota and Colorado)

As a point of reference, these rebates are similar to the consumer rebates offered by organizations like Energy Star. Learn more here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Is pricey gasoline the best solution to global warming?

When teachers are educated about the best way to instruct a diverse group of students, they are taught to use a variety of different methods to ensure they are properly addressing dissimilar learning styles.

For those of us that track and participate in the fight against global warming, we are sometimes overly idealistic about what motivates people to work on decreasing their carbon footprint. For some, the motivation is as simple as helping the environment. For others, there has to be a more tangible reward involved.

A New York Times article from the weekend, “At $100 for Tank of Gas, Some Choke on ‘Fill It’,” highlights the continuously rising gas prices and the heavy financial burden placed upon owners of larger vehicles to fill their tanks. The article discusses how many owners of large SUVs are now looking for alternatives.

So perhaps we should look to the way teachers use a variety of teaching methods and apply that to educating people about the damage global warming is causing our planet. Everyone has a different tipping point. To assume that all people are inspired by the same information is both naïve and dangerous, as it inevitably means certain groups of people will not understand the implications that global warming could ultimately have on their lives.

To combat this, it is essential for those of us doing the educating to cater to a variety of different audiences – the environmentalist, the intellectual, the businessperson, to name just a few. Value is in the eye of the beholder, and keeping that in mind will ultimately make us more successful at our endeavors.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

EPA Announces Top 25 Purchasers of Green Energy - Intel & Pepsi Lead

The Green Power Partnership, a voluntary EPA program for organizations who buy green power as a way to reduce their environmental impact, has announced the Top 25 Purchasers of Green Energy.

1. Intel Corporation
2. PepsiCo
3. U.S. Air Force
4. Wells Fargo & Company
5. Whole Foods Market
6. The Pepsi Bottling Group, Inc.
7. Johnson & Johnson
8. Cisco Systems, Inc.
9. City of Dallas, TX
10. HSBC North America
11. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
12. City of Houston, TX
13. Kohl's Department Stores
14. University of Pennsylvania
15. Starbucks
16. DuPont Company
17. Los Angeles County Sanitation Districts
18. U.S. Department of Energy
19. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
20. PepsiAmericas, Inc.
21. Vail Resorts, Inc.
22. New York University
23. NatureWorks LLC
24. Staples
25. The World Bank Group


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Green Up Seattle!

A couple weeks ago, we got our power bill from Seattle City Light that also included an insert marketing the “Green Up!” program for SCL customers. Here are some details straight from the website:

What is Green Up?
Green Up is Seattle City Light's voluntary green power program for residential and business customers. By enrolling in Green Up, customers purchase green power for a portion of their electricity use and demonstrate their support for wind power and other new renewable energy projects in the Northwest. Choosing green power reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, improves air quality and helps reduce the growth of climate-warming emissions. The Green Up program is Green-e certified and fulfills LEEDTM Project green power requirements.

How does Green Up work?
Green Up customers make voluntary payments on their electricity bill to cover the slightly higher cost of producing and integrating renewable energy into the Northwest grid. These funds are used to acquire Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) equal to the amount of customer demand. Participating in Green Up does not change how Seattle City Light transmits and distributes electricity to your home or business.

How do I sign up?
Residential customers may purchase green power in increments of 25%, 50% or 100% of their electricity use for $3, $6 or $12 per month.

We are planning to begin purchasing green power at our house, and whether you live in the city of Seattle or elsewhere, you might also want to research ways to begin supporting renewable energy initiatives.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Can You Imagine Life Without Plastic?

More and more, we’re hearing about the dangers of plastic, the harmful chemicals involved in the manufacturing process and the need to start eliminating it from our everyday lives.

It’s a challenging proposition – think about all those iced lattes you have in the summer, the “to go” containers you frequently carry home with you from different restaurants, and the sheer number of items in your household that contain at least some plastic.

This is a great example of a place where small changes are the way to go. If you’re one of the people aiming to eliminate plastic from your life, start small. has a lot of great plastic-free products that they offer as alternatives to traditional plastic-filled products.

In addition, their website also features a section called “Facts on Plastic” that discusses the health risks associated with plastic and also provides a lot of detail on what all the different resin codes on the bottom of plastic containers mean for the average consumer. Beyond that, they provide tips for living a more plastic-free life if you are interested.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Malware Arms Race as Hidden Ecological Threat

Most often, when people think of ways in which they can conserve energy with their computer, they tend to focus on finding ways to more effectively manage their power management settings (for example, by using our SURVEYOR product), or alternately, people try to figure out ways in which to make the software and hardware they use more energy-efficient.

Originally, what I was going to write about was how malware (viruses, botnets and spyware) can infect huge numbers of computers and turn them, often unbeknownst to their owners, into power-eating zombies – carrying out compute-intensive tasks, sending huge amounts of spam, and otherwise just wasting a lot of CPU cycles and thus energy. With some sources [1,2] pegging botnet sizes at an average of roughly 20,000 computers (with many examples of significantly larger botnets), the aggregate annual global energy waste generated by malware could reasonably be estimated to be in the tens of millions of kilowatt-hours or more. In reality, malware is a real and growing ecological threat and financial drain – it’s a grim scene, and one few people are talking about.

But there’s a bit more to the story than just going on the offensive and trying to put an end to malware, as many out there are nobly endeavoring to do. There’s really, effectively, an arms race going on between anti-malware software vendors and malware creators. With each innovation in anti-malware technology, malware creators find a new way to sneak in and exploit some new flaw or technique. As anti-malware technology evolves, it’s worth considering how much extra processing overhead computers and servers must now carry out in order to ensure that data being exchanged is “safe”.

While there will likely always be millions of PCs that will live out their entire natural service lives as energy-sucking zombies without a lick of malware protection, those other computers and devices that do have anti-malware software are also consuming more power than they theoretically should need to (e.g. by having to continuously scan incoming files, memory, the registry, etc.) – simply as the cost of doing business in today’s world. While anti-malware software is incredibly sophisticated, and most of the high-quality products out there are very well-implemented and as courteous and efficient as possible, this still does not take away from the fact that the malware arms race has a real cost in terms of extra energy consumption. I’m not sure how exactly one would quantify the energy cost of this arms race, but it certainly would be interesting (and depressing) to have that data in order to consider the true carbon footprint of the global malware battle.

So what do we do from here? Aside from continuing to research and implement many of the incredibly smart (and respectful and non-invasive) anti-malware solutions at higher levels than just individual clients (e.g. at the network-level), an easy thing we all can do is to simply make sure we power-down or put to sleep our computers when they’re not in use. Of course, we offer the SURVEYOR product here at Verdiem for larger organizations to help reduce power consumption, but individual users can also do their part by taking five minutes or less to ensure that their PC power management is enabled and configured to put their computer to sleep during idle times.

When an idle computer is powered off or sleeping, it has a vastly smaller surface area needlessly exposed to invading malware. Aside from the obvious energy savings of effective power management, that computer also becomes one less player in the hidden global ecological threat that is the malware arms race. That’s something I think we can all feel good about.


[2] M. Abu Rajab, J. Zarfoss, F. Monrose, and A. Terzis. My botnet is bigger than yours (maybe, better than yours): why size estimates remain challenging. In Proceedings of the first annual workshop on hot topics in botnets, March 2007.

Sustainable Summer Ideas

Summer has officially begun. Gas prices are at a record high. And concern for global warming has never been greater.

At a time when the kids are out of school and our vacations are under way, it behooves us to keep focused on trying to live more sustainable lifestyles. We've got a few suggestions for ways to do that:

Summer Tip #1: Summer is all about getting outside and exploring. This year, think about skipping the annual road trip and travelling by train instead.

Summer Tip #2: Save money! Figure out ways where you can cut energy costs to save money at home. Turning off lights/computers/appliances at home and walking or bussing instead of driving are some easy ways to save some cash that can then be applied to more interesting activities.

Summer Tip #3: If your kids are staying home with you, now might be a good time to spend learning about ways to be more environmentally-friendly. You can even turn it into a game - offering prizes for remembering to recycle, taking public transportation or dropping energy usage. Remember to keep it simple and don't expect too much right away.

We hope you enjoy your summer!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Unleashing Your Inner Green Hero, Part 3

So how do you create a culture of heroes in your organization? How do you inspire more employees to think about sustainability, and to share their ideas more broadly? Here are some suggestions:

Start the Green Team. Create a task force of representatives from various parts of the organization to meet regularly to discuss, prioritize and implement organization-wide sustainability initiatives. Think twice about staffing this team with executives. Find the people most passionate about sustainability – those who will most actively mobilize and empower their respective organizations to participate fully in identifying organization-wide opportunities to reduce waste and environmental impact.

Focus on problems and solutions. Many cross-functional groups (no matter what the topic or charter) spend too much time discussing the problems, and not enough time identifying or discovering solutions. Build a set of ground rules for your Green Team, one of which is that problems cannot be discussed or presented beyond the team unless solutions are also provided. It’s OK if those solutions haven’t yet been researched or fully vetted, but it’s important to create a team that’s focused on action and progress, not just opportunity identification.

Make idea solicitation easy. Members of the Green Team are mere facilitators and representatives of their organizations. Create tools and processes where employees throughout the organization are encouraged to identify and submit opportunities for consideration. Make it easy and fun to be part of the process.

Find low-hanging fruit. Start with what’s easy, both to gain momentum and to show quick progress. There’s no better way to ignite the passion and creativity of a wider audience of employees than to show quick momentum and success from your sustainability efforts. No opportunity is too small as long as the effect is positive and measurable.

Reward the heroes! This may be the most important part of creating an ongoing, fun, and productive sustainability focus throughout the organization. Reward and recognize your heroes. Give them something for their desks, and recognition from company leadership. Associate them with the idea and initiative from start to finish, and ongoing if necessary. Will one of your employees be responsible for $35 million in global energy savings someday? Maybe…

And don’t forget to get your customers to become heroes too. Great ideas for your organization and brand – inside and out – don’t just come from employees. Starbucks is the latest company to directly engage customers in idea generation. (Click here to read more about their initiatives and innovations, and how they’re making their own customers into innovation heroes.)

This is a mere start to what’s possible. Now let’s do as we say, and start the interaction. In the comments section below, share a bit about your organization’s opportunity. What can you do – starting today – to encourage employees and customers throughout your organizational ecosystem to become Green Heroes? What one thing will you do before the end of the day today to get things started?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Unleashing Your Inner Green Hero, Part 2

Large organizations worldwide are creating sustainability initiatives, and setting aggressive goals to cut their carbon footprints. Those initiatives are creating mandates across the company to reduce waste, and consider the long-term impact of various processes and decisions – everything from manufacturing to supply chain, IT policy, travel and commute policies and more.

Setting ambitious goals is one thing, achieving them in a measurable way is another.

Deb Horvath at Washington Mutual, by the way, is a hero. According to CIO Magazine, her organization is set to save more than $3 million dollars a year by implementing green IT policies organization wide.

Ron Spalter is also a hero. The deputy COO for City University of New York (CUNY) organized the individual IT departments for more than 15 CUNY campuses to cut their IT power consumption by more than $3 million over five years (PDF), putting hundreds of thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.

But for every C-level executive who’s taken a leadership and early adopter position on identifying and executing sustainable initiatives internally and externally for their organizations, there are dozens of regular people – like you and I – with sustainable ideas, inspiration and ambition.

I see this every day at The vast majority of interest we get in green IT solutions is from individual employees throughout organizations – mostly from IT, but elsewhere in the company as well.

My favorite was the HR manager from a large Midwest-based company who was passionate about helping make her company more sustainable, and also knew that tangible “green” results would help with both employee morale and recruiting.

She was just one example of countless employees throughout your organization who just may hold the secret to true environmental progress and sustainable results – for your products, your processes, your customers and your brand.

And the beautiful thing about individual ideas and initiatives is that their true impact is rarely confined to the pure task at hand.

Forrester Research recently talked about the idea of Green IT Heroes in an attempt to inspire IT professionals to think well beyond the traditional IT boundaries in terms of the sustainability impact they could have on their organization.

Sure, IT groups can directly impact things like equipment lifecycle management, energy consumption and more.

But IT can also impact telecommuting options. By partnering with the HR group, IT can create and implement secure remote-access options that make telecommuting a more meaningful, seamless and productive option for more employees.

By proposing and initiating ideas like this, says Forrester, IT can be an even greater Green Hero in the organization.

And those ideas clearly don’t need to originate from the CIO. They can start anywhere in the organization, as long as that individual has both the passion and the opportunity to share.

Unleashing Your Inner Green Hero, Part 1

There are green "intrapreneurs" everywhere in your company. Whether you tap into their creativity - and your own - is up to you.

We tend to think of our heroes as greater than ourselves - representing feats, achievements and ideals we ourselves aspire to. But many of the best ideas start with us. Regular people, inspired to extraordinary achievements. In your organization, do all of the best ideas come from the CEO? Or do they originate all across the organization?

I thought so.

Take my company, for example. Verdiem tackles the problem of IT energy waste, and has developed technology to cut PC-related power bills by up to 60%, saving some companies millions of dollars on their power bill each year. The idea came not from an MBA, or a venture capital-backed think tank, but from an individual employee of Washington County, Ore.

She left work one night and noticed that all of the computers in her office were still on, fully powered. They would likely stay on all night, she thought, for the next 14 hours or so, until everyone came back into work.

She knew that this happened every night, at offices across the country (and the globe), and it bothered her. She shared her concern with her husband that night, and it bothered him too. As a software engineer, he knew that software could likely be applied to this problem to ensure that power wasn’t wasted when computers were inactive, in a way that didn’t add any additional burden or productivity loss for users.

That’s how SURVEYOR was born. Seven years later, SURVEYOR has saved organizations more than $35 million dollars on their energy bills (and growing), and has been responsible for cutting hundreds of thousands of tons of PC-related CO2 emissions from entering the atmosphere.

That employee from Washington County is a hero. Her spark is responsible for an incredible amount of cost and carbon savings worldwide.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Did You Know Companies That Report Sustainability Data Enjoy Higher Gross Margins?

According to a recent report, “The Food, Beverage, and Consumer products Industry - Achieving Superior Financial Performance in a Challenging Economy - 2008,” from Grocery Manufacturers Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers, “companies that report sustainability data generally experience higher gross margins and return on sales, higher return on assets, and stronger cash flow and rising shareholder return.”

Specifically, the report notes that investment decisions and operational improvements associated with adopting sustainable practices could be responsible for the higher margins.

Click here to read the whole story on Environmental Leader.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Social Cost of Building Software

One area that is often overlooked in the software industry is the “social cost” of building and improving software. While most of us who work as software developers spend most of our time figuring out the coolest new features to add, and how to delight our customers to no end, we don’t often sit down and think about what all this extra code means to the world around us. In particular, is what we’re adding actually useful? Are the CPU cycles taken to execute that code repeatedly (and, if you’re truly successful, on millions upon millions of computers worldwide) really necessary?

We’re all familiar with one form or another of performance work in software – setting goals for what is considered “reasonable” for latency and throughput for a particular set of operations. But what if we take this optimization process a step further and apply a second filter of ecological prudence to the mix?

Say, for example, you have a hypothetical program that distributes some large collection of data to all of its clients. Rather than sort the data on the server side, you instead leave the sorting to the clients. While in theory this isn’t a huge deal, let’s also say that this process is repeated hundreds of times a day to tens of thousands of clients. So, what starts out as a minor (and probably trivial) design decision can actually begin to add up to a lot of extraneous CPU cycles spread out over tens of thousands of machines – meaning lots and lots of watt-hours of electricity being chewed up needlessly every day.

Chances are your perf tests won’t hiccup over such a design choice, but the difference in aggregate power consumption between approaches (one where the sort is performed a single time on the server versus n-times on each client) couldn’t be greater.

Now, this isn’t to say that we all need to go and re-think every piece of software ever written – that would be absurd and probably impossible. But, something that we should accustom ourselves to doing, as designers and implementers of software systems, is to think about how our system designs consume power at scale. Are there places where large computations are being performed repeatedly and redundantly? The example of pre-sorting data before sending it to clients is an obvious oversimplification – but in many systems, similar “waste patterns” can emerge.

After spending a number of years building software that ran on millions of computers, I became acutely aware of how many instances of waste patterns actually exist out there. While you could do what I ended up doing (taking a job at Verdiem where I could build software that actively reduces energy consumption), a less severe approach is to simply embrace waste-conscious design practices (many of us are already doing this, often unknowingly).

As you find these waste patterns in your designs, take note of them – share them with your colleagues, write about them in your blog, etc. - and tell the world what you did to reduce waste and why it really can matter (and, more often than not, why getting rid of that pattern didn’t end up tanking performance or killing your software’s functionality). Indeed, as more and more developers become aware of and embrace waste-conscious design practices, the aggregate energy savings will also multiply – less pollution, fewer new power plants, lower energy costs – once again, helping to reduce the hidden “social cost” of building software.

The Irony of Information

Over the weekend, the New York Times posted a story from Alex Williams entitled, “That Buzz in Your Ear May Be Green Noise.” As you can imagine from the title, the article was largely about the incredible amount of [sometimes conflicting] information on going green. As Williams describes it, “Two years after ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ helped unleash a new tide of environmental activism, green noise pulses through the collective consciousness from all directions.”

Ironically, I read this article shortly after I picked up National Geographic’s “Green Guide” magazine, one in a series of publications produced by top tier media corporations tailored at those interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle and understanding some of the key issues involved.

While scientists are nearly all in agreement regarding the existence of global warming, it seems consumers are reaching a level of information overload regarding “green living,” and sometimes this information is not all complementary.

In closing the article, Williams highlighted a couple organizations who have specifically tried to simplify the process for consumers, pointing to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s website, where users can choose the depth of information they receive. In addition, Williams cited Greenpeace’s new strategy to help people to better understand environmental concerns through combining them all under the umbrella of climate change instead of separating them into distinct categories.

We’d like to hear from you - what organizations do you find produce the most consistent and helpful sustainability information?

Verdiem Wins Microsoft Partner Award in ISV/Software Solutions, Innovation Partner of the Year Category!

We are really excited to announce that Verdiem has been chosen as the winner of this year’s Microsoft ISV/Software Solutions, Innovation Partner of the Year category. It’s an incredible honor to win this award, and we are especially excited to get this recognition from such a valuable partner.

Click here for more information. To see all of the winners and finalists, you can see Microsoft’s press release here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Podcast: Brownouts, PCs and How Companies Can Protect Themselves

To follow-up on his recent post, my colleague Matt and I spent a few minutes last week talking about brownouts. If you’re interested in learning more about them, their causes and effects, and how organizations can protect themselves (and their PCs), check out this podcast.

Listen here:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Quantifying the bottled water opportunity

Great presentation this week at the Sustainable Brands conference from the chief sustainability officer at Clorox, including a number of things they’re doing to both create greater sustainability practices in their core business, as well as build new product lines (such as Green Works) that set a high bar for sustainable manufacturing and ingredients.

He offered some fascinating stats related to bottled water I wanted to share here.

According to Clorox’s research, 60 million water bottles are thrown away every day in the United States. Only 14 percent of those bottles are recycled.

Clorox sells the Brita water pitchers and filters, which is why these statistics are important to them. According to Clorox, the Brita filter can replace 300 standard 16.9 oz plastic water bottles. That’s over 15 pounds of plastic saved, not to mention shipping costs and associated carbon emissions with getting bottled waters from plants to retailers to our homes and businesses.

The opportunities to lessen our environmental impact, literally all around us, are staggering.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Sustainability can be this simple

Andrew Winston, co-author of the fantastic book Green to Gold, started the day this morning at Sustainable Brands 2008 with a quick update on green marketing and innovations across various industries. What struck me most from his comments were the innovations that were neither complicated nor still in development.

Two quick examples:

If you watch UPS trucks and vans delivering packages around your area, you will notice they no longer make left-hand turns. UPS trucks now only make right-hand turns, even if it takes a little longer to get there.

Why? Left-hand turns mean sitting at red lights far more often, which means idling, which means wasting gas. By only taking right-hand turns, UPS is cutting their gas consumption (and gas budget) significantly.

In Minneapolis, a handful of office buildings as well as the Xcel Energy Center (where the Minnesota Timberwolves play) have started cleaning their floors with just tap water.

No traditional cleaning products, no chemicals. Just tap water.

They’re doing this by ionizing the water to separate the acid from the base, then applying it to the floor in two separate parts. As the two re-form on the floor back into tap water, the re-ionization process picks up the dirt. Early reports from facilities managers say that the tap water approach is actually doing a better job of cleaning floors than the chemicals and other cleaning supplies they’d been using before.

According to Winston, ionizing water has been used to clean wounds in hospitals for several years. Someone recently thought that technology might work on the hospital floor, thus an innovation was born.

Can’t Afford Fuel Prices? Take the Bus!

I’ll be honest. I’ve spent most of my life driving in cars, not taking public transportation. Growing up in the Seattle suburbs, public transportation wasn’t as readily available for me as it was for my city friends. I had a car, and it never occurred to me to not drive it.

Today, I live in the city and work in the city. There is a bus that stops literally right in front of my house and drops me off a block from work, so I take it everyday. As I was riding the #12 downtown this morning, I noticed the latest gas prices. $4.25 for Regular, $4.45 for Premium. Yikes.

And I wonder, how many daily commuters are now turning to King Country Metro and similar public transportation organizations across the country? It seems that some of the people who drive long distances every day are now wondering if they can justify the additional costs to fill up.

A recent Associated Press article highlighted this very idea, with the following statistics demonstrating a substantial shift in commuting patterns:

“Among the cities registering big increases in the first quarter were Baltimore, where light rail ridership was up 17 percent from the same period a year ago; Seattle, which saw a 28 percent jump in commuter rail passengers; Boston, where subway ridership rose 9 percent; and San Antonio, where the number of bus riders climbed 11 percent…

…Meanwhile, the number of miles driven on American roads fell slightly last year — from 3.014 trillion to 3.003 trillion, according to the Federal Highway Administration. It was the first time since 1980 that the figure had not increased. The drop has continued this year.”

While public transportation won’t suit everyone’s needs, it certainly seems to be gaining popularity as the alternative becomes less and less financially viable for many commuters.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Are sports the key to widespread green awareness?

I had lunch today with a recent graduate of the Boston Architectural College, who has been studying the topic of sustainability in sports. His central area of interest wasn’t necessarily to learn what professional sports organizations are doing to green their own operations, but how sports could be the single greatest accelerator of sustainability awareness, momentum and engagement among mainstream consumers.

Sports, perhaps more than any other topic in mainstream America, hold our collective interest year after year, from our youth to our senior years.

The opportunity tactically for sports to accelerate green awareness doesn’t just lie with the teams themselves, but also their participating athletes. It’s one thing for the Los Angeles Lakers to go green. It’s another level entirely if Kobe Bryant does it, and both explicitly and implicitly drives his fans to follow him.

Are any of your local professional sports organizations already “going green”? If so, how are they doing it, and what impact has that already had on fans? Please share in the comments below!

Cradle to grave sustainability

Sustainable products and brands aren’t just about creation and consumption. They’re also about having a sustainable strategy for disposal. And that end-game isn’t always well thought out today even with sustainable products.

At the Sustainable Brands conference last night, Leonard Robinson from the California EPA commented that the patent approval process for new products should require an analysis of the entire lifecycle of the product, including how it will be disposed of. His comment generated the only spontaneous, mid-speech round of applause of the night.

The fluorescent, spiral-shaped lights we’ve been buying at the hardware store lately? They contain mercury, and must be recycled. But few consumers know this, nor do they have a clear means and location to do that recycling. Subsequently, those mercury-filled light bulbs are being added to our landfills.

Apple’s iPod has been considered a strong green product, since it essentially eliminates the need for CDs and all of their packaging. But what happens to the iPod itself when we’re done with it? When we’ve moved onto the latest model, how can previous iPod models be recycled, re-used or repurposed?

Many companies, such as Keen, are thinking through the entire lifecycle of their products already, and communicating that to their customers. Other brands are directly or indirectly (through government programs) working on take-back programs so that more and more products can be adequately recycled or safely disposed of.

Today’s green products are gaining momentum and market share due to their improved footprint and impact at the front end. But as those products make their way through their use cycle, consumer awareness of the end-game will increase. Brands will do well to think through that element of the lifecycle now.

Does green play in Peoria?

More than 500 brand marketers, agencies and green marketing specialists are in Monterey this week at Sustainable Brands 2008. But despite our collective passion for what we’re doing in our own businesses, we don’t yet reflect the rest of corporate America, let alone the average American.

While the ranks of early adopters in the sustainability movement are growing, and the volume of interest at an individual level also grows daily, that interest still pales to our collective focus on other national issues.

A Gallup poll this past March indicated that 40 percent of Americans worry about the environment a great deal. That’s compared to 58 percent who worry about health care, and 60 percent who worry about the economy.

Yes, we’re worried about the environment, but not yet enough. Not enough to make it a national priority, and not enough to take collective action at a meaningful scale.

The critical mass of worry and action is still largely focused on the coasts. The West Coast, and California in particular, is leading the way in thinking and acting green. The Northeast isn’t far behind.

But the Midwest – where energy prices are almost half what they are in California or New York - isn’t there yet. Our job as sustainability leaders is to make our message relevant not just to early adopters, but to every American.

Products like the G Diaper may lead the way. It’s something every parent needs, it’s still disposable, but it’s also flushable. It’s biodegradable through our existing waste management systems, vs. sitting in landfills.

It’s continued innovations like this that will take sustainability from early adopters all the way to Peoria.

Profitable sustainability

It’s clear in talking to many companies here in Monterey this week that sustainability is still largely being driven by marketing objectives – be it PR, competitive differentiation, or simply aligning with growing consumer awareness and activism.

But for others, sustainability has become profitable. Either by tangibly increasing sales or market share, or by cutting costs, brands nationwide are using green to make green.

Some examples heard at Sustainable Brands 2008 this week:

  • Staples has retrofitted all of its distribution trucks so that they cannot drive faster than 60 miles per hour. This not only makes the trucks safer (think lower insurance premiums) but also increases their fuel efficiency by 15 percent. Staples is saving 500,000 gallons of diesel fuel a year this way.
  • Stonyfield Farm was one of the first yogurt makers to move from hard plastic lids to foil tops, saving $1,000,000 a year in the process (not to mention reducing the plastic needed for packaging)
  • More than 55 percent of employees at Sun Microsystems telecommute at least half of the time. While they couldn’t cite specific figures, Sun says this has reduced operating costs for the company significantly (while also decreasing employee commute time and measurably increasing job satisfaction)

How is your organization using sustainability initiatives to make money or save money?

Debate on Climate Change Legislation – Join the Conversation

A New York Times article posted yesterday discusses the climate change legislation slated for debate in the Senate this week. The goals of this bill are as follows:

(1) to establish the core of a Federal program that will reduce United States greenhouse gas emissions substantially enough between 2007 and 2050 to avert the catastrophic impacts of global climate change; and

(2) to accomplish that purpose while preserving robust growth in the United States economy, creating new jobs, and avoiding the imposition of hardship on United States citizens.

The article cites concerns about whether this bill, in its current form, should get passed, noting that “the debate will force senators to take a stand on some of the most difficult, expensive and potentially life-altering questions that will face the world in coming decades.”

At the heart of this debate are two central themes. Proponents argue that our nation cannot wait until fuel prices come down in order to deal with these larger issues. Opponents believe “the bill would direct the largest changes in the American economy since the 1930s and should not be rushed through Congress without painstaking debate.”

This is what Frank Ackerman, an economist at Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University, had to say:

“How do you price the increased deaths, the losses of endangered species and unique habitats, the increased damages from hurricanes that are becoming more intense...Those numbers dwarf any reasonable estimate of the cost of doing something about climate change. The choice is a no-brainer.”

What do you think? Your comments and insights would be greatly appreciated.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A sustainable conference (in every way)

One would expect a conference about sustainable marketing to be full of sustainability options and strategies itself. For example, upon registration for Sustainable Brands 2008, each attendee had an option to purchase an offset for their travel to and from Monterey.

Now that I’m here, I can see to what great extent sustainability permeates the entire event. Almost everything here is biodegradable, recyclable, organic or offset. Some examples:

What’s struck me the most – if I had experienced all of this at any other conference – I probably wouldn’t have noticed it was eco-friendly. There’s no reason more of our industry get-togethers can’t be like this.

This afternoon offered some great pre-conference content, and things kick off in earnest tonight with speakers from the California Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Fish and others.

Delayed Flights Waste More Than Just Passenger Time

No one likes a delayed flight. Now we find out that these flights are costing us more than just time. According to a recent report from the U.S. Joint Economic Committee (JEC), delayed flights in 2007 consumed about 740 million additional gallons of jet fuel totaling $1.6 billion extra in fuel bills and emitted 7.07 million metric tons of CO2.

This was the quote from U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer, Chairman of the JEC, on the problem:

“It has been apparent for far too long that to millions of Americans who fly, our domestic air travel system is broken and today’s Joint Economic Committee report puts a dollar figure on this mess. In 2007 alone passengers, airlines, and our economy felt a $41 billion punch in the gut from flight delays and the problem is only going to get worse.”

You can find the press release here.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Unscrew America (and your old light bulbs!)

If you haven’t visited this site yet, you should definitely take a few minutes to check out Unscrew America. It’s a campaign run by Lesley Chilcott, one of the producers of "An Inconvenient Truth," intended to encourage the switch from incandescent light bulbs to more energy-efficient CFLs and LEDs. More details at

The site features cartoons and lessons about energy-efficient CFL and LED light bulbs, which make it really fun and also pretty educational. Don’t expect requests to go out and change the world – only a statement that “ridiculously good things will happen” if we can all move to more energy-efficient bulbs.

There are lots of interesting facts on the site, but something new that I learned and wanted to share with the group. Apparently CFL’s contain mercury, so need to be disposed of as you would dispose other types of hazardous waste. They suggest you check your city’s website or visit to find collection programs in your area. So no throwing them in your trash!

Building (and selling) sustainable brands

Next week more than 500 brand marketers from across North America will gather in Monterey, California for the now-annual Sustainable Brands conference. It’s a chance not only to learn from industry leaders and early adopters what’s working, but also to share new ideas and perspectives on how to build and communicate green brands.

I look forward to spending a few days with this group, and will post updates here through the week as I can. The speaker list is fantastic, with representatives from companies such as Best Buy, Clorox, Dow Chemical, eBay, GE, IBM, Georgia-Pacific and many more.

What’s particularly interesting to me is the different between building green brands, and marketing them. We’ve all noticed the vast acceleration of green messaging and touts from products and services in every direction. Some of these messages and products are clearly based in a fundamental desire to “do good,” combined with a product direction that prioritizes sustainability and lower carbon footprints.

Other recent brand claims, unfortunately, are more flimsy in nature. It’s the same ol’ product with a new “green” shine, and savvy consumers are crying foul (not to mention adding a heavy layer of skepticism in how they view the rest of us).

My guess is that the vast majority of attendees next week represent the more authentic group – those with either innovative new sustainable brands, or existing brands with an authentic desire to build and market products that truly change the way we’re impacting the world around us.

More next week…

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Carbon Emissions Reflect Varying Lifestyles Across the Country, and What This Means for the Average Person

If you’ve already read your daily news today, you’ve probably seen the stories from coast to coast about a recent study from the Brookings Institution that reports on carbon emissions in the 100 largest cities throughout the U.S. and how they appear to be varying dramatically from region to region.

The New York Times mentioned in the beginning of their article on the report that the West Coast’s “mild climates, hydropower and aggressive energy-reduction policies give its residents smaller carbon footprints, on average, than those of their counterparts in the East and Midwest.” While those of us on the West Coast might be cheering for our success, it’s still not enough. The unfortunate truth that this report points out is that, as a country, our carbon footprints are still continuing to grow.

So what do we do now?

The Brookings Institution report focuses heavily on how critical it is for federal policy to tackle the heart of the problem, and references the importance of policies promoting more transportation choices, introducing more energy-efficient freight operations, requiring home energy cost disclosure, using federal housing policies, and issuing a metropolitan challenge.

That’s all fantastic if you’re in the government or a government lobbyist, but what about the rest of the population who works in the private sector and doesn’t necessarily have the power of a Congressional vote?

We try to participate as individuals on a smaller scale.

At home, we do what we can and what is reasonable for our lifestyles. We turn off the lights when we leave the room, we recycle as necessary, we buy local as much as possible, and we try to remember our reusable bags when we go grocery shopping. At work, we take the bus to the office a few days a week, we think about putting the computer to sleep before we go to lunch or using power management software, and we use a ceramic mug instead of disposable cups.

Our lifestyles do not have to change dramatically to make a difference. And the reality is, making these changes will make our lives better.

What do you do to lower your carbon footprint?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Energy Efficiency Encyclopedia – PC Power Management

This week, I wanted to take a step back and talk about PC power management. Companies that focus on sustainable technologies frequently throw this term around, but lots of folks today still aren’t sure exactly what PC power management is. And I’m not just referring to people outside the tech sector. In fact, last week I mentioned the term to a friend of mine who works at a large software company, and his first instinct was that power management referred to a computer’s processing power. Point being, it’s worth explaining again.

Within the context that Verdiem uses it, PC power management is all about conserving a PC’s energy consumption to save money and indirectly reduce carbon emissions. The most successful way to manage PC power consumption is to make sure that when you are not using your PC, it is either turned off or moved into a lower power state (like sleep mode). Operating systems, such as Windows Vista, enable users to better manage their PC’s power settings. Unfortunately, people often incorrectly assume that power management functionality will limit their PC’s performance, so frequently turn off the power-saving features on their machines. The reality is that PC power management software is generally built to balance saving power with ensuring the end user’s needs don’t suffer, so won't negatively affect performance.

Given rising energy costs, in conjunction with a poor economy and the increasing threat of global warming, saving money and reducing carbon emissions has become more important than ever before. Conserving your PC’s energy consumption is a great way to simultaneously reduce costs while also positively affecting the environment.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Greening Your Life

At Verdiem, we think it's important to always be working on ways to create more sustainable practices both in the workplace and at home. Starting this week, we’ll be posting a weekly tip on something simple you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.

Tip #1: If your company offers disposable cups in the workplace, consider bringing in your own water bottle or glass instead. Eliminating a cup every workday could save each person from throwing away up to 260 cups per year.

Is a carbon tax coming?

The concept of a carbon emissions cap-and-trade system, especially for big business in the US, has been discussed for years. But in recent months, the idea of creating firm, regulatory guidelines has picked up steam.

All three major presidential candidates support a cap-and-trade system for the US in the not-so-distant future. It could be based on the cap-and-trade system currently working in Europe, or could be something closer to Al Gore’s proposed carbon tax plan.

Already, many companies are participating in the voluntary carbon credit market, through exchanges such as the Chicago Climate Exchange. These efforts are purely voluntary for now, and done to support corporate sustainability/carbon-neutral goals and/or to leverage for marketing purposes.

But earlier this week, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District voted to start charging businesses in nine San Francisco Bay Area counties a 4.4 cents-per-ton tax for the carbon dioxide they’re responsible for emitting.

California has been a leader in seeking government-led solutions to carbon emissions, and could very well mandate broader carbon caps in advance of a national system. Governor Schwarzenegger signed a law back in 2006 mandating several global warming initiatives that are still in development or underway.

There’s plenty left to do to make any one of these systems work, of course. We need a standard way to measure and validate carbon emissions, for example, plus a means of endorsing and/or certifying means by which those emissions can be reduced.

But if developments in the Bay Area this week come to fruition, it should be an interesting experiment watched closely by not only other local jurisdictions, but state and federal regulators as well. If nothing else, it will get more people talking about how to solve the problem, and will get us closer to a solution with real teeth and impact nationwide.

Photo Credit: New York Times

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Memorial Day Energy Waste

Ah, Memorial Day Weekend.

It’s earlier than usual this year, but no less anticipated. Warmer weather, backyard BBQs, and that blessed extra day off await many of us starting tomorrow night.

Next Monday, unfortunately, also means an extra day of energy waste for the majority of businesses nationwide.

There are an estimated 43 million active computers across the US in businesses of 300 employees or more, and sixty percent of those PCs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, are typically left running at full-power after business hours.

That means the typical weekend PC energy waste will increase by 50 percent this weekend.

What does that mean in dollars and cents?

Those 25.8 million business PCs left on this weekend will burn more than 41,500,000 kWh of energy – on Monday alone.

At the average national energy rate of 8.9 cents per kWh, that’s $3,699,178 in wasted energy bills from PCs left on back at the office.

And the energy generated for those PCs causes carbon emissions of more than 35,620 tons.

That’s equivalent to 5,918 cars on the road annually.

Or 75,149 barrels of oil.

Or 3,667,887 gallons of gas.

If all of those 25.8 million fully-powered PCs and monitors were using SURVEYOR to power down PCs and monitors over the weekend, they could save close to 90 percent of the costs and associated carbon emission equivalencies listed above – for the entire three-day weekend.

If your organization isn’t yet using PC power management software, please invite your PC to join you in some R&R this weekend by turning it off before you leave.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Energy Efficiency Encyclopedia – PC Insomnia

We’d like to introduce Verdiem’s new Energy Efficiency Encyclopedia, a resource for people to reference that highlights sustainable technology terminology. Please note that the meaning of these words or phrases may vary depending upon their context.

This week, we’d like to highlight PC Insomnia. PC Insomnia occurs when a PC does not consistently transition to a lower power state due to application nuances, or spurious network, central processing unit (CPU) or disk activity. Some common causes of PC Insomnia include:
  • Environment: Numerous services or agents within a PC image of an enterprise may spike the CPU utilization during periods of inactivity causing the Microsoft Windows® Idle Timer to reset.
  • Custom Device Drivers: Device drivers not written to the Advanced Configuration & Power Interface (ACPI) specification may not allow the PC to enter lower power states.
  • Screen Savers: Some intensive screen savers may require higher CPU utilization causing the Windows® Idle Timer to reset.
  • Applications: Terminal emulation software, media players, and some custom-developed applications may not allow the system to enter a lower power state.
  • System Configuration: Some PCs may not have their BIOS configured correctly to allow for system standby or the power state known as S3 or Sleep (ACPI specification).

As a result of PC Insomnia, PCs stay on while not in use and subsequently waste energy and result in increased CO2 emissions.

*Windows is a registered trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and other countries.

Avoiding rolling blackouts this summer

This weekend marks the unofficial start of summer. And thanks to the warmer weather and associated increases in energy consumption, it’s also the unofficial start of what’s become the annual “brown out” season for businesses and households alike. In fact, some are already predicting this year could bring the highest risk of rolling blackouts in years.

Brown outs, of course, refer to temporary power reductions and outages across a metro area due to electricity demand that exceeds a local utility’s ability to generate enough power.

Summer months typically see the majority of urban brown outs, especially in markets that crank up the air conditioning to escape the summer heat.

Late last month, the California Independent System Operator predicted the risk of electricity blackouts especially in Southern California could be more than triple that of previous years due to a lack of supply to meet expected demand.

Similar conditions, as well as the potential for wildfires and continued drought conditions in the Southeast, could tax our power grids even further.

This year’s summer season, unfortunately, could offer the perfect storm for brown-outs and rolling black-outs:

  • 1) Many meteorologists are predicting a warmer than usual summer (thank you, la nina)
  • 2) Energy prices (for electricity, not just gas) continue to rise
  • 3) Our per-capita summer energy use will increase, as usual, due to A/C usage
  • 4) Recession-like conditions will make paying for that increased power consumption even more painful – especially for large enterprises

How can organizations mitigate the impact of these conditions?

The first step is to understand your power consumption habits. Use monitoring tools to know when your own peak demand periods exist, and map that against the largest grouped contributors of energy in your organization. For most large organizations, the largest energy consumer is the PC network (which, according to Gartner, represents 40 percent of an organization’s IT carbon footprint).

When you know your organization’s power consumption patterns, you can take steps to intelligently reduce that volume. For example, two-thirds of the power a typical PC uses is wasted (when the PC is on at full-power but not in use). PC power management software can reduce that power by up to 60 percent.

The power requirement and cost impact is even greater in the summer months, when fully-active PCs have a more than material impact on the temperature within buildings, thereby requiring even higher air conditioning bills (and power requirements).

Some Verdiem customers report that putting PCs into lower power states when they’re not in use not only cuts their PC-related power bill in half, but have reported they also can cut the summer air conditioning bill by 5-15 percent.

Those two reductions alone can have a significant impact on an organization’s summer power requirements. And that will make your utility very, very happy (no wonder more than 30 of them nationwide offer rebates for power reduction initiatives such as SURVEYOR).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rethinking environmentalism

If you haven’t read it already, be sure to check out the short but powerful cover story in the June issue of Wired. Through a series of brief but powerful critiques of traditional environmental rallying cries, the magazine clarifies and reiterates the single most important thing we can do to mitigate climate change – reduce carbon.

Environmentalism has been around for decades, but many of its key tenets and focus areas might actually be counter-productive to reducing carbon. For example, according to Wired:

  • Per kilowatt-hour, a nuclear plant emits just six percent as much carbon as a plant fired by natural gas
  • Cooling a house produces 93 percent fewer CO2 emissions than warming a house
  • A single family member taking public transportation to work reduces the household’s carbon footprint by 30 percent
  • An organic chicken creates 45% more greenhouse gases than a non-organic bird
  • Pound for pound, making a Prius contributes more carbon to the atmosphere than making a Hummer, due to the nickel in the hybrid’s battery

The article’s main premise isn’t that traditional environmental concerns are bad or necessarily wrong in intent, but that their aims pale in comparison to how important carbon reduction is to the preservation of our world.

This article won’t be online for another month, but it’s worth picking up or borrowing a copy of this month’s issue for the quick read.