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.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Tips to Reduce Energy Costs at Work

The economic struggles many organizations are facing today, combined with rising energy costs, means lowering the energy bill is more important now than ever before. To help, we wanted to share some tips on ways to cut costs.
  • PC Power Management Software: 60 percent of business computers in the U.S. are left running after hours, costing enterprises billions of dollars each year. Adopting power management software is one easy way to take action now and achieve energy savings.

  • Switch PCs off and avoid overuse: IT equipment accounts for around nine percent of all energy consumed by businesses - the third largest source of power for the commercial sector. Putting power management policies in place and ensuring all unused equipment is unplugged are two of the easiest ways to control power consumption.

  • Use energy-efficient equipment: The EPA is developing ENERGY STAR specifications for enterprise servers and office equipment. When purchasing new equipment, consider energy-efficient versions that will significantly reduce amounts of CO2 emissions and save money over time.

  • Use Compact Fluorescent Lights: Replace burnt out bulbs with ENERGY STAR CFLs that use 75 percent less energy and last six to ten times longer than standard bulbs. Also, incorporate motion sensors into rooms to ensure lights are off when the room isn’t in use.

  • Office Environment: Create an optimal energy environment by addressing energy use in other areas such as water and the building. Make sure all building and water systems are working properly and when retrofitting buildings look for good alternatives like energy efficient HVAC cooling systems and low flow toilets.

Announcing SURVEYOR 5.0

Today’s an exciting day at Verdiem! We’ve just announced the launch of version 5.0 of our flagship PC power management software, SURVEYOR.

This release expands the cost and carbon savings possible across your PC network, with additional tools to tackle IT energy management concerns such as reliable patch management, remote access and PC insomnia. The result of these enhancements is centralized management of IT energy waste and a reduction in PC energy consumption by as much as 60 percent. SURVEYOR also offers a fast and easy way to demonstrate social and environmental responsibility through significant energy savings without undergoing a complete energy overhaul.

In conjunction with this launch, we’re also introducing a new version of our WakeUp for SMS product, and a Wake-on-Web product as well – making it easier for IT to centrally manage power settings for PC networks even when your users are working remotely.

For more information, check out

Friday, May 2, 2008

Join the Energy Camp wiki

Just got back from a full week @ Interop, which included the full-day Energy Camp on Monday. The growing interest in sustainability and intelligent energy efficiency initiatives at companies big and small across the globe is palpable.

The founders of Energy Camp have created what I think will be a fantastic forum to continue the energy efficiency conversation between formal get-togethers. The wiki already has lots of great content and best practices posted, and traffic (as seen by the tickers at the bottom of each page) is accelerating since Monday (with far more visits than we had Camp attendees - a very good sign!).

Check it out here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Going Green at Interop

For those of you who weren't able to visit our booth at Interop Vegas this year, I wanted to share with you a decision we made prior to the show. In an effort to live our brand, we decided not to print and distribute the standard set of collateral at the show (thus saving paper, fuel, etc). Instead, we created a small card that included a pointer to our new "Download Zone" on the Verdiem website where we're now housing many of our materials.

Overall, we found the response to this change to be incredibly positive, and will work on continuing this practice where possible in the future.