The tech industry faces increased scrutiny as environmental challenges rise, with green computing and urban mining being two concepts gaining attention.
Green computing aims for minimal environmental impact in the tech lifecycle. Urban mining redefines the handling of electronic waste. Together, they shape a more sustainable digital future.
This article explores green computing and urban mining, looking at statistics and the challenges faced. It shows how these strategies manage environmental impacts as well as how they unlock new opportunities in the tech industry and beyond.
Towards a Greener Tech Industry: Embracing Green Computing
According to Statista data gathered in 2022, 69% of 2,900 global respondents (who were IT decision-makers) indicated that IT infrastructure sustainability was a key driver for their company.
The same share of respondents said that their company has an environmental impact management plan with regard to growing data usage and that their organization has committed to science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or become carbon neutral.
Interestingly, 68% of respondents perceived their customers demanding a reduction in carbon footprint via green computing measures.
Moreover, 67% started measuring and actively limiting their IT equipment and infrastructure’s environmental impact. Encouragingly, 65% stated they would only engage with IT partners with a carbon reduction focus.
This highlights sustainability’s increasing importance in digital sector engagements.
Optimizing Energy Use in Data Centers
One area where significant progress has been made is in optimizing energy use in data centers. Data centers are notorious for their high energy demands and environmental impact.
As reported by Statista, 669 IT and data managers around the world reported an average annual power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio of 1.55 at their largest data center. Striving for efficiency, data center operators aim to bring their PUE ratio close to 1. Although the ratio is still 1.55, it shows an improvement over the years, decreasing from 2.50 in 2007 (-38%).
This improvement underlines the emphasis on optimizing power usage to manage the high energy demands of digital technologies such as data centers.
Unearthing Opportunities: Urban Mining as a Key Aspect of Green Computing
The journey to digital sustainability and green computing extends beyond IT infrastructure. For instance, reducing the physical footprint of electronic devices is a crucial matter.
An intriguing concept born out of the tech industry is ‘urban mining’ – the extraction of precious metals from discarded electronic devices. This concept turns our homes into treasure troves of unexploited resources.
According to the report “Green ICT – digital devices in households,” nearly half of the people in the European Union (EU) aged between 16 and 74 (49%) kept old smartphones at home. These unused devices, if not properly recycled, represent a significant environmental hazard and potential resource loss.
Meanwhile, Statista’s 2022 data shows that recycling one million smartphones could recover approximately 35,274 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. Despite this, the EU’s recycling rate for old mobile devices stood at a meager 10% in 2022.
This underscores the need for fresh, innovative approaches to e-waste that align with the principles of green computing.
Shaping a Sustainable Future: The Rise of a Circular Economy in Green Computing
As fresh approaches to e-waste are sought, markets for electronic equipment repair services and refurbished mobile phones are foreseen to expand. These projections indicate a shift towards a circular economy, a fundamental component of green computing.
According to Statista, the global electronic equipment repair service market increased in 2022 compared to 2021 (from $110.9 billion to $121.7 billion; +10%). Furthermore, it is expected to nearly double between 2022 and 2033 (+96%; from $121.7 billion to $238.5 billion).
This trend emphasizes the drive to extend electronic devices’ lifespans, thus mitigating waste and curbing new production demands.