Fujitsu: The four key environmental factors of ICT – energy, carbon, e-waste and water

InsightaaS: Many of our readers know that in addition to the "five Cs" covered on the site, our principals are active in researching and writing about sustainable IT, as columnists for Bloomberg BNA. Recently, while working on a Bloomberg article about the impact of efficient cooling systems on Scope 2 emissions, we ran across this post from Fujitsu's Andy Lewis. It provides an informative and important perspective on some of the most important environmental issues that are impacted by (and can be managed with) IT.

Almost every element of the ICT lifecycle — from material acquisition to product disposal — affects the environment. In this article we look at the four major areas of impact: Energy consumption, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, electronic waste (e-waste) generation and water consumption. We also discuss ways your organization can measure and reduce each of these.

The rise and rise of energy consumption

Energy is used throughout the ICT product and service lifecycle, mostly as electricity but also in other forms such as gas and vehicle fuel. Many countries rely heavily on non-renewable energy sources, which is putting increasing pressure on a finite global resource. ICT’s substantial energy consumption also produces GHG emissions, which are regarded as the primary cause of climate change.

Industry estimates suggest ICT is responsible for 2—3% of annual global GHG emissions1  — similar to the aviation industry’s contribution. The figure below shows the likely increase of ICT-related GHG emissions from 2002 to 2020, and the relative split of emissions across the three major elements of ICT: data centers, voice and data networks, and end-user devices...

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