Calgary, Alberta. Not the greenest acre in the dominion, one might think - fossil fuel capital of Canada that it is, headquarters of environmentally disastrous oil sands projects. But think again. The City of Calgary itself, perhaps surprisingly, is the very model of a modern environmentally aware organization, right down to its distinctly green IT practices. Like relatively few other businesses and government organizations, the city, including its IT department, embraces a concept first advocated by environmentalists - the triple bottom line. "In any buying decision, we don't just look at the economic business case," explains Maureen Shipton, manager of business and project services in the IT group. "We look at the economic, social and environmental cases. All three have to be considered and accounted for." Green IT is suddenly a hot agenda item - the subject of conferences and, more to the point, tough questions from boards of directors. There is a growing clamour for regulation. Jeff Wacker, a director of strategy at IT outsourcer Electronic Data Systems Corporation, commonly known as EDS, and a tireless campaigner for green IT, says he has seen a rapid increase in awareness and interest in recent months. "Six months ago, green was not even on the list of what wanted to hear about [at the CIO summits IDS organizes]," Wacker says. "For the event in May , green was number one or number two." Sense of urgency lacking David Senf, director of security research and green IT at IDC Canada, tells a similar story. The firm surveyed IT managers across the country prior to a by-invitation IDC-sponsored conference on green IT in Toronto in April. The survey found that while interest is high, a sense of urgency may sometimes be lacking. "While 88% of firms said they believe there will be a real impact from global climate change, they tend to see it negatively impacting their businesses in three to ten years," says Senf. "So it's not an immediate pain they're experiencing." Still, more than half told IDC they were already using environmentally appropriate recycling services for disposing of IT hardware. Seventy-nine percent said they will be doing this in three years, and 83% will be doing it in five years. A third said they have begun server consolidation and virtualization and 70% said they'll be doing it within five years. Of course, in many cases this is only what they're saying. "How much of it gets translated into real business imperatives - that's going to shake out over the next several months and years," Wacker says. But Senf believes many more Canadian companies are now ready to step up. "We're at a point where firms are saying they want better information about how to be more green. They're saying they need practical guidance from the vendor community and from government. ‘Give us examples, show us how other organizations are doing this.'" His hope is that as the experiences of early adopters such as the City of Calgary and others, including Telus Corp., come to the fore, the growing knowledge base around green IT will "create a rising tide that raises all boats." Certainly there are strong incentives for any company to go green in the IT department. Not the least of them is that many initiatives are, as Wacker says, "eco squared" - not just ecological but also economical - even if they require up-front investment. "Virtualization does cost something, absolutely," he says. "But it returns ten times what you're going to invest in it. And that goes directly to the bottom line." This means that CIOs don't really need to create separate green initiatives, he suggests. They can simply pursue cost reductions through greater efficiency - improved cooling, consolidation and virtualization of servers, rationalization of application portfolios and storage resources. "And claim the victory." Organizations such as the City of Calgary and Telus are indeed claiming the victory -justifiably - but they also candidly admit that concern for the environment is not always the only or even first reason for launching initiatives. The environment: part of the bottom line "When we're evaluating a solution, the environment is always a scoring factor," says Doug Hodgson, the IT manager responsible for innovation and collaboration at City of Calgary. "But it's not necessarily the most heavily weighted." Which goes back to the notion of the triple bottom line: it's not one factor alone, but all three. That said, how can CIOs specifically impact the environmental bottom line? Three basic ways: reduce and/or responsibly dispose of e-waste, reduce energy consumption in IT operations, and champion the use of IT to reduce energy consumption and pollution elsewhere. According to one calculation, North American consumers have as many as 700 million unused, obsolete computer or TV monitors awaiting disposal. Wacker says Canada alone produces 140,000 tons of e-waste per year. Any and all of this could end up in landfills. "And that's not good because this stuff is bad for the environment," he says. Lead, mercury and other heavy metals in monitors contaminate the soil. And incinerating e-waste produces flurons, dioxins and other atmospheric contaminants. One way to reduce e-waste: reuse no-longer-needed hardware. When the City of Calgary refreshes desktop devices, it offers old equipment for sale to the public. Consigning e-waste to specialized recyclers is the other solution. But more of the focus for CIOs will inevitably be on the data centre. Energy costs have risen at the same time as demand for energy from IT has increased. Result: companies will pay more now for electricity to run and cool a server for a year than the amortized annual cost to buy it. "One of the things CIOs have to understand is that if they own a data centre, they must learn how to manage down the electricity footprint," Wacker says. Server consolidation and virtualization - reducing the number of physical machines by running multiple applications on each logical server and putting multiple virtual servers on each physical machine - are two ways to go about it. They have been a critical focus at both the City of Calgary and Telus. Calgary increased server utilization from 4% or 5% to 50% in recent years. The principal driver, again, was cost savings, but the environmental benefits were also a crucial factor. Meanwhile, Telus is consolidating and virtualizing in internal IT operations and, like EDS, in the managed services it offers clients. It has 430 virtual servers supporting internal IT requirements running on 33 physical machines. That's an average consolidation ratio of over 13:1, notes Brian MacIntosh, VP of managed IT and collaboration solutions. On the managed services side the ratio is not quite as high - more like 10:1 - mainly because some clients are still wary of sharing servers with others. "But that is changing now," MacIntosh says. Telus has calculated the environmental benefits. The company estimates that it's reducing electricity use by 415 kilowatts a year, which results in 170 fewer tons of CO2 emissions. And it believes it can ultimately drive the emissions reduction to 1,300 tons a year. "It's the right answer for the environment," MacIntosh says of virtualization and server consolidation. "But for a business, it's also a massive opportunity for cost avoidance." Efficiency is green CIOs can also make gains by rationalizing application portfolios, eliminating those that are no longer needed and consolidating where there is duplication - such as often happens in merged entities. "We've seen instances where we were able to help companies reduce to a quarter of the applications they had been running," Wacker says. Other areas for attention: rationalizing storage to reduce duplication, re-engineering cooling in the data centre to increase efficiency, ensuring applications run more efficiently to reduce computing resource requirements. But even simple measures can have important impacts. "There is an expectation right now," Wacker says, "and this is well documented, that 40% of electricity in the data centre could be saved by doing some very fundamental things: putting curtains between hot and cold aisles, for example, or directing some of the cold air more specifically to the servers." CIOs should also be leading the "shift away from moving atoms to moving bits." Printing involves significant carbon emissions all along the supply cycle, he points out - from felling trees, to manufacturing paper and ink, to transporting them to users, and shipping finished printed materials. "Even recycling paper takes lot of energy," Wacker points out. The City of Calgary managed a five-million page reduction in printing and copying in five years. This was achieved partly through education and messaging that encourages employees to avoid printing items such as emails, and to avoid printing in colour in particular, which uses more ink. The city also now requires all new printing devices to be able to easily print on two sides, and print on recycled paper. And then there is what Wacker refers to as IT for green - as opposed to green IT: the notion of using technology to help reduce carbon emissions in other areas. One way is using online collaboration and conferencing tools to reduce business travel. Another is giving customers - or in the case of government, citizens - the tools to complete business online, saving actual trips. Telus makes increasing use of teleconferencing and video conferencing to reduce employee travel. It also works with a Calgary firm, Teletrips Inc., that offers services to help companies manage and - very importantly - measure the environmental benefits of telework. The company has been running an internal telework program for a few years and also offers customers its Agent Anywhere service, which provides recruitment, technology and telecom for outsourcing contact centre agents. " solves two problems," MacIntosh says. "It eliminates carbon emissions associated with travel and it solves the demographic issue, the tremendous challenge with attrition and getting labour we need where we need it." Again, the triple bottom line. Calgary recently ran a telework trial in which a crucial part of the process was getting participants to track the trips they avoided to help calculate the environmental benefits. The city is ready to move ahead now with a full-scale program. It has offered some e-government services for a few years - applications for pet licences online, for example - but is now challenging every department to find ways to help citizens via the Internet to help eliminate trips to city offices. How your company can embrace green IT While the triple bottom line is a vital concept, environmental responsibility needs to be part of the corporate culture. Calgary has been a leader in this regard for several years. Its Ride the Wind initiative, to develop alternative power sources - mostly wind - for the city's rapid-transit system, put it on the green map almost a decade ago. Ride the Wind and other efforts, including the green IT initiatives, show on the environmental bottom line. "Our emissions are 40% below what they were in 1990, when Calgary was a much smaller organization," says alderman Bob Hawksworth, who describes himself as a green thorn in the city's side. Hawksworth says council sent clear messages to the administration that it wanted the city to be a green leader in its own operations. "But success has really depended on strong staff support at the senior middle management level," he adds. It's a point - two points really - that senior managers and boards should note well: the effort needs to come from senior middle management, but strong direction needs to come from the top. That's also the way it works at Telus, which has appeared on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index as one of the world's top economic, environmental and social leaders for seven years - one of only 10 Canadian companies to do so and the only telecommunications company anywhere. It even has a director of environment, Joe Pach, whose department is responsible for driving green initiatives and evaluating the environmental impacts of company operations. Telus is not alone among big telecom companies in making this kind of effort on the green front, Pach points out. One of its major competitors has gone the same route, but the other is "not on the radar at all." "I give them another five years," he says of his heel-dragging competitor - and of any other company that ignores the green IT imperative. "Then I think they're going to find that [corporate environmental responsibility] is table stakes. Green may be the flavour of the month but, hey, it's chocolate."