IT in education: working towards a greener future

Stone Group’s John Haslam on how the edtech sector can adopt more sustainable practices

We are enjoying bigger and better benefits from IT every day as the landscape evolves. But the explosive growth of technology, however, has seen the issue of e-waste (electronic waste) rapidly intensify.

Reports state that globally, a staggering 50 million metric tons of IT equipment is thrown away each year. Sadly, only a mere 20% of this e-waste, which is comprised of items such as PCs, laptops, printers and monitors, is recycled. The other 80% is needlessly sent to landfill or incinerated, despite electronics being almost entirely recyclable. Since a typical school or university contains hundreds of computers, the education sector is a large contributor to this.

The negative environmental impacts of technology aren’t only attributed to improper disposal, but also to manufacturing. Producing just one desktop PC requires water, chemicals and fossil fuels in astounding quantities.

However, IT provision is something we simply can’t live without in the modern education system. Not only is it imperative as a learning tool, it’s important we prepare our future workforce to be able to use it to a high standard. Technology delivers significant and meaningful benefits to all aspects of modern society. It underpins the advancements we’ve made in research, learning, medicine, communication, work and more.

Switching off your computer at the end of the day is no longer given credit as being enough to reduce the effects of climate change, but if working towards being a more environmentally friendly education provider is important to you, there are some simple steps that can be taken with your IT provision that can help you play your part in reducing e-waste and protecting the planet, while still enjoying the advantages of modern technology.

Protecting the environment with Circular IT

With increasing pressure to mitigate the harm caused by the tech industry, the circular IT movement is growing. Offering a more sustainable and socially responsible approach to IT procurement and product lifecycles, circular IT is a ‘renew, recycle and reuse’ system that improves supply chain sustainability.

This 360° approach can extend the usable life of assets lowering total cost of ownership, helps reduce the amount of natural resources used in the manufacturing process and prevents components and equipment ending up in landfill.

In addition to the environmental advantages, circular IT providers can help education organisations realise significant cost and lifecycle management benefits. Customers can increase the life of their kit with upgrades, maintenance and extended support, or return devices to be responsibly recycled, improving their own green credentials and delivering potential cash rebates.

Circular IT helps simplify the management of your technology landscape and deliver cost savings. With an economy that comes full circle, schools, colleges and universities have access to alternative methods for technology refreshes and procurement, with affordable refurbished or remanufactured second-life equipment that offer power and performance comparable to that of brand-new devices.

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Consider recycling your unwanted tech with an IT Asset Disposal facility. This can help you reach your sustainability goals and realise any residual value from your old equipment. You can enjoy cash rebates that you can put back into your IT budgets.

Improving the energy efficiency of your IT

Old PCs are often significantly less efficient than modern devices – not only in performance and cost, but also in energy. As your equipment ages, it becomes slower and less reliable, using more power and energy because of outdated parts and insufficient memory. Even the accumulation of dust can damage components and cause your device to overheat, meaning more power is needed for cooling.

By upgrading your equipment every four years, you not only enjoy enhanced security and performance benefits, but you can help lower your carbon footprint. With modern devices, time and money isn’t wasted on costly repairs and maintenance and components such as batteries, memory and storage will have a higher capacity. As technology evolves, the equipment you bought five years ago likely can’t handle new software or programmes, and so will have to utilise more energy to run.

Portable devices with productivity and team working tools not only help to create a more agile and collaborative learning environment for students and teachers, but they can play a huge role in cutting down your carbon footprint. Comparatively, laptops consume as much as 80% less power than their desktop counterparts as the power supplies are considerably less intense.

Utilising cloud-based software and subscription services can also help improve the energy efficiency of your PCs, as they reduce the amount of storage required, which in turn means less power that the device needs to run.

Getting the most out of technology

Modern Windows 10 devices, combined with the power of Microsoft 365, could help your organisation save time, money and energy. Windows 10 helps speed up start-up times, which is much needed when there is limited time in class, and can reduce power consumption by up to 10%, which means less energy is needed to boot up and run your devices.

It features intelligent tools and apps that enable your students and staff to work, create and work together from wherever they are and share files, content and projects through the cloud. One Drive and Microsoft Teams allow for real-time collaboration without the need to save to your drive, which prevents filling up your storage and slowing down your PC.

Sustainability in education through technology will continue to be a focus for the education sector, but it’s important to first consider how we can make sure that technology isn’t the cause.

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