Looking after our world health has never been more important. For many, it is a core issue that has made us look at how we live and our behaviours within our home.

Much of our exposure on the green issues is fed from the media. Greenhouse gases and fossil fuel consumption has really dominated the headlines. And we are only now just starting to think about the recyclability of technology and we are seeing the big manufacturers talking about how many recycled materials went into giving you the items you’ve got. Whether it’s a garden chair made from recycled carrier bags or a laptop made from aluminium. But is that enough? Within the digital sector we are ruled by our technology, but are we considering how much of an impact they have on our environment?

What is environmental technology?

There isn’t true environmental technology. Everything has to be made, everything has to be consumed, everything has a production process. So it boils down to how it's made and how it’s reused?

There have been many articles and lots of conversation in the industry around how repairable a laptop is versus just scrapping it and getting a new one. Can you take the battery out and replace it, or do you have to chuck the whole thing? Can you buy more memory or do you have to buy a brand new laptop? In many instances, you have to shorten the lifespan of some technologies because of these issues, and that is going to have a negative impact on our environment.

The legislation we have isn’t mature and the technology field is immature in this area. We are used to laying pipes and cables, and building big data centres, and we are only just really beginning to think about how recyclable our tech and gadgets are.

I liken this to the difference between appliances and devices. An appliance (like a kettle for example) has a strict limited set of functions and when it breaks it's so simple that you can't repair it, you just buy a new one. But then you have a device like a phone, and the more repairable that phone is, the longer the life span and it won’t end up in landfill.

Is there anything to be done in the tech world?

There has been some talk about how environmentally friendly software is. Everything is deadline focused in our world. We want things delivered and written in as simple, straightforward a process as possible and that doesn’t always mean that we are using the best software and platforms from an environmental perspective.

Our work needs to be correct. And this is the stumbling block. Depending on the type of software you made is how environmentally friendly it can be.

We know that programming languages vary in how environmentally friendly they are. The more efficient are closer to the hardware but also harder to write or maintain. Consequently its a balancing act between efficiency, completing your project on time and the skills of your team.

I believe companies will have to use devices that are greener, that have more recyclable materials and are part of a recycling programme. For example, with Apple you can trade in your old kit as part of getting some new kit. Handing in your old device to the manufacturer so it can be reused and repurposed is a good example of this.

But then we could look at our energy suppliers. If you’re looking at how you write software and how you host it, and what you develop it on, it can be power intensive.

Uber is an interesting case study. They moved from one language to another because they needed something so high performance to be able to manage their estate. And the flip side to that was by having something so high performance and fast, that they could run everything without worrying about it. It then meant that they could use less infrastructure at the same time. The knock on effect would have been a positive one to the environment. They are using less energy and having fewer computing resources, or they could do more with the new platform, therefore they are being more efficient.

There is a danger some brands and companies have of green washing and using a platform that would give you the most green credentials. For example, if you host all your software in a data centre that is using renewable energy then it doesn’t matter.

Where does the responsibility lie?

What could we do to help?

There are some things we can all do in our businesses to try and help where we can:

  1. Look at your device lifetimes for the computing hardware or software that you have. What is the lifespan of our team's laptops? Should we use desktops rather than laptops as you can repair them more easily?
  2. Do you have a renewable energy supplier?
  3. Do you have proper waste disposal and a recycling programme within the office? Even a composting scheme would be beneficial if you have the space.
  4. Are you training the team in using different languages and platforms that are potentially more energy efficient and could give you more of an edge?

It's very confusing and difficult to know where to start. The first question we would ask ourselves is are we using a renewable energy supplier, do we have a green policy around recycling and having a paperless office. But it does go deeper than that.

Once you scratch the surface, it goes beyond fossil fuels and renewable energy. It really is a fine balancing act between having green credentials and being able to service your customers and clients.