ICT – New Sustainability Tool Or An Alternative Path To Environmental Degradation


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The ICT industry has become an incredibly important player in the involvement of technology to enhance progress toward our sustainable objectives. We have managed to move forward from paper based, travel oriented business paradigm’s thanks to the tools and applications provided to us by ICT. There is now, more then ever, computer controlled sensor systems which allow for a reductions in energy consumption and usage, along with systematic approaches to controlling what is on or off within an office space. We can use these systems to generate communally available models and predictive tools to assess what we are and aren’t using and are continually building faster, more efficient equipment. That being said, ICT has its own environmental demons.

It’s a fast growing industry, where little consideration has been given to the Life Cycle impact of its products and how its rapid expansion to business and local communities, has altered their carbon footprints and social attitudes.

It has its own social agenda issues, with people working in the industry reporting increased incidence of cancer clusters.

In 2007 the ICT industry was responsible for 2% of global carbon contributions caused by human activity. That was a staggering 870 Megatons of CO2 contribution to emissions. This is inline with contributions from the aviation industry, and all for the click and tap of digital convenience that make day-to-day tasks all the more accessible and easy. Along with their substantial CO2 contributions, the ICT industry leaves a tragic trail of waste from production to disposal.

Its use of raw materials, impacting on the environment through mining and extraction methods, the use of water in productions and the discharge of polluted effluent from its sites. Not to mention the electric consumption associated with the production of its products.

Semi-conductors, a crucial component in numerous mobile and ICT equipment, can be expected to require 162 million liters of hazardous gases, 591 million gallons of de-ionized water, 2.4 million kg of chemicals and a staggering 8.8 million kWh of electrical power for production. The ICT industry is known to use lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium and flame retardants, all which can be harmful to people and the environment.

Its not all doom and gloom for the ITC industry as its important to realize what this industry can actually do for our sustainablity goals and us.

Presently numerous groups exist to help advise consumers, whether for individual or business use, on available solutions that have been rated Environmentally appropriate. A prime example of this is Epeat, who evaluate products based on critical and selective criteria to create a list of environmentally friendly products to help contribute to the consumer’s sustainability goals.

To further to this, EU legislation in the form of the ‘RoHS’ (Restriction of Hazardous Substances on Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive) looks into banning products which contain more then the recommended ‘safe’ levels of harmful products such a hexavalent chromium and mercury.

ICT is responsible for dematerialization, virtualization and digitization, which are key aspects as to how ICT is going green.

It is important to remember that with new and efficient developments, we should strive to consider the sustainability of a products life cycle and not just assume they are the latest savior of modern convenience.

About the Author Kelly Millward

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