U of Texas Longhorns Launch Green IT Initiative

This weekend is The Game for U of Texas (5) vs. Oklahoma (1). Millions of people are watching the football game this weekend, focusing on who is #1.

It turns out Texas has their own campus sustainability initiative, and their CIO launched their Green IT efforts this year. It may be considered late compared to others, but I place bets it will have a faster adoption than most enterprises.

Launch of Green IT@UT Initiative Supports Sustainability on Campus

"Green information technology is key to ensuring that The University of Texas at Austin achieves the goal of advancing environmental stewardship and sustainability here at our university,” says Brian Roberts, CIO and Vice President for Information Technology. Recently, Roberts added Green IT to the list of priorities for his office and announced the launch of a Green IT@UT initiative. The initiative promotes green IT products and services across campus and will help Information Technology Services (ITS) grow greener as an organization.

Steps Toward Sustainability -Now

The focus on "green”, particularly Green IT, is increasingly making headlines.  While achieving sustainability is a long term commitment, it’s important to know what steps can make a difference right here, right now.

With the start of the new academic year, ITS begins a year-long awareness campaign designed to help everyone on campus – from students to system administrators to staff in the President’s office – have the information they need to be “green” when it comes to computing.  Here’s a quick look at a number of green services and options offered by ITS that can help save power and paper, and reduce your carbon footprint.

Specific areas where they are using technology for students are:

Use Blackboard, WebSpace, and SharePoint to share and collaborate on electronic documents. The paper and costs you save by not printing can be significant. You can use these tools in the following ways:

  • Blackboard allows faculty members to share electronic syllabi, class presentations and class readings with students. In turn, students can submit their class assignments electronically. No paper or ink will be used at all!
  • WebSpace allows anyone in the university community and beyond to collaborate on electronic documents, in addition to storing files. It is also certified as safe for storing and sharing Category-I data.
  • SharePoint is another tool that allows anyone with a UT EID to share and collaborate online.  Many office teams on campus have found SharePoint a useful tool in keeping projects on track and team members informed. It is also certified as safe for storing and sharing Category-I data.

For offices and departments that print reports from the mainframe, Green Printing is a sustainable alternative. It can radically reduce paper consumption by printing reports to files instead of using reams of paper. Electronic delivery also saves on energy consumption and time.

ITS offers a Hard Drive Destruction service for recycling e-waste. Through a contract with an Austin-based company, ITS destroys media with sensitive (Category-I) data, and ensures that the byproducts are completely recycled thanks to the vendor’s “zero waste” policy. “Zero waste” means all media – even hazardous waste – is recycled according to EPA guidelines.

Reducing Travel and Virtualization are part of their efforts as well.

Reducing the Effects of Travel

Every day, members of the campus community contribute to the university’s carbon footprint by traveling within Austin and around the world. Making thoughtful decisions about how and when you travel can significantly reduce your carbon footprint or impact the amount of greenhouse gasses produced.
ITS offers several options that may help you travel less and reduce your carbon footprint.

  • Use the Virtual Private Network (VPN) to connect to the campus network when you are working from home. With the VPN, it’s like you’re at your desk or in the library – you can connect to a mapped drive or personal folder on the campus network.
  • Set up a teleconference or videoconference when you need to meet with colleagues at Pickle Research Campus (PRC), across the country, or around the world. Remember driving or flying to meet in person is not your only option; you can save wear-and-tear on yourself and the planet by using technology to cover the distance between you and your colleagues.

As you think about ways to reduce your carbon footprint, keep these facts in mind:

  • For every mile driven, your car produces approximately 1 pound of carbon dioxide (CO2). If you carpool, your car still produces 1 pound of CO2 per mile, but every person in the car now shares that 1 pound of CO2 per mile.
  • Air travel produces about 0.6 pounds of CO2 per person per mile flown. Videoconferencing produces far less.
Saving Power and Space

If you or your department are interested in conserving power and space, ITS provides several virtual services to consider:

Why go through all this effort?

Green IT@UT is an initiative that commits ITS and the larger campus IT community to new standards of organizational and personal stewardship. This effort goes beyond mere compliance with environmental laws and regulations. Green IT@UT provides a framework for sustainable decision-making; promotes green IT products, services and best practices; and focuses on campus partnerships that maximize the efficiency of operations and services while minimizing the university’s wastes and environmental footprint.

“Hook ‘em Horns”