This story originally appeared in UCLA Today, a discontinued publication.

Green tech could save UCLA $2.5 million

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As the recession and state budget crisis force UCLA to look high and low to save money, a group of techies think they have found a way for the university to save about $2.5 million by thinking greener when it comes to office technology.Green IT logo

Make that several ways. From the basics, like double-sided printing and powering down computers at the end of the day, to more complex steps like using power-management software and virtual servers, a group of computer support coordinators (CSC) found ways to save big bucks.

The team of CSCs met at a campus CSC meeting - CSC is a staff title as well as the name of the group of IT folks who meet quarterly to talk about computer support issues. Six of them volunteered to tackle the task of collecting ways that green IT could save money and the planet, said Gerard Au, a CSC in the English Department and president-elect of Staff Assembly.

"We wanted to look at the benefits of being sustainable and saving the campus in two ways," Au said.

At a presentation on June 25 (get the podcast), the team shared their findings, starting with a little myth-busting. Many people believe the power drain of powering up a computer negates the benefit of turning it off, said Cindy Kimmick, the project manager of UCLA's library computing services. On the contrary, shutting an office computer off at the end of the day is an easy way to save energy and money, she said. Computers cost about $150 annually in energy, said Todd King, a programmer-analyst in the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics, so shutting them off half the day can really make a dent.

End-of-the-day power-downs were just the first in a series of practical cost-saving steps the team had compiled:
  • BIOS: For people who just can't bear to wait while their computers start up in the morning, users can ask their help desk or IT people if they can change their "BIOS" settings, Au said. That can set your computer to automatically turn on five minutes before your regular arrival time and five minutes after you go home.
  • Recycling: It isn't just for paper - CD and DVD recycling is available in locations across campus.
  • Shared Printers: Switch from individual desktop printers to shared printers: Individual printers not only multiply the amount of power being consumed, but also the number of ink cartridges and other components being shipped to the office. Shared networked printers save on supplies and energy. "If people have to get up and walk to the printer, they might even print less and save paper," Au said - and on a selfish note, he added, fewer printers mean CSCs don't have to support as many different models.
  • Power-management software: IT staff can also test out power-management programs this summer in a pilot program. Power-management software allows departments to set rules for sleep-mode and shut-down times, for example, across whole labs or networked offices, and then monitor the amount of energy saved. Contact Cindy Kimmick at ckimmick@library.ucla.edu to sign up for the pilot program.
  • Printing: Save paper by printing double-sided; using recycled paper and reusing scratch paper; shrinking printed documents to half-size; and skipping printing altogether by relying on e-mail and PDFs.
  • Energy Star: Buying Energy Star products may not save enough money to justify junking working equipment, but for technology that needs replacing, Energy Star ratings equal savings on power bills.
  • Go to sleep: Adjust computers to enter sleep mode faster than factory settings. CSCs can set all their users' machines to a zippier cycle, or cubicle denizens can adjust their own settings.
  • Clean up: Keep computers' fans clean to keep them running efficiently.
  • Virtual servers: Instead of buying new servers, IT pros can create virtual servers, or multiple servers on one machine, to host networks of university computers, explained Ravi Shah, a system administrator with the Division of Lab Animal Medicine in the medical school. Compared to the real thing, virtual servers take up less space, need less energy and require less air conditioning (server rooms with lots of machines can really heat up).
  • Teleconferencing: Virtual-meeting software can save money on the cost of big airline tickets or smaller gas bills driving between campus and the Wilshire Center. Elluminate, a relatively new program on campus, is available via Software Central. "This could make a huge difference in the budget," Au said.
The campus needs to find millions in savings because of the budget crisis, Associate Vice Chancellor of Information Technology Jim Davis noted at the meeting. "We can expect IT to be cut back," he said. "But this isn't just about cost-cutting. There is also a great deal of opportunity.

"There are lots of things we can be doing with respect to Green IT," Davis continued. "We see the potential in Green IT in total to be about $2.5 million in this fiscal year."
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