University of Michigan and Climate Savers Computing

Friday, January 29, 2010 |

By MaryBeth Stuenkel, IT Manager
University of Michigan

When University of Michigan (U-M) alum and Google cofounder Larry Page asked U-M to be a founding member of the Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI) in 2007, the answer was a definite “Yes!”

What started as a two-year commitment to purchasing energy-efficient computers and deploying information on computer power management settings quickly expanded to electronic waste, server environments, printing and encouraging innovation in IT energy conservation. CSCI @ U-M achieved a culture change where the environment became part of the everyday work of providing information and technology services (see Program Overview figure).

We tackled a task of many dimensions. We wanted to raise awareness and change behavior as well as leverage our research, academic and buying power to influence change in the IT industry.

People power was critical to our success. We committed to collaborating with other campus sustainability initiatives, including the campus energy conservation initiative (planetblue.umich.edu) and student courses, for mutual support and engagement.

A kick-off event encouraged faculty, staff and students to volunteer on one of several project teams. Desktop Technologies (Workstations) and Server Rooms/Data Centers were the first to convene. Drawing on research and their own experiences, each team developed best practices to be used across campus to promote green IT behaviors. These best practices – including buying energy-efficient equipment, implementing available power save settings, reducing printing, recycling responsibly and providing IT services efficiently – were promoted on the project’s website (climatesavers.umich.edu).

Having developed best practices, we moved those behaviors into the campus IT culture. The Departmental Achievement team developed a checklist to help campus departments follow and track implementation of best practices and presented awards to top achievers. To date, 17 departments have been recognized for their Green IT Achievement (see Green IT Achievement figure).

CSCI @ U-M showed its commitment to the academic mission of the university by sponsoring a lecture series and soliciting corporate sponsors to donate funding and equipment to support research and student engagement.

Extending beyond campus, working with CSCI, another team developed the Power Down for the Planet challenge. Power Down for the Planet solicited pledges for eco-friendly computing from campuses around the country, and encouraged friendly competition. In Spring of 2009, the first challenge attracted 17,521 pledges from faculty, staff and students to adopt green computing practices, representing 19 universities.

While U-M already had a well-established electronic waste recycling effort, with community partners, U-M sponsored an e-Waste recycling event to help the surrounding community responsibly recycle old electronics. Over two years, more than 360 tons of e-waste was recovered, keeping 33 semi-trailer loads of toxic waste out of local landfills.

For more information about University of Michigan’s Climate Savers Computing Initiative, see our paper on Green IT Best Practices at the University of Michigan in the EDUCAUSE Quarterly.

Program Overview Figure

Green IT Achievement Figure

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