Monday, January 4, 2010

Green book of the week: Green IT for Dummies

We are happy to open 2010 with a guest writer, David Calloway, who is a Green IT expert and is reviewing for our blog a new book on the Dummies series - Green IT for Dummies.

Green IT for Dummies, by Carol Baroudi, Jeffrey Hill,
Arnold Reinhold, and Jhana Senxian. © 2009 Wiley Publishing.

Reviewed by David Calloway, Green IT Digest,

The For Dummies series may not be fine dining, but it can certainly be a favorite diner. This book deserves to be bought, used, and circulated widely in firms thinking about Greening Anything, not just IT. Whether you're already creating Green IT, or just wondering how to, this book will not collect dust on a shelf. However many Green IT books you collect, this is one you will turn to again and again, whether for a quick answer, or for a clear explanation to present to your uninitiated stakeholders.

There are many things that make IT the ideal place to launch a sustainability initiative, not the least of which is its fast payback. Cleaning up the data center, turning off workstations when not in use, and using less paper are just the start, which Forrester Research calls Green IT 1.0. Green IT 2.0 is everything IT can do to make the rest of civilization run better— what IBM calls the Smarter Planet.

Like all For Dummies books, this is not a detailed how-to manual, and won’t look that impressive on your bookshelf. It is a practical overview that anyone can pick up and get started with. It’s entertaining enough to read sequentially, if you’re really dedicated. More likely, you’ll read a few chapters, then skip around to answer particular questions. This topic-driven navigation is aided by a Contents at a Glance, a full Table of Contents, and a fairly comprehensive Index.

If Green IT has a downside, it is that it encompasses so many disciplines, a lot of discipline is needed to keep it all straight. Lead author Carol Baroudi and a team of mostly Aberdeen consultants worked their analytical magic to keep all the complexity simple, readable, and organized. You can start with a few pieces of low-hanging fruit, but the better you plan, measure, track and document, they say, the more bucks you’ll get back, faster, for every Green IT buck you spend.

Here are some of the things that make Green IT a big Win-Win-Win, all around:

* It's a Win for IT, which for decades has been sweeping inefficiencies under the rug of greater processing capacity.

* It's a Win for the organization, as technology creates new opportunities to connect, create, and manage, while spending and consuming less.

* It's a Win for the planet, giving us powerful tools to reduce consumption and pollution by tracking, managing, assuring, measuring, complying, and so on. When people know what to do, and they can see it's in their own best interest, they'll usually do the right thing. We're seeing that happen now, and information technology is making it possible.

Missing from this book is Green IT’s most profound talent: It is the least threatening way to begin addressing an organization's accumulated problems. With waste, inefficiency, and the Carbon Footprint now our common enemies, a sustainability initiative gets us all shooting at the problem, rather than at each other. However much or little each of us contributes, we can all share in the pride of accomplishment.

The author uses dollars and sense to neatly sidestep the Global Warming Disbelievers: "Ignoring the ideas in this book will cost you money. Pretty much everything we talk about reduces expenses." Greening IT is an excuse to identify and attack wasteful business processes, without appearing to attack people. It's something everybody can get behind, which makes it uniquely powerful. Meanwhile, as IT pros continue to lag behind other disciplines in getting the message, those others are taking over domains that really should involve IT: Smart buildings, smart highways, smart homes, smart cities, smart planet; heck, Smart Everything.

Here are summaries of the book's six sections:

Part I: Understanding the World of Green IT. Green IT is easy to explain because it's just two things: Making IT environmentally friendly, and using IT to make civilization sustainable. Green IT is clearly vital to the survival of our civilization.

Part II: Getting a Running Start. Identify your carbon and waste footprints, figure out where you want to go, and get ready to start.

Part III: Greening the Data Center. Greening data centers is called the Low Hanging Fruit because most are dirty and wasteful. Turns out the best practices of Green IT also make the whole enterprise more efficient, effective, and profitable. Go figure.

Part IV: Greening the Office. A healthier office for the environment is a healthier office for the people in it. Here’s a big bonus: Workers who buy in to greening their workplace become more excited, engaged, and productive workers.

Part V: Greening the Organization. To me, this means using IT to make the organization more green. In this book, it means non-IT improvements in lighting and landscaping, and IT's role in reducing e-waste. One short chapter hints at what IT can really do to Green the Organization, mentioning virtual presence, telecommuting, collaboration, the Cloud, and e-everything. I’ve partly filled that gap with some article links below.

Part IV: The Part of Tens (Resources, Ideas, and Suggestions). For Dummies books put all the “For More Information” links in a separate final section, rather than at the end of each chapter. The Appendix provides brief, practical forms and logs for launching a Green IT initiative. For more thorough ones, visit the US Department of Energy at

It's possible that my complaints about this book really should be addressed in a different book: What IT can really do to Green an Organization. Until that book gets written, here are a few things IT, or ICT (Information and Communications Technology) as the Euros call it, is already doing:

- Reducing traffic. IBM's Congestion Pricing program in Stockholm "has reduced traffic in the Swedish capital by 18 percent, according to traffic authorities there." (

- Finding Profits in Redeploying Old Equipment. Cisco's global closed-loop reverse supply chain has enabled the firm to save $153 million in fiscal 2009 by collecting, then recycling or reusing, nearly 24 million pounds of returned electronic equipment.

- Mid-size EPA data center reduces energy costs 20% in less than a year, with help from The Green Grid.

- Amsterdam as Smart City: Going Green, Fast. With help from IBM, Cisco, Philips, and other companies, the city's infrastructure is becoming ultra energy-efficient, attracting global attention.

If you're looking for other interesting green-themed books, you are invited to check out our green books page on Eco-Libris website's green resources section.