> A closer look
I work as an IT Services staff member at the University of Tasmania (UTAS). As my work took me around multiple buildings around campus, I noticed most multi-functional printers remained powered on 24/7. I approached the Director of Shared Services for approval to liaise with our managed printing services vendor to implement power saving measures. As requested, I researched and wrote a business case that was required for change management. I used a power monitoring kit to measure the power usages of different printer models in different power states (sleep, standby). The business case was approved, and I then worked with the external vendor to implement configuration changes. As a result, now over 200 printers at the University of Tasmania enter sleep mode after 30 mins of inactivity, saving a conservative estimate of over 55,000kWh per year, resulting in 8,000+ kg CO2-e avoided annually, and over $3,400 in electricity costs. Furthermore, having the printers in sleep mode reduces wear and tear on printer components, extending their lifespan. This initiative directly contributes to reducing the University’s carbon footprint from electricity use, and thus contributing to our status as a certified carbon neutral University by the Commonwealth Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard.
At the moment, the University of Tasmania does not have a standard procedure for recycling computer packaging. I have been volunteering to collect soft plastic packages from computer deployments and dropping them off at REDcycle collection points in my personal time. An end-of-lifecycle hardware replacement in a computer lab can involve up to 20-30 new computers, generating a significant amount of soft plastics in one go.
The University of Tasmania has a policy of replacing computers that are out of warranty – 3 years for laptops and 4 years for desktops. End of life devices were disposed of as e-waste. Along with UTAS Sustainability staff, a Sustainability Integration Program for Students (SIPS) intern and senior managers in IT, we developed a formal process to wipe and donate those devices to students in need, and I was responsible for writing up a procedural document for the process. I also started actively collecting usable computers that would have been destined for e-waste before the process was finalised.
I have set up second-hand / decommissioned computers for donation to students via the Tasmanian University Student Association (TUSA). The set up involves securely wiping institutional data, reinstalling the operating system, and installing all driver and software updates so that students with no technical skills will be able to use the computers straight away. The number of computers donated has steadily grown over the years and due to the new procedure document other members of the IT services team are able to use the procedure, which enables more computers to be processed and donated.
During our COVID-19 lockdown, as campuses were closed and students had to study online, those students who could not afford their own computer and would normally rely on on-campus computer labs were unable to access computers. The new procedure and the store of computers proved critical as a bulk donation event was needed to process 70 computers that were urgently required for students in need. This allowed us to support and improve access to education and equity for those who could not afford computers.
Each laptop donated avoids waste to landfill and carbon emissions. According to Dell, a typical laptop has a carbon footprint of 320 kg CO2-e (in Europe), as calculated according to the International Standards governing the investigation and evaluation of the environmental impacts of a given product over their life cycle (ISO14040 and ISO14044). Diverting 70 laptops from landfill during the lockdown period, avoided 22,400 kg CO2-e.
The projects above were not part of my work responsibilities as defined by the PD; but I saw them as an integral part of my efforts to improve sustainability in my everyday life as a citizen of the world.