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Top 12 Green-IT Users: No. 6 World Wildlife Fund

By Stacy Collett
February 15, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - At World Wildlife Fund, going green was en vogue long before global warming predictions peppered the news, and film documentaries on the subject garnered Academy Awards.

"We've been doing a lot of things to benefit the Earth and the environment for more than 40 years," says Greg Smith, CIO at the Washington-based nonprofit conservation organization. "WWF has an overall responsibility to be green for the planet and to set an example for the rest of the world." Now that mission has expanded to the IT department.

For starters, last June, WWF teamed up with Dell, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Microsoft and other industry heavy hitters to launch the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, which will encourage energy-saving designs for servers and desktop and notebook computers.

In its own data centers, WWF is combining energy-saving technologies that provide a one-two punch for getting green and saving money.

The organization uses VMware virtualization software along with blade servers to reduce energy consumption and air conditioning requirements. Application portability -- the practice of running software from a remote server rather than on the user's computer, with no changes to the local computer's operating system, file server or registry -- also saves money and energy.

Blade technology in the virtualization environment uses less power and is less expensive than traditional servers.

It hasn't always been easy to make green IT choices, Smith says, but in recent years, the top-tier vendors have made the options more plentiful.

"Just because a piece of technology might be 'green,' that might not mean it's the best option for an organization," he says. "I'm looking for the best products at the best price that can then fit into the model of being green."

Energy- and emissions-saving measures don't have to be expensive. There's plenty of "low-hanging fruit" that can lower CO2 emissions while saving money and time, Smith says.

For example, the organization uses and promotes Web collaboration systems such as SharePoint, WebEx and Citrix MetaFrame XPA.

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CIO Greg Smith
Photo credit: Jill Hatzai

Location: Washington, D.C.
Website: www.worldwildlife.org
What's special: Installed videoconferencing technology to reduce the need for expensive, carbon-emitting travel.

Instead of flying to WWF's Geneva offices five times a year, Smith usually opts for eight-hour videoconferences. For each trip he passes up, he estimates that he saves about $700 on plane tickets, 15 hours of travel time and $3,000 in expenses. "I'm reducing my CO2 emissions significantly, and I'm saving time," he explains.

"Videoconferencing and the greening of businesses are certainly a good match," says Henry Dewing, a Forrester Research Inc. analyst. "A lot of companies are talking about the return on investment in terms of the reduced cost to their travel budgets. Some of the larger videoconferencing [vendors] are looking at actual tools to quantify the reduction of carbon output based on reduced travel from cars and airplanes."

Here's more low-hanging fruit: To reduce electricity use, WWF purchases Energy Star-compliant computers and networking printers, employees use power management settings on PCs, and IT staffers set network printers to go into sleep mode when they're not in use. Though exact savings are hard to quantify in many of these devices, manufacturers say such features can help customers cut power consumption by up to 80%.

"It's one of a number of things that we're doing on the green side to make the Earth a better place for the next generation," Smith says.

Collett is a Computerworld contributing writer. Contact her at Stcollett@aol.com.

Next: No. 7 Austin Energy

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