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Top Green-IT Organizations: Office Depot, No. 9

The company is growing, but its greenhouse gas emissions are down 10.1%.

By Mary K. Pratt
April 20, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Yalmaz Siddiqui, director of environmental strategy at Office Depot Inc., first analyzed companywide energy use in 2006, looking back at each facility's kilowatt-hour usage for 2004.

Siddiqui says one site among the company's 40 million square feet of facilities stood out, using much more energy than other locations. It turned out to be the company's Charlotte, N.C., data center.

Data centers are, of course, notorious for their energy consumption, but Office Depot's IT department wanted to be part of the energy solution, not part of the problem.

Michael Manis, vice president of global technology shared services at the Boca Raton, Fla.-based office supply retailer, says work on green-IT initiatives took off three years ago, when IT started to centralize and virtualize servers.

The move, Manis says, has cut energy consumption and extended the life of existing servers, reducing demand for new equipment.

Neat trick

Office Depot uses a system to analyze energy use at all of its facilities. By finding anomalies in this way, headquarters spots everyday actions -- such as poorly positioned thermostats -- that can affect power consumption.

Manis says his IT team also focused on cutting the data center's cooling requirements. When workers found that AC units cooled the whole data center floor, they closed vents leading to empty floor space, forcing cool air directly up through the bottom of the racks.

Office Depot is also beginning to virtualize its desktops, which is providing further incremental energy savings, Manis says.

Many companies have undertaken virtualization of data centers, according to Forrester Research Inc. analyst Christopher Mines. But only a few pioneers are moving to desktop virtualization or the thin-client model. "That's an architecture and technology that's far from mainstream," he says.

As a result of its efforts, Office Depot has reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 10.1% across North America, even though its physical footprint is growing. It has avoided approximately $6.2 million in electricity costs in its North American locations and saved nearly 66 million kilowatt-hours of electricity.

Pratt is a Computerworld contributing writer. You can contact her at marykpratt@verizon.net.

Next: No. 10: Burt's Bees ties employee pay to reductions in energy use

Read more about Data Center in Computerworld's Data Center Topic Center.



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