Fertile Ground for Green-IT Innovation

Just as a seed sprouts and stretches toward the sun, the green-IT movement has grown and pushed skyward in the past year. When the bright minds of IT start brainstorming, expect a bounty of new ideas and success stories.

With this second annual Top Green-IT Organizations issue, we showcase the achievements at 12 IT departments that are reducing power demands and using technology to create energy efficiencies. In addition, 12 vendors are honored in our online listing.

While green computing helps guard the planet, the underlying goal couldn't be more down to earth: saving money. And the biggest payoff still comes from shrinking IT operations. At State Street (No. 2 on our list), the server farm has been cut in half, and data centers are now set up as regional hubs that serve many local sites. Consolidation is still "the best and simplest way to achieve energy savings," says Gartner's Rakesh L. Kumar.

But smart companies know there are savings beyond data center walls, too, and even beyond the IT department.

Mohawk Fine Papers (No. 1) is looking outside of IT, quite literally, to apply technology to reduce energy consumption. Mounted throughout its buildings are thousands of sensors that monitor every watt used, pouring data into a Web-based system where energy consumption is tracked in real time.

Green IT is also about wringing every bit of efficiency from every effort. At PricewaterhouseCoopers (No. 5), a new data center uses a high-voltage system to maximize energy efficiency and reduce copper consumption. Its green design allows for 40 to 50 fewer air conditioning units than a conventionally designed space. And even employees will lower their carbon footprints as a result: When the new data center is operational, staffers will work shifts over four days instead of five, cutting the number of commutes by 40 each week.

In fact, employees might well play the most important role of all in an organization's green-IT efforts. And if money motivates businesses to think green, why not use it to entice employees to do so as well?

The Indiana state government (No. 6) has taken that step, incorporating metrics for green accomplishments into performance-based pay. At Burt's Bees (No. 10), employees' incentive pay is partially tied to a sustainability metric that measures reductions in energy consumption, water use and waste generation.

Where to next? Many of these organizations are looking to the desktop for the next round of savings. Allstate (No. 3) is moving computer resources from the desktop to the data center, where they can be shared. Office Depot (No. 9) is also beginning to virtualize its desktops. And Marriott (No. 11) has implemented 5,575 thin clients.

Only a small set of pioneering companies is moving toward virtualized desktops, says Forrester Research's Christopher Mines. It's no surprise that these green achievers are leading the way.

Next: No. 1: Mohawk Fine Papers uses sensors to track energy use in real time

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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