E-mails not all that green      uring Deepavali time, Dthese days, we are greet- dated with electronic                    ...
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  1. 1. E-mails not all that green uring Deepavali time, Dthese days, we are greet- dated with electronic inun- ing cards, and we too send several such e-cards our-. selves. We believe that by switching from paper to elec- tronic mode of communica- tions, we are "green", and that in doing so we have saved pa- per and thus done a bit to save the environment and gener- ate less C02. Well, perhaps just a bit but it appears not as much as we are led to believe. "E-mails are not so green" reports a COSTLY INFRASTRUCTURE: The use of personal news item in a recent issue of computers, servers, storage centres cost energy andI the journal Science. hence more C02 emission. - PHOTO: AFP The often-quoted estimate by Mr. Matthew Yeager of Computacentre (Europes largest IT infrastructure SPEAKING OF SCIENCE company) claims that send- estimates that in a 100-peo- plus application - all lead to ing an e-rnail attachment of ple company where each em- wastage in efficiency. Com- 4.7 megabytes (MB) creates ployee sends on average 33 bine this with what Keira as much greenhouse gas as e-mails a day and receives 58, Butter points out in The At- boiling a tea-kettle 17.5times. the greenhouse gas emission lantic, you get an idea of how His study claims that an e- linked to emails would be much energy is lost in elec- mail of 1 MB would be the around 13.6,tons of C02 per tronic communications. Yes, equivalent to the emission of year. e-communication does save 19 grams of C02. And if that And a study by the French trees, is more efficient and mail is copied (ccd, as we governments Environment produces less C02 than pa- type) to 10 people, its impact and Energy Management per-based communication. is 73 grams of C02. Agency (Ademe) suggests But the scale of it is what Well, I was astonished to that if each of these 100 em- needs to be kept in mind. read this, since I too believed ployees sent 10 per cent less Take Facebook usage. It is that I was saving the planet a emails for a year, they would estimated that its users alone bit byusing my PC to commu- save C02 emissions equiva- are uploading over 1000 pho- nicate with people, instead of lent to one round-trip flight tos per second, or 3 billion "snail mail". between Paris and New York. photos per month. Recall the Keira Butler explains the Talking of C02 emissions tea kettle boiling equivalent matter in an issue of the mag- by airline traffic, I was re- of sending a 4.7 MB attach- azine The Atlantic (Augustl2, minded of what Dr. Jeremy ment, and you get the idea. 2010). She says "Sayyou send Nathans of Johns Hopkins What should we do? a picture to 20 people by wrote to me (bye-mail, not So what should we do? email. snail-mail) when we invited There are several ways of sav- Each one has to download him to come to Hyderabad for ing energy and cutting down it. That means the use of delivering the Champali- greenhouse gas from our end. equipment such as personal maud Lecture in 2009. First, free up the memory computers, servers, storage He declined coming in per- space in the computer. Clean centres (not to mention son, stating that he is doing up the e-mail box (in and out printers for hard copy, if his bit to the environment by mails) periodically. Not doing used)". All these cost energy not flying all the way from these means greater demand and hence more C02 Baltimore and back. We had for storage and energy used emission. him lecture electronically by that storage. It is a matter of scale. Mat- (video talk real time; I should Second, limit the number thew Yeager points out that now estimate how much C02 of recipients for each e-mail the current amount of data he would. have saved by not (cut down the number of ccs storage across the globe is 1.2 flyingbut video-Iecturing).· . to). zettabytes (ZB) of stored da- To get an estimate of how Third, cut down tlie size of ta. This requires equipment -much power is consumed by the attachments (boil less with a mass equivalent of 20 electronic communication, tea- water). per cent of the island of Man- go to the website < http://Fourth:enterthe URL ad-• hattan, New York City! Put whatsthisgottodowithstora- dress directly rather than use another way, this level of gefiles.wordpress.com/2010/ a search engine. Cut down theI stored data is the equivalent 08/wired-uk-july-2009-in- times you "Google", "Yahoo" of all of the US academic li- ternet-electricity.pdf >. etc. braries multiplied by half a They point out that 30 per Fifth: dont leave your million! And the data storage cent of the input power in computer and accessories on is expected, by the year 2020, each computer is used in overnight (as many offices to grow to 35 ZB (incidental- powering the chips, 30 per do), not even on sleep mode ly, zetta is a sextillion, or 10 cent of the energy entering a (even if that eats up only 1-10 raised to the power 21 (or 1 microprocessor is turned into watts). followed by 21zeros). heat, and that 123billion kilo- Sixth: laptops use 15-60 The scale increases thou- watt hour (kwh) per year is watts while desktops use sand-fold each time from mil- how much electricity it takes 250W. Cut down the power lion or rnega, to billion (giga), just to keep the Internets by doing more offline work trillion (tera), quadrillion servers running. than online. Finally, remem- (peta), quintillion (exa), sex- And traditional IT environ- ber Facebooking and Twitter- tillion (zetta), septillion (yot- ments, says Yeager, tend not ing burn carbon and make ta) and so forth). to be overly efficient in scale. C02. Talk more and twitter E-mail is thus not all that Traditional infrastructure - less! green. And e-mails with at- server plus storage plus net- D. BALASUBRAMANIAN tachments are worse. Yeager work plus operating system dbaJa@lvpei.org