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Calculate, compare & change

Px3’s Dr Justin Sutton-Parker reveals the free apps that will help you reduce your IT carbon footprint
Calculate, compare & change

This article first appeared in our Earth Day issue of My Green Pod Magazine, published 22 April 2024. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

3% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are created by the production and use of information technology.

Research shows that this impact can be reduced by at least a third using very simple steps, such as buying computers with a low carbon footprint and keeping them for longer.

This month Px3, which specialises in IT carbon footprints, launched two free online tools to help people and organisations all over the world to calculate, compare and change their IT carbon footprint.

The free sustainable IT strategy apps complement Px3’s existing Estimate app, which enables users to calculate the carbon footprint of their personal computers. 

Each app allows users to model different strategies based on existing computers to see which works best for them.

Both support the uptake of low-carbon devices and the circular economy, focusing on the reuse and regeneration of products to promote computing activities in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way.

Switching to Chrome OS

The first online tool is the result of several years’ research, conducted by Px3, into the environmental benefits of Google operating systems ChromeOS and ChromeOS Flex. Unsurprisingly, it’s called the Px3 ChromeOS application.

The tool has two key functions; first of all, it shows how computer GHG emissions, electricity use and costs can be reduced by considering low carbon footprint Chromebooks and Chromeboxes the next time users think about replacing Windows or MacOS devices.

The second feature of the tool is that it helps users to calculate the carbon footprint and cost reductions achieved by transforming existing Windows and MacOS computers to ChromeOS devices with ChromeOS Flex, instead of buying new devices.

This strategy is particularly popular in light of reports suggesting as many as 400 million devices may become inoperable when Microsoft ends Windows 10 support this year.

Research shows there are significant benefits to transforming existing devices with ChromeOS Flex; the Strawberry Group recently reduced ICT GHG emissions by 1.5 million kgCO2e and saved over £5 million in procurement costs by doing exactly this.

Buying refurbished tech

The second tool, called the Px3 Circular application, focuses on the lifespan extension and circular economy benefits of transitioning to refurbished computers rather than buying new every time.

By doing both, organisations reduce demand for new products and therefore also the manufacturing rates that add to global GHG emissions and IT carbon footprints. 

From a lifespan extension perspective, the concept is relatively simple: if a personal computer is kept for eight years rather than the average four years, the entire production value of one notebook is entirely avoided for that period.

This strategy is called ‘displacement’ because a procurement cycle has been delayed to a later date, causing demand for new devices to slow.

Theoretically if all computers were kept for twice the length of time, then global demand, procurement costs and the production of GHG emissions would be cut by 50% overnight. Try it and see for yourself.

Buying refurbished computers is also positive for the environment; organisations can access perfectly good equipment that already exists, reducing demand for new products to be manufactured and shipped.

This is important from an overall footprint point of view; on average, 80% of a computer’s carbon footprint is created during the production stage.

Slash emissions, boost profits

For both tools, all users need to do is input their existing end-user computing model and the number of devices. In an instant users can see what e-waste and GHG emissions could be avoided – and how much they will save on utility and procurement costs – by adopting sustainable IT strategies.

Trying the online tools won’t cost users a penny, but it could help to save the planet – and a lot of money – through the simple actions of calculating, comparing and changing their IT carbon footprint.

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