ALU Environmental Sustainability

Toolkit on Environmental Sustainability for the ICT Sector

By TMCnet Special Guest
Tom Okrasinski, senior manager, Bell Labs CTO Environmental Engineering.
  |  November 12, 2012

This article originally appeared in the November 2012 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY.

For the past several years the ICT industry has heeded the call that it needs to develop technology that is more sustainable, more energy efficient and in general much kinder to the environment than what it developed in the past.

Industry players have tended to come to that conclusion on their own, as they have individually adapted corporate responsibility priorities that include minimizing their impact on the environment – and their CFOs have mandated they cut opex without impacting customer service. The result has been a lot of industry resources dedicated to figuring out how to accomplish sustainability goals that all players are seeking. This is one area where if the industry could pool its expertise to establish a set of best practices and principles, the individual players could then focus on developing the products that adopt those best practices and their customers’ other needs for reliability, flexibility and scalability.

And that is exactly what has happened with the publication of the International Telecommunications Union’s Toolkit on Environmental Sustainability. This comprehensive technical document outlines environmentally conscious design principles and best practices that all players in the industry can adopt. It will help them provide products that have a minimal impact on the environment from early design development all the way through to end-of-life disposal. Alcatel-Lucent was among the some 50 industry players that worked on this document, which reflects the thinking of committed experts from throughout the industry.

This new toolkit promotes practices on such critical issues as manufacturing and usage. For example, the usage section champions approaches such as default power-downs for subsystems not in use, mechanisms that indicate how much water and energy is being used and easy-to-use controls for resource-saving features.

A fundamental principle advocated in the toolkit is that one of the best ways for the ICT industry to provide its customers with more sustainable products is to build them from the start using environmentally conscious design principles and best practices. It stresses that product design needs to cover five green focal areas to create sustainable products: energy, product weight, packaging, hazardous substances, and recyclability.

Those of us who are product designers will use the toolkit to ensure our products are state-of-the-art in this area, and our customers can use it to determine if the equipment they are deploying in their networks meet their own high expectations for sustainability. The ITU toolkit covers both network infrastructure equipment and corporate communications systems, in particular data centers, desktop infrastructure and telecommunication networks.

Today our industry is responsible for only a small portion of all the energy used and its associated environmental impact, but that portion is growing as demand for communications services mushrooms, adding to the urgency needed to minimize energy use and impact. Other industries look to the capabilities ICT offers to help them do their part to combat climate change, pollution and other assaults on the environment. We need to make sure that when we help other industries move to being more environmentally efficient we are moving forward too.

Tom Okrasinski is senior manager, Bell Labs (News - Alert) CTO Environmental Engineering.

Edited by Brooke Neuman