SharePoint as a Green Technology


Lately I have been seeing a fair amount of interest in decreasing carbon footprinting, power consumption and overall environmental waste in many companies. There are so many great examples and stories about how becoming more “Green” aware has helped companies save money and reduce costs.

So how does this tie into SharePoint? SharePoint is a perfect example of a technology which will reduce a companies carbon footprint, can help build awareness and reduce power costs.

That said let’s dig down into how it can help.

Microsoft has promoted some ways in which SharePoint helps in this article (http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/sharepointserver/HA102618771033.aspx) which I will now elaborate on and add a few of my own:

  1. Save a Forest by Reducing Paper Printing, and Paper Based Work

    • Reduces number of Paperclips, Pens, Organizers, File Cabinets, and Other Storage Solutions.
    • Reducing the number of supplies also reduces the amount of packaging for all of those different supplies (and most packaging are environmentally unfriendly).
    • Reduces the number of Printers. This also reduces the amount of power consumed by these printers, reduces the cost to the environment on disposal of these printers, and reduces the cost of ink.
    • Reduces GARBAGE and recycling. Many companies still have loads of paper in garbage cans at the end of the day, and in many places paper recycling has it’s own cost (think of the power it takes to power a recycling plant etc). By reducing paper again, you improve all of these other areas and reduce costs in many organizations besides your own! 🙂

    This seems obvious and is an immediate benefit of SharePoint Server. Having an online sharing and collaborative space immediately reduces the need to print documents. You get all the benefits of SharePoint (versioning, backed up information, alerting) while reducing cost.Let’s take it one step further though, reducing paper also reduces other related areas of environmental impact as well a few of these are listed below:

  2. Save Energy

    SharePoint streamlines all sorts of business processes. It is designed to help users become more efficient and to save people time and energy. With people sharing, collaborating and using technology to provide better ways of doing work it reduces the amount of time it takes for people to get their work done.The easiest way to look at this is by thinking of the supporting resources for a person working. When I work I have to have my computer on, my phone on, the lights on, the air conditioning or heating on (I know im pampered), the coffee machine on (definatly a must have) and so on and so forth. If I can get my tasks and work done faster I reduce the amount of time all of these associated power consumers need to remain on.

  3. Reduce Waste

    Out of the box SharePoint includes a plethora of services and loads of functionality. A few examples of these are: document management, records management, search, document libraries, email-enabled lists, dashboards, KPIs, surveys, calendars, discussions, and forms. The reality is that the number of ways in which SharePoint can be used is virtually limitless.This reduces unnecessary hardware, since many systems provide parts of what SharePoint can provide you can reduce the number of seperate systems used in your business and begin centralizing the services they provide in one system; SharePoint 2007. The reason SharePoint is so good at this isn’t just because of the services it provides but also because of how it integrates well with other business systems such as exchange and the microsoft stack. All of these other services ALSO help reduce carbon footprinting in some way.SharePoint is also a server technology and as such as designed to help reduce the need for powerful desktop or interfacing computers. This can reduce the cost of having to throw out old hardware since you can reuse it.

  4. Reduce Air Pollution

    Connecting people from many locations to help share ideas, files, schedules, and increasing collaboration is one way in which SharePoint reduces air pollution. Add the other integrated and powerful Microsoft technologies such as Exchange, Office Communications Server, and Live Meeting and you really decrease the environmental cost of many locations interacting with one another.No need to have planes flying employees all over for face to face meets when you can use video conferencing, desktop sharing, and the ability to store all the meeting information in SharePoint. This allows you to have corporate travel for certain situations but can greatly reduce its impact and remove the ‘need’ for corporate travel. As Microsoft says: “Stop flying, wasting time, wasting money, and polluting the air.”

  5. Reduce Auto Emissions

    Work flex time is increasing. It has been for a number of years, and commuting (especially with rising gas prices) is becoming a major concern and cost to organizations. Commuting is even a bigger issue for cities with notoriously bad traffic (like the one I live right beside, Toronto). Telecommuting is the alternative to commuting and with SharePoint server, Exchange, Office Communications Server and Live meeting, you can have all the abilities of the office anywhere at any time.

Already have SharePoint? It doesn’t just stop there you can always improve waste reduction and lots of people are finding great ways to do this. An example of another way you can use SharePoint to reduce environmental impact is by using supporting technologies such as Virtualization.

Virtual Geek wrote a great article on this: http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2008/07/virtualizing-sh.html

Update: Turns out i’m not the only one who found this sort of thing fascinating or thought of it Joel also has a post on it here: http://blogs.msdn.com/joelo/archive/2007/06/14/sharepoint-is-green.aspx (along with the Microsoft reference listed above) and if Joel mentions it, then it’s definitely worth thinking about ;).

I hope this gets everyone thinking and helps many people save the world a little bit at a time,
Richard Harbridge

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2 Comments on “SharePoint as a Green Technology”

  1. Brad Says:

    What you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone on this internet is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

    Seriously though, this article was a stretch, at best. SharePoint itself has not done anything for the environment that the internet hasn’t been doing for 15+ years.

    • rharbridge Says:

      I apologize if I did a poor job explaining my opinion on the subject.
      You are completely correct in that the internet has been helping reduce environmental impact for years.

      What I am trying to explain here is three important factors.
      1) Any technology that reduces the amount of wasteful communication that goes on in most organizations through environmentally unfriendly means such as paper is in my eyes a green and beneficial one.
      2) SharePoint is widely used, and is what I have the most experience with. I could have done a similar article on almost any system that deals with collaboration or corporate memory, however since this is a SharePoint blog I have decided to select SharePoint to explain some of these simple principles.
      3) Think about the target market involved here. SharePoint is for the enterprise. Sure smaller organizations use it, and medium sized ones as well but the primary focus (at least in the initial runs) has been the large enterprise companies. These companies consistently need to evaluate what technologies they use that can be considered green or helpful to their image, and to reducing costs. What I outline in this article are ways in which it does (in arguably) reduce costs and environmental impact. Yes it is similar to many other technologies and the basis of internet communications, but it is still something worth noting in the hopes that a reader reviews this article and either A) sees other possible potential (such as creating knowledge bases in SharePoint for environmental impact and it’s many BI solutions to track and maintain that, or B) simply feels a bit better about helping technology replace older outdated and environmentally harmful methods.

      Anyways I appreciate the comment and welcome further discussion on this.
      Richard Harbridge


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