Energy-efficient computing sounds like an oxymoron.

Computers emit enough carbon into the atmosphere each year to make environmentalists’ hair curl, and it’s clear that computers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

But according to the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, energy-efficient computing can be done, and the group is pushing for 2010.

The national initiative kicked off at Palmer Commons earlier this week.

Joan Witte, a spokeswoman for Michigan Administrative Information Services, which oversees the University’s information technology systems, said today’s event is meant to encourage University faculty and students to change their computing habits to save energy.

“How can we get individuals to turn off their computers?” she asked rhetorically. “How can we get them to turn off their printers, not print so much paper, print double-sided or use power-management tools that come on their PC’s to reduce the energy they consume?”

The University joined the program as one of two academic affiliates last year after Larry Page, Google co-founder and University alum, asked University President Mary Sue Coleman to join the project.

CSCI spokeswoman Barbara Grimes said the goal of the initiative is to cut the amount of power used by computers in half by 2010.

Grimes said the goal of “green” computing is twofold – to conserve energy and develop more energy-efficient computers.

John King, co-sponsor of the initiative at the University, said in an e-mail that the feedback from the initiative has been largely enthusiastic because of its environmental potential.

“The amount of electrical power consumed by IT is growing each year as it’s used for more purposes,” King said.

Since 2000, the amount of electrical energy required to power computers has doubled from 1.5 percent to 3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

LSA senior Lindsey MacDonald, president of Environmental Action, a student group with about 300 members, said she turns off her computer if she’s going to be away for more than 15 minutes at a time.

“We have tons of computers on campus that are on all night, all day, everyday,” she said. “I just don’t think it’s necessary, you know?”

According to those involved with the project, a typical computer wastes about half of the electricity it consumes in the form of heat. By 2010, CSCI officials want to work with computer vendors to lower that percentage to about 10 percent.

“This is a good example of the industry stepping up and taking responsibility for itself to make these kinds of changes,” Grimes said.

Peggy Norgren, associate vice president for finance and the project’s co-sponsor, said it costs the University between $5 and $6 million a year to power the 80,000 computers on campus. She said it would be cheaper for the University in the long run to power energy- efficient computers.

“If we can find constructive ways between purchasing energy-efficient PCs and the IT people on campus to even do a 10 percent energy reduction, we’d be saving the University half a million dollars a year,” Norgren said.

EIC co-chair Greg Caplan said green computing could encourage sustainability in an otherwise high-energy consuming environment.

“There’s certain hot spots within our lives where we use a lot of energy or emit a lot of carbon,” he said.

King said there is no single solution to the problem of energy consumption, but that individuals play a large role.

“This is not just a project,” said King. “It is the beginning of a change in our habits.”

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