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Chat: Green Computing: Saving Energy—and School Dollars

Thursday, July 16, 1 p.m. Eastern time

Schools are deploying green-technology techniques to help conserve energy and otherwise preserve natural resources. Such strategies run the gamut from automated thermostats and “smart” lighting to virtual servers and computer-part recycling. In some cases, those efforts do more than just shrink a school’s environmental footprint—they can also generate financial benefits that can last years.

Related Story: "GoinGreen," (October 20, 2008)

Guests:
Richard S. Kaestner, Green Computing Project director, Consortium for School Networking
Kurt Bernardo, technology coordinator, Orange City Schools, Pepper Pike, Ohio
Michelle R. Davis, senior writer, Education Week’s Digital Directions moderated this chat.

Green Computing: Saving Energy—and School Dollars(07/16/2009) 
12:28 Web Person: Casey:  Today's chat, Green Computing: Saving Energyand School Dollars, is open for questions, so please start submitting them now. The chat will begin at 1 p.m. Thank you for joining us.
1:00 Michelle Davis:  

Hello everyone and welcome to the Education Week’s Digital Directions chat on green computing. My name is Michelle Davis and I’m a senior writer for Education Week’s Digital Directions magazine.

1:01 Michelle Davis:  

Today we have two excellent guests offering their perspectives on this topic. Richard Kaestner is the Green Computing Project director for the Consortium for School Networking and Kurt Bernardo is the technology coordinator for the Orange City Schools in Ohio.

1:02 Michelle Davis:  

They’re both looking forward to answering your questions so feel free to start submitting them. In the meantime, I’d like both guests to talk a bit about their own involvement in green computing. Rich, please tell us a bit about what the Green Computing Project is and why it was created.

1:03 Kurt Bernardo:  Katie...the first step is to educate your school staff and students as to the benefits of thinking green.
1:04 Rich Kaestner:  CoSN's Green Computing project was created to help school technology leaders to set an example for students and the community at large in being green. This project looks at purchase/disposal, energy savings and using computers to reduce waste.
1:04 Kurt Bernardo:  one of the easiest solutions is to turn off your computer when you are not using it and you'd be surprised how difficult a concept that is for people to grasp!
1:04 [Comment From Katie]
What are some steps that technology directors can take at the district level to encourage green computing in schools?
1:05 Kurt Bernardo:  sorry, Katie, I was ahead of you.
1:05 Michelle Davis:  

Kurt, can you tell us what green computing steps you’ve taking in your district?

1:07 Kurt Bernardo:  Yes, we completed the CoSN Green Computing worksheets and this helped us to realize how much energy we were using and offered some simple solutions to cut our energy consumption
1:07 Rich Kaestner:  Another thought for katie's question is to show users how much money they can save, especially during this economic crisis.
1:07 Michelle Davis:  Maybe both of you could tackle this one from Mary Ann
1:07 [Comment From Mary Ann]
Have any of your districts moved to paperless Board of Education meetings?
1:08 Kurt Bernardo:  We recently took a step in this direction and are moving forward in a paperless board meeting solution
1:09 Kurt Bernardo:  We looked at a couple of different companies and have chosen a good solution for us.
1:09 Rich Kaestner:  Concerning paperless board meetings, CoSN's Green Computing website (www.cosn.org/greencomputing) references resources.
1:09 Michelle Davis:  Kurt, do you estimate this will also save money as well as being good for the environment? If so, how much?
1:09 Kurt Bernardo:  We realize that board packets alone were using reams and reams of paper each month as well as gas consumption to delver them and hours of manpower
1:10 Kurt Bernardo:  Yes, using a paperless solution will save us money by using less comsumable supplies, as well as hours of printer use.
1:11 Michelle Davis:  Rich, do find that a lot of districts are moving toward going paperless in some way?
1:13 Rich Kaestner:  I see a focus on paperless for internal communications and for student registration. Some districts are offering some paperless communications with parents.
1:13 [Comment From Keith Krueger, CoSN]
What are good uses of the one-time ec stimulus $ that also makes districts more green (and saves you "green" $) in long run?
1:14 Kurt Bernardo:  Keith, equipment replacement is a good first step for using funds.
1:15 Kurt Bernardo:  Focus on EnergyStar and efficent units when purchasing.
1:16 Rich Kaestner:  Generally newer equipment is Energy Star and EPEAT rated so that energy use savings can be realized.
1:17 [Comment From kevin]
Rich and Kurt: How effective are virtualization tactics when trying to implement green-friendly technology programs?
1:18 Kurt Bernardo:  Kevin, virtualization is a great way to trim your server pool and consolidate multiple servers to a single box.
1:18 Rich Kaestner:  Let's look at 2 varieties of virtualization - datacenter and desktop.
1:18 Kurt Bernardo:  Of course, this saves power, cooling, and maintenance costs.
1:20 Rich Kaestner:  Server and datacenter virtualization allows reduction of power consuming boxes in trhe datacenter. This reduction results in an equivalent amount of savings in HVAC and power supply power consumption. Lots of payback.
1:21 [Comment From Mary Ann]
Have you identified ways to "get the word out" to staff and students about ways that they can save energy?
1:21 Rich Kaestner:  Desktop virtualization is the use of a server or single PC to serve thin client devices. These devices typically use about 20% of the power used by a full PC
1:22 Kurt Bernardo:  Mary Ann, we have worked with our student environmental clubs and we send out occassional emails and newsletters reminding people to turn their computers off, and their printers, when they are not in use. We keep telling them, but it's a never ending battle.
1:23 Rich Kaestner:  One other thought on virtualization: estimate current power consumption/cost and estimate projected costs after virtualization. CoSN offers a energy usage estimator for schools.
1:26 Kurt Bernardo:  Rich is right. The CoSN energy usage estimator is a really cool tool.
1:26 Rich Kaestner:  I agree with Kurt - students can be some of your most persistent advocates for ecology, including green compurting
1:27 [Comment From Ken]
We have tried to quantify our "green" efforts by estimating a dollar amount from saved energy, paper, etc. but this is tricky and tends to be more "estimate" than actual cost when you factor in other variables. Any tips on how to quantify realized savings in terms of actual dollars?
1:28 Kurt Bernardo:  Parent organizations are good resources as well. Our local PTA took the lead in recycling and reducing items used in the cafeteria (not really computing, but still green).
1:29 Kurt Bernardo:  I think there are too many variables from day to day to make a really accurate conclusion. I think you are right on with the "estimate" process.
1:30 Kurt Bernardo:  But, using the CoSN tools makes your estimate better than it might otherwise be.
1:31 Rich Kaestner:  Ken, short of actually submetering the datacenter and labs, it's hard. There are also network-based products that monitor and control user computers. Faronics and Verdiem are two vendors who offer these.
1:32 [Comment From kevin]
Are there green computing lessons that K-12 districts can learn from higher ed or the corporate world? If yes, what are those lessons?
1:35 Kurt Bernardo:  The corporate world refreshes their computer inventory far more often than we are able to. We have watched how they have repurposed and/or disposed of obsolete equipment and followed their lead.
1:36 Michelle Davis:  Kurt, could you elaborate and talk about the computer recycling project you have in your district?
1:36 Rich Kaestner:  Kevin, from a CoSN perspective, we have taken information from corporate, higher ed and government initiatives and incorporated it into K-12. The lessons we learned involved EPEAT purchasing, proper disposal, virtualization and other forma of energy savings and use of computers to reduce travel and manage building HVAC controls.
1:38 Kurt Bernardo:  Here at Orange we were lucky enough to find a local electronics recycling company that offered to pick up all of our equipment to be disposed of at no cost to us ..can you believe it?
1:39 Kurt Bernardo:  We send equipment for disposal about twice a year. We feel good that we are disposing responsibly and saving money while doing so.
1:40 Michelle Davis:  Rich, could you explain what EPEAT is and how it can help with green technology?
1:40 Rich Kaestner:  

Disposal: need to be sure hard drives are wiped clean and that the recycler chain doesn't eventually ship the toxic remains over seas

1:40 Michelle Davis:  Great point!
1:42 Kurt Bernardo:  We were able to take a tour of the facility which was a cool experience. We got to see how the equipment was broken down, sorted and disposed of properly.
1:43 Rich Kaestner:  EPEAT was formed to encourage computer manufacturers to use recycled materials and minimize toxic content, as well as test for Energy Star 4 compliance. Since several state agencies require EPEAT certification from vendors, the vendors comply by submitting new models to EPEAT for bronze, silver or gold status.
1:44 [Comment From kevin]
What needs to happen to make green computing a higher priority? Is it the link between green computing approaches and potential cost savings?
1:45 Rich Kaestner:  So, Kurt took the extra step to assure proper disposal - this is a great suggestion for all of us. An organization that does follow-through of the ewaste process and certifies disposers is Basel Action Network (BAN).
1:47 Kurt Bernardo:  From a business and administrative standpoint the link between savings and green computing is probably a more concrete variable. For our younger students, the whole idea of being green and environmentally conscience is the best impetus.
1:49 Rich Kaestner:  

A couple of suggestions, Kevin. It helps if school officials understand that the schools need to set the example to students and the community at large. Also from a cost savings perspective, computers and supporting infrastructure can easily be 25% of your utilities bills. Since this cost is not typically part of the computer services budget, a sort of cooperation should take place between IT, facilities and the business office.

1:50 [Comment From Katie]
What are some of the biggest challenges faced by schools that would like to convert to green technologies?
1:52 Kurt Bernardo:  Our biggest challenge, as in most public schools, is having the dollars to make the necessary conversions quickly. That's why we are focusing on some of the simple, commonsense approaches to saving energy, paper, and using less hazardous materials.
1:53 Kurt Bernardo:  When it's not in use, turn off the juice!
1:53 Rich Kaestner:  The biggest challenge is people. Much can be done to be greener, but it requires cooperation and sometimes some up-front expense. The CoSN's green computing website has tips for things you can do today for purchase/disposal, energy saving and using computers to reduce waste.
1:54 [Comment From Keith Krueger, CoSN]
How can you certify that you are a "green" district?
1:54 Kurt Bernardo:  It's getting people to see the big picture. More computers mean more heat more heat means more AC and on and on and on...
1:56 Kurt Bernardo:  .We completed the CoSN green computing worksheets and made an effort to purchase energystar and EPEAT certified products. This allowed us to be certified as a green district.
1:57 Rich Kaestner:  CoSN has developed a certification process, which includes certification from EPEAT. The initial year certification is mostly goal setting and following years entail simple reporting and further goals. Details can be found at www.cosn.org/greencert.
1:58 Michelle Davis:  I'd like you both to close with a brief comment about where you see green computing headed in the future and whehter it's going to pick up speed in schools.
2:00 Kurt Bernardo:  As we continued to be more environmentally conscience, green computing in schools will certainly become more desirable. 21st century skills should not only refer to learning and technology but as a way of life.
2:01 Rich Kaestner:  Green computing is not a fad - the need has finally made being green (including computing) an ongoing focus for organizations and individuals. I'd like to encourage school tech leaders to take the lead for their school or district overall, and lead the charge with green computing.
2:01 Michelle Davis:  Thanks to Kurt and Rich for their insight and thanks to all who participated.
2:01 Kurt Bernardo:  Bravo Rich!
2:02
 

 
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