IT/communications specialist          

One of the main tasks of information technology (IT) professionals is to teach clients how to use computer software. They also provide technical support related to computer systems, while some companies also hire computer programmers, website developers, webmasters and other professionals in the field of Internet usage.

Computers play a fundamental role in virtually every aspect of the modern world. Engineers use computers to test and ensure structural safety in buildings; the banking industry relies on computers to operate automated teller machines (ATMs) and Internet banking services; environmentalists use computer programs to model the impacts of environmental pollutants; the health industry uses computers to store and secure patient records; and surgeons use computer-connected cameras in the operating theatre during surgical procedures. Development and maintenance in all these fields requires the help and support of IT professionals.

In just a dozen years, between 2000 and 2012, the rate of Internet usage worldwide increased by 566 percent. Today, roughly one-third of the world’s population (2.4 billion people) are using the Internet. Many of us who use the Internet on a regular or daily basis find it difficult to imagine our lives without it. Now, more than at any other time in human history, people have at their fingertips vast amounts of information on virtually all subjects. This technology has made it dramatically easier for individuals and groups to communicate with each other. In this context, the importance of the IT professional is put clearly in perspective.

There has been a rapid advance in computer technology, and huge improvements have been made in terms of efficiency and usefulness. This rapid progress, however, comes at a cost to the environment. Computers become outdated every few years, and old machines are simply replaced with new models that are faster and lighter. In 1997, the average lifespan of a computer was four to six years. By 2008, the average lifespan had shrunk to just two years. With over 1 billion personal computers in use in 2008, this has created vast amounts of electronic waste. An estimated 50 million tonnes of e-waste are produced each year, accounting for approximately 8 percent of all municipal waste in Europe. Electronic waste is the fastest growing waste stream. It contains over a thousand substances, many of which are toxic (e.g. arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead).

Computers require energy to function: a typical desktop computer wastes more than half the power it draws from the power outlet. Huge amounts of energy could be saved by using efficient technologies, or merely by shutting the computer down after use rather than leaving it idle. Computer professionals play an important environmental role: they can influence the types of computers and computer-related technologies that are purchased, and how these devices and technologies are used.

Computer and IT specialists can reduce negative environmental impacts by following some simple guidelines:
  • Encourage clients never to leave their computers on standby. A lot of energy can be saved by shutting down a computer after use and unplugging the power cable from the socket.
  • Never dispose of computers or electronic waste with other waste streams: all electronic waste should be appropriately recycled.
  • Use your technical expertise to promote environmentally responsible computer use via social media.
  • Show clients how to use the energy-saving function on their computers.
  • Donate old electronics to other users. The technology may be outdated to you, but it may still be highly useful to others.
  • Learn more about responsible technology use from the website of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition: (EN); or from (RU).