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CompTIA’s Strata Green IT Certification: Reducing Environmental Impacts

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Emmett Dulaney breaks down the objectives of CompTIA’s Strata Green IT certification exam (number FC0-GR1) with a focus on what you need to know in order to be successful on this exam and earn the certification. The focus of this article is Section 2.3: Identify methods to reduce workforce environmental impacts.
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In earlier articles, we looked at the Strata program from CompTIA and introduced the Green IT certification. We started breaking down the objectives of CompTIA’s Strata Green IT certification exam (number FC0-GR1) with an eye toward what you need to know in order to be successful on this exam and earn the certification. The focus of this article is Section 2.3: Identify methods to reduce workforce environmental impacts.

This section differs from others in CompTIA’s Green IT exam objectives in that it does not deal exclusively with subjects that relate to your IT department. It focuses instead on various ways to reduce the environmental impact of the individual members of your organization. At first glance, these ideas may seem off-topic or unnecessary, but a truly comprehensive green IT strategy must address the environmental influence of the company, its operations, and its employees in every way possible.

Driving

The majority of this section centers around one simple concept: driving less significantly reduces one’s impact on the environment. In fact, the American Public Transportation Association reports that transportation accounts for 28 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in America, so making changes on this front can certainly have a significant impact overall. The exam objectives present a variety of ways to keep business running without having to keep your engines running. Since we can’t all walk to work or buy electric vehicles, more creative ideas are needed to reduce the workforce’s dependency on driving. The first method listed by CompTIA may also be the easiest to implement: carpooling. A number of online resources exist to help individuals find others to carpool with (check out http://www.erideshare.com to get an idea of what’s out there), but more often than not, organizing a ride-sharing program internally will end up the most convenient and effective tactic for your company.

As an IT worker, you’re in an ideal spot to oversee the creation of an office carpooling program. Use network-wide emails and custom-tailored sign up forms to encourage colleagues to participate in the program. Get creative where you can—build message boards, start a rewards system, and develop a branded identity for the program to get people talking about the possibilities of sharing rides. Stress the environmental, financial (not just gas, but also parking, maintenance, and tolls), and social benefits of carpooling. Keep in mind that as pools form, they should always begin on a trial basis. This way, individuals can try out the program without feeling like they are stuck in an arrangement that is stressful or inconvenient.

Depending on the location of your office, public transportation may be a more viable option for curbing company-wide driving habits than carpooling. Whether by bus, train, or trolley, the American Public Transportation Association reports that switching to public transit for a 20-mile commute cuts one’s CO2 emissions by nearly 5000 pounds per year. Visit APTA’s website for a comprehensive database of public transit organizations across the country and in your area.

Carpooling and public transportation certainly diminish the carbon footprint of an organization and its employees, but what if the impact of traveling to work could be reduced to zero? This feat can be achieved by implementing telecommuting—either part-time or full-time—for yourself and your colleagues. The term telecommuting was first coined in the 1970s, but the technological developments of the past decade have made it possible for employees to be fully connected to their company and daily tasks while working from home or a remote location.

Working Remotely

A 2008 study by CompTIA shows that two-thirds of surveyed companies reported increased productivity when employees were allowed to work remotely either full or part-time. More than half of respondents also said their company saw cost-saving benefits from implementing telecommuting programs. Employers may have reservations about trusting workers to stay productive and connected as they work from home, but a well-implemented telework strategy and employees who see the opportunity as a chance to work more efficiently, not more lazily, can lead to a significantly-reduced environmental footprint and significantly-increased productivity levels.

An IT department working with telecommuters may introduce remote desktop software to let employees connect to their office PC from home. Simply put, remote desktop technology allows display, keyboard, and mouse signals to be shared between computers (usually over an internet connection for telecommuters) so that one PC can be accessed and controlled remotely. Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Services, using the Remote Desktop Protocol, is one of the most common of such technologies. A number of third-party programs, including LogMeIn and GoToMyPC, are scalable to meet the needs of your organization.

In conjunction with telecommuting, explore interactive telecommunication tools to make your business interactions even less dependent on physical travel. CompTIA mentions videoconferencing, remote interviews, and remote/mediated classrooms; these are a smart place to begin getting informed about interactive communication options. Services like WebEx and GoToMeeting make collaboration possible from anywhere in the world, and using these technologies to replace meetings for which participants must be flown in can have an unparalleled reduction on your total carbon footprint (a single cross-country flight emits about 2.5 tons of greenhouse gases). Additional benefits of videoconferencing and remote communication include reduced stress from less travel, simplified employee interview processes, and improved customer satisfaction through instant communication.

For an IT department, the prospects of telecommuting and remote communication present a daunting challenge: making sure that employees are able to work remotely but securely. Virtual private networks, or VPNs, make it possible for remote users to connect to your local area network over the internet without the insecurity of an unmonitored connection. VPNs rely on solid authentication and encryption practices to remain secure: get familiar with standard VPN protocols IPsec, SSL, and PPTP. Trusted VPNs, which rely on the security of the network through which they are delivered to remain uncompromised, use the MPLS and L2TP protocols.

Other Considerations

An interesting consideration listed in the Green IT exam objectives is that of a compressed work week. Under this arrangement, employees work 10 hours per day, four days a week. The amount of time spent at work remains unchanged, but the number of trips to work (and the amount of time stuck sitting in rush hour traffic) is reduced. As we’ve seen throughout this article, green efforts can often have a positive impact on productivity levels and organizational efficiency, and compressed work weeks are no exception to this rule. A 1998 study by Washington State University found that in most cases, a compressed work week leads to high levels of employee satisfaction, retention, and a drop in absenteeism.

The final objective of the Green IT exam charges candidates with knowing how to “reduce office space heating, lighting, etc.” There are dozens of different ways to tackle this task, and we have mentioned a few throughout this series. Every workplace will have its own combination of solutions to form the most efficient, cost-effective space, but we will leave you with a few tips to get you moving in the right direction.

  • Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs. Everyone has heard about CFLs by now, but that’s no reason to not make it a top priority when you are greening your workplace. According to Energy Star, each bulb can save you $40 in energy costs in the long run, so it’s a switch you can’t afford to miss.
  • Unplug. Even if an electronic device isn’t in use, it can still be using energy. Power strips are a smart way to power down multiple devices when you leave the office or won’t need them for a while without having dig through a pile of cords each time. For machines that are used rarely and sporadically, unplug after every use. Remember that stand-alone fax machine you only use when the All-In-One is on the fritz? Go unplug it.
  • Install motion detectors. Simple motion detectors are an easy way to save on lighting costs when a room isn’t occupied. If these aren’t in your budget at the moment, a sign by the door reminding the last person leaving to switch off the lights is a less effective—but still worthwhile—alternative.
  • Be smart about temperature control. Do you know what temperature your coworkers prefer for their workspace? In many buildings, offices are kept unnecessarily warm or cool, which can end up causing one of the biggest energy and money drains in the workplace. See how your coworkers feel about heating and cooling and find a middle ground that keeps everyone satisfied. Encourage those who like it a little warmer and cooler to use a small desk fan or heater that can be turned off when they are not at their desk.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, concerns such as carpooling or light bulb selection may seem out of the realm of an IT department, but they all play a role in developing the most effective, transformative green IT strategy possible (not to mention helping you gain Green IT certification).

Conclusion

This completes the discussion of the topics beneath objective 2.3 and should provide you with the information you need to know for this portion of the exam. In the next—and final—installment in this series, we will provide a sample test to help you gauge your readiness for the real Strata Green IT exam from CompTIA.

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