EcoMeme: Can Cloud Computing Have a Green Lining?


Lust for Apple’s iPad reached a fevered pitch the second the company allowed pre-orders online (March 12th). We anticipate that the iPad will remain a trending topic on every corner of the internet, as sales begin at Best Buy and Apple stores April 3rd.

Greenpeace has been using iPad buzz to get people thinking about a need for greener information technology.

Are they really trying to take the wind out of Apple’s iPad sails, nee sales? Or is it reasonable to ask Apple fan-girls and -boys to think hard before they buy another wireless gewgaw, with another battery and batch of peripherals and accessories? Or for that matter, to ask us all how many times a day we really need to check our Facebook and Twitter feeds.

A March 30th Greenpeace statement cited research that predicts a triple increase in electricity consumption by data centers and telecommunication networks in the next decade. It called on computing giants, especially Apple, Microsoft, IBM and Google, to “get [their] carbon footprint under control.”

While Greenpeace views the IT industry with a skeptical eye, cloud computing insiders like Sherrie Wu, vice president of product development at AirSet in Berkeley, California thinks the trend of cloud computing – doing everything online, including storing files, accessing and using applications, versus downloading them and working from a hard drive – is already doing more good than harm, environmentally.

Wu explained, “Cloud computing like we offer at AirSet lets office teams collaborate on documents online in an integrated environment. Team members or even family members’ access to information, with cloud computing no longer relies on printed or email copies. Teams can keep their schedules, contacts, files, and all the other digital data that are important in one secure place, again instead of printing or emailing.”

Reduced paper consumption and fewer logins to get to the information you need sounds great. But with all of the electricity consumption, can cloud computing, including the iPad, have a silver-green lining?

Get informed and weigh in below, or Tweet your thoughts our way @ecosalon

Basic Reading:

Official iPad Product Specs

“Apple won’t say how many iPads it has sold in advance of their debut Saturday, and it’s hard to predict how many enthusiasts will camp overnight and swamp Apple stores when the doors open Saturday at 9 a.m., as they did for last summer’s launch of the most recent version of the iPhone”¦” – An Associated Press story by Jessica Mintz anticipating a successful iPad launch.

“The iPad”¦relies on cloud computing – a system where information and core processes are accessed through a network, rather than on a local server. The iPad is only one instance of this type of operation. Google is another, and the practice is increasingly common”¦.” – A Guardian UK story by Vincent Bevins discussing the environmental benefits and potential drawbacks of cloud computing.

“Apple has indicated that the iPad is highly recyclable and free of harmful chemicals. The likely long-term environmental impact of the iPad is nonetheless ambiguous at best”¦ it seems [like] another device that adds to our modern electronic clutter and feeds into the cannibalistic trend of shrinking product lifecycles.” – writer Giovannia Mejia discusses electronics makers’ use of “conflict” minerals, and compares the IT industry to the diamond industry.

Further Resources:

IPad Accessories Chart on, a design blog.

A feature story about Seton Hill University’s Plan to Issue Freshman iPads and MacBooks.

The iPad reviewed from a regular consumer’s and the techie’s point-of-view, by New York Times’ David Pogue.

This is the latest installment of EcoMeme, a column featuring eco news, tech and business highlights by columnist Lora Kolodny.

Image by: curiouslee