How did you get started in IT?
I studied economics and computer science. Right after graduation I started my IT solutions company, and from the beginning I was always to looking to maximize the benefits of technology for my clients, to come up with technologies that would fit well within their business operations. At the same time, it's always been a personal passion of mine to find practical ways to address the issues of the environment, sustainability, and the reduction of carbon emissions, so now I do both at the same time.
Has it been hard to bring an environmental message to your clients?
Traditionally, businesses had developed a very despondent attitude toward anything that had to do with the environment or "green" things. Activists always talked in terms of doomsday scenarios and used very dramatic, reactionary, and activist rhetoric. There was a sense that a for-profit business couldn't work with an environmental agenda. But then the industry as a whole began to look at how technology could be more efficient and how they could make better products that were more recyclable and more efficient. About five years ago, everyone started talking about very pragmatic and quantifiable ways to reduce the need for electricity through consolidation, virtualization, and power-saving schemes, and we were on our way.
How do you define Green IT overall?
We define it as any product, technology, or methodology that shows a reduction in waste and consumption. The other area we focus on is management, the framework by which organizations execute IT strategies, link them to their operations, and make them as efficient as possible.
Is it important to keep the focus on cost savings?
Yes, we take a good hard look at how a company can reduce its carbon footprint and be environmentally sound, but do so in a way that ensures it can still do what it needs to do to succeed. It's about taking a practical, gradual, concrete approach to dealing with the needs of the business world while still dealing with environmental issues. In fact, 90 percent of our clients are using pieces of our sustainable methodology. Some of them may not even care that our techniques have the added benefit of helping the planet. They just like the savings.
What kinds of talents would you look for in a person you were planning to hire as a Green IT consultant?
I'd look for a person with three characteristics: someone who has a good sound technical background; someone with business and economic sense so he or she can talk about technology in terms of business productivity, not just as technology for its own sake; and someone with an a open mind who displays a social conscience, someone who can see that each installation is part of a much larger whole that ultimately impacts the entire planet. Someone who says I can change my own habits, my own environment, my own community, and I can communicate what I do to others.
What should college students who are interested in this field be studying? It sounds like a mix of environmental science, economics, and computer science.
It won't take long for universities to catch up with these concepts. I expect to see more multidisciplinary programs where the environmental studies department hooks up with the economics department or the computer science department to talk about sustainable issues. The consciousness has already taken hold.
What are your hopes for your Think Green Alliance?
Our vision statement is building a more economically and environmentally sustainable world, one valued customer at a time. All the members are organizations or businesses who understand they need to be profitable, but also need to have sustainability plans. Dell, Intel Canada, and Whole Foods Markets are the types of companies who are already involved. We try to supply multidisciplinary task forces to help companies become greener and more sustainable in practical ways that we can measure.