Go Green, Save Green with Linux

Put Linux to work to save energy, money and the environment.
Save a Ton(ne) with Koolu

Not much different philosophically from Zonbu is Koolu, a Canadian firm that aims to save a tonne (Canadian for ton) of carbon emissions with its thin clients and Net appliances. With Jon 'maddog' Hall as Koolu's CTO and Ambassador, you are sure that the concept is robust and open source. The products run Ubuntu.

Koolu's (and many other firms') thin clients, says Hall, require only 10 Watts or less and “allow better sharing of CPU power, memory, disk and even people power”. Meanwhile, Koolu claims that the fanless Net appliances will save you up to 90% on electricity costs and 50% on PC capital costs. Furthermore, like the Zonbu twins, Koolu's products are RoHS-compliant. Unfortunately, Koolu does not currently offer a recycling program, nor does it purchase carbon offsets.

Other Ways to Make a Difference

Besides the above information, there are many other ways to compute that are gentler on the environment. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Avoid e-waste by avoiding Windows Vista—a 2007 study by Softchoice Corporation and amplified by Greenpeace stated that “50% of all PCs are below Windows Vista's basic system requirements” and “94% are not ready for Windows Vista Premium edition”. A similar study by the British government found that Linux users need to upgrade their hardware only half as often as Windows users.

  • Investigate the environmental footprint of your next equipment purchase with Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).

  • Look for the Energy Star logo, with its tough new requirements, for energy efficiency and power management capabilities.

  • Recycle your old CRT monitor—according to ViewSonic, a 19" LCD monitor sips only 40 Watts compared to 100 Watts for a comparable CRT monitor. The company estimates you'll save around $20 annually in electricity costs.

Do It with Linux

Although most news about the environment and energy consumption is alarming, the plethora of new Linux-focused technologies and initiatives related to green computing is a cause for hope and optimism. Many barriers, such as data-center complexity, lack of information and societal apathy, must yet be overcome, but the Linux community and many IT firms have laid a laudable foundation from which to build. The initiatives outlined in this article—IBM's Big Green Linux, Intel's Lesswatts.org, Linus' tickless kernel, virtualization, Zonbu and Koolu PCs, Energy Star, EPEAT and more—are excellent tools that can help you to do well while you do good. Linux Journal encourages you to keep Mother Nature in mind as you green up your data center or PC, but if you do your homework, going green likely will not be a burden to bear but a substantial long-term competitive cost advantage as well.

James Gray is Linux Journal Products Editor and a graduate student in environmental science and management at Michigan State University. A Linux enthusiast since the mid-1990s, he currently resides in Lansing, Michigan, with his wife and cats.


James Gray is Products Editor for Linux Journal.