The Green Penguin: Interview With Pat Tiernan of Climate Savers Computing

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is on the front lines of the battle against global climate change. Their mission? To convince you that saving power is good for both Mother Earth and the bottom line. The Green Penguin chats with Pat Tiernan, Climate Savers' new executive director, to see what the future holds for this green-IT organization.

Linux Journal: Thanks for agreeing to speak with us, Pat Tiernan. First off, what is your elevator speech on the mission Climate Savers Computing and how did it get started?

Pat Tiernan: The average desktop PC wastes more than half of the power it draws from a power outlet; the average server, a third. PC usage is responsible for nearly 40% of ICT emissions causing global climate change. Most PCs have power management capabilities yet aren’t generally used in businesses or homes. There are a billion PCs in the market today; 2.5 billion expected in the next few years.

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is a nonprofit group of consumers, businesses and conservation organizations working together to reduce the energy consumption of computers and harmful greenhouse-gas emissions. Our goal is to achieve a 50 percent reduction in the power consumption of computers by the year 2010 by working with members of the Initiative and the broader community to utilize higher efficiency products and encourage the use of power management.

LJ: Who are some core members of Climate Savers?
Tiernan: The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is led by eight board-level member organizations: CSC, Dell, Google, HP, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft and World Wildlife Fund. Sponsor companies, which include Acer, AMD, Delta Electronics, Fujitsu, Hitachi, Intuit, Lite-On Technology, NEC, Sun and Supermicro, also participate in technical, marketing and international workgroups. A complete member list is available at

LJ: Why does your organization carry the name "Climate Savers" and not something else?
Tiernan: The Initiative was started in the spirit of WWF’s Climate Savers program which has mobilized over a dozen companies since 1999 to cut carbon dioxide emissions, demonstrating that reducing emissions is good business. Our goal is to promote development, deployment and adoption of smart technologies that can both improve the efficiency of a computer’s power delivery and reduce the energy consumed when the computer is in an inactive state.

LJ: Most of us are familiar with the ENERGY STAR label from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that dictates superior performance in power usage for various products, including computers. Climate Savers Computing demands that its members, be they providers or users of computing technology, to go beyond ENERGY STAR requirements, is that right?
Tiernan: Yes, Climate Savers Computing recommends equipment with increasing levels of efficiency for each year of membership. An outline of procurement recommendations is available at:

LJ: What resources does Climate Savers Computing offer to help companies and individuals to green up their IT operations?
Tiernan: Climate Savers Computing currently offers the following:

  • Product catalog: (listing more than 350 products – desktops, notebooks, workstations, components, power management software and more)
  • Information & resources: Case studies, research, white papers and best practices to facilitate adoption of the recommendations and other relevant topics to our member base
  • Tools: Power management tools, ROI calculators and other enablers for our focus areas
  • Forums: for our members to discuss, learn and incorporate best practices
  • Technical workgroups: to influence, establish or set recommendations and specifications to elevate the energy efficiency bar

LJ: Can you quantify measurable impact that Climate Savers Computing has had on conservation of resources?
Tiernan: Our membership base includes millions of computers aligned to our efficiency standards which means we are reducing emissions and power consumption while increasing efficiencies and awareness. During its first year, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative’s membership roster has grown dramatically, and thousands of individuals have pledged to begin using computer “sleep” and “stand by” modes and buy energy-efficient computers. Climate Savers Computing has formed strategic partnerships and collaborations with regional and national organizations that will help to spread the message about energy-efficient computing around the globe, and driven awareness of the need for energy-efficient computing through the media and at events around the world. We’ve developed tools and resources to help our members implement energy-efficient computing practices, and continued developing technical specifications and recommendations.

LJ: From your perch as an advocate for sustainable IT, how would you say we are progressing as an industry in implementing green technologies?
Tiernan: My read is that adoption is not occurring quickly enough. Regardless of the IT domain, from the desktop to the data center, there is a significant business value associated with deployment of green IT. Yet studies still show that business adoption of key enablers like the deployment of power management or virtualization are still very low (in the 10% range). On the consumer side we need to hasten the pace of increased energy efficiencies of the products we use. That's why it's great to be involved with Climate Savers Computing Initiative, it's members understand that adopting our criteria is an integral part of an IT and technology portfolio that provides significant shareholder or personal benefit and makes a contribution to solving our climate issues.

LJ: It seems that in our tough economic climate the idea of sustainability is a luxury. What would you say to a CTO who is hesitant to 'go green' in these challenging times?
Tiernan: Now more than ever is the time to act. Not only is the climate problem accelerating but in this economic climate there is a reason to likewise accelerate your Green IT initiatives as significant cost improvement opportunites exist, the savings from which can be applied to other areas of your business. $Millions can be saved (depending on the company size) and can be from assets already in your infrastructure that aren’t being taken advantage of such as the deployment of power management.

LJ: If a company wants to save money on its energy bills but start small, what are some really simple and cheap ways to get started?

  • Implement a policy to take advantage of an use PC power management features
  • Build in energy-efficiency criteria into procurement policies for office equipment (PCs, servers, etc.)
  • Find other energy saving tips for business at [our Web site].

LJ:What advice would you give to a company that seeks to be a leader in implementing green technologies in its IT operations?
Tiernan: Take a holistic, portfolio approach to energy efficiency and IT sustainability. Drive visibility to your energy consumption and it’s impact on your budget. Deploy the use of highly energy efficient computing infrastructures and use of power management. It is a key part of this portfolio, has near term, significant dollar savings and demonstrates your commitment to address a global problem.

LJ:Your former position – as leader of sustainability strategy and execution at HP – sounds like an interesting, influential position. Can you tell me a briefly about your experiences in that role?
Tiernan: My role was to view the business through the lens of sustainability, drive strategy and resulting initiatives across all facets of its operations and go-to-market. HP has a long history of social and environmental responsibility. Very supportive executive management across its businesses made it one of the most fun roles I’d ever had; and I’ve been in most of the functions and businesses of HP!

The great thing about CSCI is that I’m still with leading companies who share common concerns and are action oriented, they want to do something about it and our driving actions inside their own companies and in the industry! Even though some are competitors, all value sustainability, green IT, energy efficiency in general and work well together to do just that, drive action and elevate the (energy efficiency) bar in this domain. I continue to be impressed by the board members and sponsors of our organization!

LJ: Thank you very much for speaking with us, Pat, and good luck with your important work at the Climate Savers Computing Initiative.

Finally, we welcome your feedback here at The Green Penguin. Let me know if you have any comments on this article, or perhaps you have ideas for future topics in green IT. Email me, James Gray, at


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