Here's conflicting hype about technology's impact on the environment, but one thing is certain: There are simple ways tech-savvy entrepreneurs can improve their green credentials. Westwood, New Jersey-based Bergen County Camera, for example, improved energy efficiency 70 percent by swapping floodlights for compact fluorescent light bulbs, replacing three air-conditioning units and investing in low-power terminals that run off of a server. Not only do the terminals use roughly one-tenth the power of a PC, but they also cost just $300 to $600 each, compared with $800 and up for a desktop.
Of course, the server was an unforeseen upfront investment, but Bergen County Camera owner Tom Gramegna, 53, says the payoff was worth it: "Sometimes you have to take a little bit of a longer view than the 'right now' view."
Investing in new PCs or terminals is a quick way to cut energy costs, says Jennifer Mazzanti, 30, co-founder with husband Carl Mazzanti, 31, of eMazzanti Technologies, a Hoboken, New Jersey-based IT services firm that counts Bergen County Camera among its clients.
The Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool provides information about which notebooks, desktops and monitors are best at meeting stringent green guidelines for materials, power consumption and provisions for reuse or recycling. Green Electronics is another clearinghouse for information about green technology.
But you don't need to buy a ton of new equipment to start helping the environment. The simple practice of printing double-sided documents will cut paper consumption, as will adopting an electronic document retention strategy, Jennifer Mazzanti notes. eMazzanti also advises clients to invest in technology that lets its technicians diagnose and upgrade systems over the internet, conserving gas and cutting back on carbon emissions.
When you're ready to get rid of a computer or other electronic device, consult a technology recovery specialist. This could save headaches when it comes to privacy and state environmental regulations. IBM's financing division runs a website through which you can ditch up to 250 systems (www-03.ibm.com/financing/us/recovery/small), plus there are myriad regional firms you can turn to, such as Minneapolis-based Vibrant Technologies, which saw sales grow 123 percent in 2006 to $38 million.
"As a whole, people are pretty uneducated on the magnitude of what these products do to people and the environment," says Jennifer VanDerHorst-Larson, 35, founder and CEO of Vibrant Technologies, which resells refurbished equipment and donates unwanted equipment to charitable organizations. Recycling is Vibrant's disposal method of last resort.