Next session was Richard Barrington from SUN talking about sustainable computing. Currently we're not living a sustainable lifestyle - anyone who believes that exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a mad man, or an economist. We have to move from consumption of products to a service based economy. For everyone to have our standard of living will require 3 planets worth of raw materials (and if you're talking a about an American lifestyle - 6 planets worth!).
As a hardware supplier, Sun are taking this seriously. IT contributes hugely to energy consumption - about 2% globally. It takes a ton of clean water to produce a computer, and 100 times the weight of raw materials - compared to twice the amount of raw materials for a fridge. In addition, the efficiency of energy use is not good. this is well demonstrated in data centres, which cost about£5.3m pa to run, and 65% of that energy goes on air conditioning and the actual running of the centre, rather than computing power.
Interesting anecdote about developing countries - some have banned the import of IT equipment, as well meaning individuals pack containers with equipment too old for us to use - it arrives there broken and useless and gets dumped. In effect all we're doing is transferring our toxic waste.
In order to achieve sustainability we need to use less stuff, adopt an efficient service culture, increase the efficiency of resources, reduce energy consumption and design for disassembly and recycling. SUN have put a number of measures in place which have yielded big benefits - rolling out sunrays instead of PCs, modular well designed data centres, reduced commuting by adopting home and flexible working.