The Importance of Materiality for Green ICT
Materiality is a measure of the potential effect that something may have on a final outcome. Not everything that is relevant is truly material. Some recent examples that we've encountered:
The carbon footprint of a DVD is less material than the the footprint of the automobile trip to buy/rent it
Increased energy efficiency can be immaterial to decreased energy consumption and carbon emissions.
Investment in managing standby energy waste can be immaterial in the big picture of office power utilization
The number of proposed GreenICT tactics grows every year. Tactics that appear vaguely relevant or are intellectually interesting to implement may not yield the greatest results and risk giving GreenICT initiatives a sense of triviality. GreenICT, like all endeavors, needs to focus on materiality to be credible.
A few days after writing this, @open4energy called my attention to an analysis of behavioral power management technique that could save the USA ~$60 million in annual electricity costs but the individual only ~$3. This is similar to Vertatique's analysis of a television program's audience: ~8 MWH and ~5 metric tons of CO2 for only a penny per household.
The biggest materiality challenge may well be how to resolve the dissonance between that which is material in the aggregate, but apparently immaterial to the individual.
Click here for a discussion on the challenges of implementing behavioral power management.
CNET tests of Apple's new Snow Leopard OS reveals a ~10% reduction in energy consumption over its predecessor. For the individual, this means annual savings of only ~9 kWh (US$1-2), but is much more material when scaled across tens of millions of users. Most important, it shows the impact platform technology makers can have by iteratively leveraging individually modest savings across large user bases.
By contrast, consider the challenge when millions of users each individually needs to change behavior.. A comment to that post proposes a unique solution to motivating behavior.