This section links to a range of resources, which provide colleges and universities with advice and guidance on managing sustainable ICT.

How JISC can help with green ICT

ICT has many benefits for staff and students including being used to replace face-to-face meetings and providing access to electronic resources to a wider number of people.  Conversely, it also has considerable energy and environmental costs and is responsible for 2% of total global carbon emissions.  It has been estimated that institutions use of ICT in 2009 will produce more than half a million tones of carbon dioxide, amounting to associated energy costs of more than £100 million.  Through its Climate Change Act (2008), the Government has set targets to reduce carbon emissions by 80% by 2050.  Public sector organisations, including colleges and universities, will be asked to develop strategies to manage their ICT effectively, to reduce carbon emissions and other areas of environmental impact.

Advice and guidance on managing sustainable ICT in colleges and universities

Key reports Virtualisation
Calculating your carbon footprint Thin-client or more efficient thick-client devices
The ICT lifecycle Remote PC powerdown
Procurement Changing the way we work and study
Energy efficient data centres Next steps
Data storage: outsourcing, shared services and the ‘cloud’  

Key reports

JISC has published the following key reports, specific to further and higher education.  The reports provide very useful information about how institutions can plan strategically for environmental sustainability of ICT.

  • Techwatch report: Low carbon computing: a view to 2050 and beyond (Nov 2009) Read the report
  • Suste-it report: Sustainable ICT in Further and Higher Education (Jan 2009) Read the report
  • Strategic overview: Managing sustainable ICT in further & higher education (Jan 2009) Read the report  
  • A number of case studies are also available from the Suste-IT website

Calculating your carbon footprint

Your institution’s first step towards ‘carbon zero’ is to measure its current carbon footprint and to identify opportunities for improvement. After all, you can’t set targets for energy and cost reduction, if you don’t know what they are to begin with!  The Suste-IT project has developed an easy to use ICT Energy and Carbon Footprinting tool and user guide to help institutions measure their carbon footprint. Where data is not available, users of the tool can ‘guesstimate’ using the figures provided.

The ICT lifecycle

To ensure a holistic approach to sustainable ICT infrastructure it is important for institutions to consider the full lifecycle of ICT, taking into account the environmental standards used in manufacture IT equipment during the procurement process, the energy use and efficiency of equipment during its lifetime, through to recycling and disposal.

ICT lifecycle


Procuring ICT equipment that is environmentally friendly is an important part of any institution’s sustainable ICT strategy.  The Suste-IT briefing paper Sustainable ICT procurement in higher education (Word) explores the implications of ICT procurement for colleges and universities and includes information on Government initiatives, whole life costing, energy standards and labelling, and procurement agreements.

Energy efficient data centres

The growth in demand for online services, high powered computing for research and data storage requirements has impacted most on institutional data centres, which are one of the highest sources of energy use within an institution.  As data centres generate so much heat from all the energy they consume, it is essential to keep them cool.  Most institutions use air conditioning which itself can consume vast amounts of energy.  It is therefore important that data centres are run as efficiently as possible to ensure the least environmental impact.

JISC has produced a couple of case studies on institutions that have implementing different systems such as water cooling and automated job allocation for research jobs to make their data centres more efficient.  In addition, a podcast interview with Hugh Beedie describes the data centre project at Cardiff University, its benefits and results.

PodcastListen to the podcast: The Future is Green (Duration: 9.52)

Data storage: outsourcing, shared services and the ‘cloud’

Outsourcing Email and Data Storage (concise version)Data storage requirements for long term records management and archiving, disaster recovery planning, and use of blogs, social networks and multimedia have escalated in recent years and are a real source of concern for institutions.  Shared services and other outsourcing models such as cloud computing are some of the solutions institutions are considering in an effort to reduce duplication of effort and consolidate their resources.

JISC’s briefing paper and case study on outsourcing email and data storage explores the issues that institutions should consider as part of their IT strategy.

Cloud computing is still a relatively new and potentially confusing area for UK colleges and universities.  The article Blue sky thinking or head in the clouds in JISC inform 26 defines what we mean by ‘cloud computing’ and its role in delivering information-based services.

A briefing paper on Shared Services and a Shared Services infokit have also been produced to support institutions in decision-making in this area.


Virtualisation, or using one piece of hardware to create multiple ‘virtual’ machines, is one way of making more efficient use of data centre servers which currently run between 5 - 20% of their potential capacity.  Using a virtual server can increase this to anywhere from 65 – 85% of capacity.  The Suste-IT project has produced a couple of case studies on virtualisation at Sheffield Hallam and City of Bristol College.

Thin-client or more efficient thick-client devices

The Suste-IT project have developed a Cost and carbon comparison tool for thick vs thin clients tool and user guide, which helps institutions to calculate the costs of thin clients compared to thick clients over a given evaluation period.

Queen Margaret University won the JISC-sponsored Green ICT category at the Green Gown Awards 2009 for the innovative use of thin-client technology.  A case study and film based on the Queen Margaret thin-client project is available from the JISC website.

Greening ICT - Case study Queen Margaret University Video

Video available on YouTube Film created by Jon Mowat and Michelle Pauli. © 2009 HEFCE. This film is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales license.

Remote PC powerdown

According to the Carbon Trust, an average computer suite of 50 terminals can save nearly 40 tonnes of carbon a year just by switching equipment off when not in use.  The JISC-funded ‘Low Carbon ICT’ project has produced a report which documents how the use of a wake on LAN service can be used for exactly this purpose. An article by project staff in Educause Quarterly provides a summary of the project and it’s results.

Changing the way we work and study

e-Procurement to Reduce Costs and Carbon FootprintChanging attitudes and behaviour of staff and students is key to reducing ICT when it is in use.  By enabling staff and students to work more flexibly and from home can reduce carbon produced by travel.  Opportunities for remote conferencing for meetings and using collaborative tools such as wikis and blogs can also reduce energy and operational costs.

The Location Independent Working project developed a flexible working scheme for staff at Coventry University.  The pilot scheme resulted in reduced stress levels and absence amongst staff, up to 100% greater productivity, and a saving of £68,000 in office space costs.  Project manager, Dinah Shah, discusses the project, its benefits and results in a video interview with JISC programme manager, Lawrie Phipps.

case study on Imperial College London’s e-procurement project showcases how replacing their paper-based procurement process with electronic ones has saved the institution thousands of pounds, improved their operational efficiency and reduced their carbon footprint.

Next steps

JISC is funding the following programmes of work that are exploring how institutions can become ‘greener’ in their use of ICT:

  1. Greening ICT programme has a strong focus on behavioural change, sustainable procurement and harnessing research activities
  2. Institutional Innovation programme includes a group of projects that aim to provide institution-wide solutions in areas such as energy conservation and re-use, thin-client and cloud computing
  3. A review of the environmental and organisational implications of cloud computing in higher and further education