Green ICT Examples in Dutch Higher Education

Over the past years, SURF put a lot of effort in sharing knowledge on sustainability within the SURF community. Four years ago we started working on this topic and since then we’ve managed to build a Green ICT community, the Green ICT Special Interest Group (SIG), of ~400 members from Dutch Higher Education. In collaboration with this SIG,  we organised many meetings and shared a lot of best practices on Green ICT. I thought it would make sense to look back and give an overview of what knowledge and experiences have been shared in the community.

The cornerstones of sustainability

As we all know, sustainability is a problem that needs to be solved globally. It can be so easy to optimize something for yourself, while not realizing that you might have made things worse on a higher level (see for example Jevons Paradox) or that you externalized some of the costs. Most good ideas start locally however, so it is important to just look one ‘level’ higher: e.g. “this action might make sense for my department, but does the same hold if I look at the effects of my whole organization?” (see ‘ICT departments should pay their energy bill’). Key to avoiding local optimization is sharing knowledge, within organizations, between organizations, regionally, nationally and globally. Learning from each other and collaborating with each other are cornerstones for sustainability.

Symposium on Green ICT

In 2010 we organized the symposium on Green ICT & Sustainability for HE for the first time. It was closely related to an ICT-scan carried out together with AgentschapNL and attracted roughly 100 visitors. Over the years the symposium became the standard go-to event for our community and we’ve just had the fourth edition which was a resounding success with close to 200 registrations and lots of interesting talks (and in my opinion the best one yet). The symposium was also the place where results were presented of the ‘Innovatieregeling Groene ICT & Duurzaamheid’ a funding arrangement for small innovative sustainability projects in HE. For three years we offered this arrangement and for three years it delivered very interesting, innovative and varied results. What I really liked about it was that the projects were very close to other processes in HE: most projects were not focused on the greening of ICT itself, but rather using ICT to green education, research and operations. While the ‘Innovatieregeling’ showcased many interesting and successful projects in HE, I would like to highlight one project in particular because it is in line with the theme of this blog post: the Green ICT practices library of the VU Amsterdam. This library is open for everyone and shows over 250 practices that can be found in (research and practitioner) literature. In addition they are working on a calculator to quickly generate a rough business case for selected practices. Check out the library here.

Best Practices

There are many activities that happened over the past years that I have not mentioned such as workshops dedicated to specific themes and a number of white papers and other publications. All of these can be found on our website (the Dutch version shows much more). In addition we started with a best practices page to provide a quick overview for those looking to find examples of Green ICT in HE. This page includes links to presentations at our symposia, the projects from the ‘Innovatieregeling’ and selected publications. I hope this shows what kinds of effects Green ICT can have in higher education. Most of it is focused on the greening of ICT itself, and I think we should move more towards using ICT to green other activities and services. There are some excellent examples in this area in the ‘Innovatieregeling’. For us at SURF, all these examples are a big source of inspiration and motivation and we will definitely use them in our plans for the coming years. (for our international readers: most of the publications are in Dutch, but if you want to know more about something, do not hesitate to contact us at – Albert Hankel SURF & Sustainability Best practices and other examples of Green ICT in HE



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