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Three ways to cut your project’s carbon footprint

Green globe with plants growing out of the top

Green globe with plants growing out of the top

Have you ever considered the carbon footprint of your projects?

A few years ago I was asked to offer some ideas on this topic for guest blog post on EarthPM.

As it turns out my contribution ended being included in a book – Green Project Management by Richard Maltzman and David Shirley – a fact I only discovered very recently even though the book was published in 2010!

This prompted me to dig out what I wrote back then and share it here.

So how do you ‘green-up’ your projects? Here’s my take on three of the biggest carbon impacts that a project can have. These are:

• Travelling to meetings
• Couriering or posting documents to all the stakeholders
• Running servers in your data centre to host the project data

Travelling to meetings can have both an impact on the environment (think planes, trains and automobiles) and a cost in terms of travel times. The further you have to go, the higher these impacts will be.

With the speed and reliability of modern data connections, Voice over IP (VoIP) and Video over IP technologies it is possible to hold virtual meetings between multiple parties with very little cost overheads and no travelling time involved.

An added advantage of using some of the teleconferencing technologies is that you can record the sessions for anybody who could not make the meeting and for archiving electronically. There are even technologies available now that will give you a 3D view of a person on the other side of the world, although that might be a bit extreme for most project meetings.

Moving paper documents around can have almost as big an impact on the environment, and on the project budget for that matter, as travelling. We’ve been talking about running a paperless office for a long time, but we still insist on printing and couriering (or posting) documents to each other. So we are cutting down trees to print on and we are using fossil fuel to move those pieces of paper around the place. And the project is paying good money for this!

A virtual project folder (for example Psoda) allows you to securely store all of your project information in one central location and share that information in a controlled fashion with all of your stakeholders and team members. This means that everybody will have access to the latest version of a document and you don’t have to keep track of who has what version. You use a lot less paper (and printer ink), reduce the impact on the environment because you are not sending the paper all over the country (or world) and you are saving on the courier costs. You have the added benefits of improving the transparency on your projects and the virtual project folder can automatically track all of the changes for governance.

If you’re running multiple projects then a system like Psoda can automatically roll up information from the individual projects to provide a programme or portfolio management view, saving you the time and effort of writing up those monthly reports.

You can deploy a virtual project database in one of two ways: A new server in your own data centre or on a shared hosting environment.

Deploying a new server in your own data centre (even if it is a virtualised server) will have an additional cost in providing administrator staff and training them to maintain that server. You will also be increasing the overall carbon footprint of your data centre.

If you use a shared hosting environment then the carbon footprint of those servers will be shared across all of the organisations using the shared infrastructure. In the case of Psoda this would mean that your organisation will have only 1/100th of the footprint compared to deploying your own server.

There are many different ways in which you can green-up your projects. These are only three ideas that can have a drastic reduction in your project’s carbon footprint, cost and time.

Add comments below to share your ideas for making projects greener.


  • April 17, 2015

    Thank you for the interesting post especially the part about the servers. Although everybody is aware of global warming and reducing our carbon footprint on the planet, I still think there are a lot of companies out there who are unaware of the concept Green IT – IT transformation that will contribute to their overall sustainable IT strategy.

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