Innovating Sustainability: How Your Business Can Use Technology to Go Green—and Save Green

Up until a few months ago, my organization wasn’t as sustainable as it could be. Surprising maybe, because I head up Jour de la Terre, and we’ve been helping organizations recycle and reduce waste for more than 20 years.

It wasn’t because we didn’t care. It was because we didn’t take a step back and evaluate our footprint.

Since 1995, we have planted 500,000 trees, distributed 70,000 rain barrels, and 20,000 compost bins. We work on a massive initiative in Quebec with IGA, #ActionRéduction, to track and reduce waste in stores, and that extends to food waste in consumer homes too. We’ve hosted more than 300 workshops on food-waste reduction to individuals and organizations.

Pièce jointe

When it came to our IT, however, we didn’t have much visibility—until now. A few months ago, the team and I began evaluating our various IT systems. It got to the point where we didn’t know all the services we had. So many different people were buying services and hosting project websites with various providers.

Then, when those employees left, we didn’t always know who had bought a certain service, much less where it was hosted or what the login credentials were. It admittedly was a bit of mess—I would wager not unlike the environments in many other companies.

IT has evolved a lot since we got our first computer terminal at our non-profit, and we have taken advantage of new services and technologies over the years to make our lives easier and help us deliver green initiatives in both Quebec and France. Tomorrow is Earth Day and I want to challenge other companies to take some time and evaluate their IT set up. Can it be greener? Can it be consolidated to reduce wasted resources? Can you save money in the process? We did, and we think you should too.

Audit your footprint

Take inventory your systems. What do you have? Where is it? Can it be consolidated? How much is it costing?

For us, this was not a task we knew how to do, or were experts in. So we got help from LINKBYNET, a managed services provider with offices in Quebec City and Toronto. They found all the services and pieces we used, and decided that moving our infrastructure to the cloud made the most sense from a cost and management perspective.

Implement solutions

Amazon Web Services was recommended as the cloud platform and its data centres in Montreal uses 99 percent hydroelectric power, a renewable resource. This was important to us as we moved over our databases, web forms, and three websites from various providers’ collocated data centres that weren’t using green power. The move to the AWS Canada Region improved our environmental impact, but also our backups, resiliency, and data security.  The team estimates that hosting everything in one place has made them 15 percent more efficient and cut IT infrastructure costs by 20 per cent.

Use technology to innovate sustainability

We’ve all experienced how technology can change industries: the “Uber-ization,” as it’s called. Years ago, in 2007 (six months before UberPool), my team and I worked on a fully automated taxi ride sharing program that leveraged technology to connect multiple users to share a cab. Ultimately we didn’t pursue it, but the project showed us how technology could impact the environment positively. With our #ActionRéduction program with IGA, the same applies.

More than 50 IGA stores in Quebec are participating in the initiative by using software to track how many materials they can divert from landfill, such as paper, grease, packaging, and food. The technology tracks how much it costs to get rid of their waste, and how much can be recycled or composted. About 11 stores are at 70 percent recovery rate, which accounts for all the different types of waste the stores generate. Nine other stores are at 80 percent recovery rate.

Each of these stores is using technology to help them track costs from waste management providers and improving the environment at the same time. One of the participating stores is at 90 percent recovery, meaning only 10 percent of all the items that come into the store end up in landfill. Think about your business, and what you could be tracked to understand the impact. A lot of systems exist that help you analyze large sets of data, and by getting to insights you can also uncover cost savings.

Start today

Whatever you choose to do, start today. At Jour de la Terre, we’ve helped collected 100 tons of electronic waste and more than 125,000 mobile phones.

If your contribution this year is to safely and responsibly recycle your organization’s IT hardware, we and the environment thank you.