University of Limerick: First National Plan to improve the resource & energy efficiency of IT equipment accross each stage of the product life cycle
Organisation Type: University
Location: Limerick, Ireland
Mission Statement: The mission of the University of Limerick is to be a distinctive, pioneering and connected university that shapes the future through educating and empowering people to meet the real challenges of tomorrow.
No. of Employees: 1,300
The University of Limerick (UL) has developed the first national plan to improve the resource and energy efficiency of IT equipment across each stage of the product life cycle. This project was supported by Green Enterprise funding; an initiative of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Waste Prevention Programme.
The project identified key areas for improvement in three life cycle stages (manufacture, use, and end of life), and presented solutions on both staff and student levels. The team comprised of staff members from the Environmental Committee, the Department of Electronics and Computer Engineering, Buildings and Estates and the Information Technology Division. Through the initiative we worked on
• data centre energy efficiency
• energy management of staff PCs
• energy management of student PC clusters
• Development of strategy for utilisation of cloud computing services
• Refurbished IT pop-up shop
• IT Recycling
• Internal reuse of IT equipment
• Student electronics repair events
• WEEE collection events
It has led to significant savings in both environmental and financial terms due to improved resource and energy efficiency and in enhancing our reputation for sustainability leadership.
Towards Responsible Business’ Ireland’s National Plan on CSR 2017-2020 identifies 4 core dimensions of CSR – Environment, Community, Workplace and Marketplace.
• Environment - minimising negative environmental impacts
• Community - interaction with your local community partners and organisations
• Workplace - supporting and engaging with your employees
• Marketplace - interaction with your local community partners and organisations.
Please select the dimension(s) that you apply to your CSR Initiative and why?
This project focused on improving the university’s resource and energy equipment relating to our use of IT equipment. This has resulted in improvements to equipment lifetime extension, decreased energy use, and improved waste management, all of which directly improve the university’s IT carbon footprint.
The project involved engagement with the campus community and to an extent the wider community in waste collections, repair events, and in our refurbished equipment pop up shop. This fostered interest and engagement with the concepts relating to resource efficiency allowing for our team to very organically spread awareness on the topics while simultaneously fulfilling the need of a community member (be that a fixed phone, an affordable laptop, or somewhere to get rid of that old, broken office printer!). The pop-up shop also won a community award at the Tidy Towns Going for Gold event.
The project interacted with a number of partners:
- GreenIT, an enterprise refurbishing and selling IT equipment, teamed up with the project to run our pop up shop providing opportunity to purchase high quality, warrantied, and affordable laptops, cell phones, tablets, and more to our students and campus community
- Communications with European Recycling Platform (ERP) and DELL were essential in setting up an efficient and ongoing collection of equipment for proper recycling.
- A local repair provider offered and conducted trainings for our project team in iPhone repair in order to allow us to provide this service free of charge to the campus community.
- The project team participated in a community workshop where other local initiatives related to the sustainability goals brainstormed support for each other.
Image Above: View through entrance of Green IT pop-up shop.
How has the CSR initiative benefitted your organisation and demonstrated a win:win in the short-term and/or long-term?
This CSR initiative has benefitted the university not only through a decreased IT carbon footprint, an increase in resource efficiency, and increased campus engagement in lifetime extension and recycling, but through noticeable cost savings as well. University funds have been saved significantly in collection of equipment at end of life and in energy savings within our data center cooling costs. Energy savings will also hopefully still be extended significantly as a result of this project to our staff and student computing usage. Additionally, we can’t forget that our students have won out financially as well! Through the availability of affordable refurbished equipment and repair of iPhones we were able to alleviate a financial burden on our students while also getting them to engage with resource efficiency and hopefully carry that experience on with them into the wider community.
What did you learn from your experience of creating and implementing a CSR initiative?
We’ve especially learned that the biggest facilitator in this sort of initiative is the core involvement of team members from a diverse set of expertise/departments. The personal investment of our project team and thus their departments was essential in moving this initiative forward with access to information, understanding of different processes, and influence to enact change where beneficial. Support from top-level senior management is essential to facilitate this.
What advice would you give a Public-Sector body starting on their CSR Journey?
Getting support from the very top level of senior management at the outset is essential in developing the cross-departmental motivation and support to undertake a project like this. Engage them in the project and demonstrate to everyone that it will reflect well on individual departments and organisation as a whole.
This is true for the leadership of all the departments your project is working with, as our second advise we’ve learned from this project is that the involvement of each department necessary to access or change things on campus should be integrated into the core of the project. Our project team consisting of core team member from IT, Buildings and Estates, Electronic & Computer Engineering & the Environmental Committee, combined with the support of leadership, was extremely beneficial in accessing resources, applying changes, and addressing challenges, even if we still have some challenges to break through even after the project ends.