Big changes are happening in the Office of Information Technologies.
OIT Sustainability Coordinator Anne Gire used her master’s thesis to create a Climate Action Plan (CAP) for OIT that landed her a job in the department less than a month after graduating in June 2009.
Gire’s master’s degree in environmental management along with her doctoral certificate in sustainability, both from Portland State, made her the ideal candidate for the sustainability coordinator position in OIT.
In the new plan, Gire lists reasonable ways for the university to save just over $281,000 annually.
In fact, they’re “as easy as turning off computers at the end of the day,” said Noelle Studer-Spevak, Portland State sustainability manager in Finance and Administration.
“The changes that must be implemented are completely feasible,” Gire said.
The first of Gire’s core projects this term is to develop power management computer settings that would turn any university computer off automatically after being inactive for 30 minutes. This tool will be accessible for faculty members and administrators early fall term, according to Gire.
Delaying the implementation and effectiveness of Gire’s sustainable IT plans is the common misconception that the campus-provided “H: drive,” which stores the documents we save when logged into our ODIN accounts, cannot be remotely accessed.
The “H: drive” is accessible from any computer with an Internet connection. Promoting remote access is the second of three primary focuses of the OIT sustainability coordinator this term.
The third primary focus of increasing sustainability in Portland State’s OIT for the 2009 fall term is the virtualization of all servers. Many departments have computer servers that are hard at work under desks of faculty and staff members, but these systems are often ill equipped to handle their workload.
Virtual data centers, according to Gire, will allow students, faculty and staff to take advantage of equipment that is more efficient and still user-friendly. OIT has offered to make the switch from servers to virtual data centers for free for any Portland State department.
“The cost-savings potential is huge,” Gire said.
The energy savings potential in Gire’s work is not only huge, but it is also state-mandated.
Oregon House Bill 3612 requires that Portland State, and other authorized state agencies, must reduce their energy consumption levels 20 percent by the year 2015.
Portland State has made substantial progress toward this goal. However, the impending timeline has prompted Portland State’s offices to update an energy management plan for conservation and on-site generation, according to Heather Spalding, Portland State sustainability leadership and outreach coordinator.
Another prompter of the energy-savings focus of Portland State sustainability efforts is Gov. Ted Kulongoski’s vision of an energy-independent Oregon.
Although Portland State has already made significant steps in cutting its energy consumption, Gire’s CAP for OIT is a leap forward.
It sets a standard for other large Portland State facilities to complete their own CAPs. Gire’s plans for OIT would also keep Portland State in line to meet Kulongoski’s goal—ideally by reducing Portland State’s IT energy consumption by over 134,000 kilowatt hours.
For those concerned with carbon dioxide emissions, this translates to a savings of about 122 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent annually.
Gire’s work has already held the attention of the environment-friendly social and business climate of Oregon.
EDUCAUSE, a nonprofit that is spearheading the push for sustainable IT programs in schools of higher education, has expressed interest in Portland State’s Sustainable IT efforts.
Gire is also overseeing a developing partnership between OIT and the Energy Trust of Oregon that would help progress Portland State’s sustainable IT campaign and keep within the ranks of sustainable IT businesses.
Gire’s personal commitment towards increasing sustainability has only grown through her experience.
“I was afforded an opportunity that is typically only given to professors and doctors,” Gire said. “I was able to make an amazing transition from doing my research to implementing it immediately.”
Gire’s contracted position as the sustainability coordinator for OIT ends this October, but as soon as the results from her campaign have been analyzed, they will be shown on OIT screens across campus.