The Greening of Law School IT

What follows are my notes from my Presentation at the 2010 CALI conference at Rutgers Law School at Camden.  If you’d like to see a video of the presentation you can find it here.

Today we are going to learn how you can save your organization money, and reduce it’s burden on the environment, all starting in the computer lab, by reducing energy consumption.

The keys that I’ve found for reducing electricity as an individual or in an organization are to:

  • Measure every electrical device possible
  • Implement changes where ever you have the power to do so
  • Educate everyone in your organization
  • Do you know how much it costs to run a lab computer?  Before making changes to our lab, it cost $7 per day to run our 42 computers, which quickly adds up to $2500 in a year!
  • Terminology: kWh = Kilowatt hour.  If you turn on a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours you will have used 1000 watts, or 1 Kilowatt.
  • Price of kWh varies widely across the country. Do you know what the price of electricity is in your area? Washington state has the lowest price at $0.06 / KWh, and Hawaii the highest at $0.28 / KWh.  The average in the US is about $0.11 / KWh.  In Pennsylvania, running a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours will cost about $0.12.
  • Measure every piece of equipment you can using a Kill A Watt (Only $20 on
    • Measure full power (watching video), Normal (word processing), Sleep & Hibernate modes (power draw can vary quite a bit).
    • It can measure the power consumption of all types of equipment: printers, lamps, monitors, TV’s, etc.
    • The chart below show the total cost of running each device 24 x 7 for a year. The cost per KWh used is $0.12.
  • Electrical usage across devices varies greatly. The iPad uses very little electricity… Laptops also use electricity sparingly, but desktop computers without power saving settings enabled use quite a bit of electricity. Most people don’t know this.
  • When my kids are playing on our XBox360 and the 46” TV, they use a lot of electricity: A combined 325 watts, as opposed to my 4 watts as I surf on my iPad 😉
  • To measure the total electrical usage in a building, or if possible parts of the building (most buildings have several electrical panels). The Energy Detective does a great job measuring the total usage in my home, and they are coming out with a commercial 3-phase version soon.
  • The Energy Detective, as well as other similar devices, come with real time dashboard that displays current usage as well as tracks historical usage.


  • Implement everywhere that you have control! The number one thing that we did was to turn computers off every night. Because of a patch management tool that we previously used, we asked our faculty and staff to leave their computers on. For the same reason we left our Lab computers turned on 24 x 7. By doing just this alone we can reduce electrical consumption by computer by 60-70%
  • Make Power saving the default on new computers. Encourage Faculty and Staff to make changes, by showing them how. In the past I’ve disabled power saving settings on new XP computers because of the instability introduced, but the tools seem much better in Windows 7. OSX power management features are excellent and reliable.
  • If you use Ghost or other similar product, you can schedule shutdown and start up times globally. If you don’t use ghost like us, we use the “Scheduled Task Wizard” and a simple command line: Start -> All Programs -> Accessories -> System Tools -> Task Scheduler … create a new task that runs the following windows Utility: c:\windows\system32\shutdown.exe -s   We have the task run at 10:20PM every night (the library closes at 10pm) except Friday nights, so that Windows update can do it’s magic.
  • Buy Energy Star equipment… make power consumption a consideration along with price. Also factor energy cost into total cost of the hardware purchase.
  • Virtualize servers whenever possible. Server use a lot of electricity. If you can reduce the number of “boxes” you are running, you can typically reduce your electrical consumption significantly. We’re in the process of virtualizing our servers as they come up for retirement.


  • People can’t make good decisions unless they have information.  Example from home: Electric Hot water tank uses the majority of the electricity in our home… I was worrying about turning lights off, when it was shower length that I should have been worried about. Most people are the same when it comes to office equipment.
  • Visibility is Very important.  Once people are able to monitor their usage, consumption typically drops by 20%.  Using a web based display, or adding power usage to your faculty website would be an easy way to let everyone know how things are going.

  • Let People Know: When you make changes in the computer labs, let everyone know.  I did this via an email to faculty, staff and students, so that they’d know why the computers in the lab would not be turned on for them in the morning.  I also included in that email Tips for how Faculty and Staff could reduce their energy usage at their work station.
  • Tips for Faculty: Do not give your faculty and staff a long list of things to do… just 2 or 3 key things that they can easily do… don’t overwhelm them..  Let them know relatively speaking how much energy they’ll save by doing each thing.
    1. Shut down every night
    2. Enable Power Management
    3. Use a Laptop when possible
  • Competition: Once people know what they are using, then you can pit them against each other in a competition.  Business School vs. the Law School… Just don’t let the Business School set the rules. Good natured competition can get people to focus in a manner that it is difficult to do in any other way.
  • While there is not a direct link between electricity usage and the problems in the Gulf; if we used less energy of all forms, including electricity, we wouldn’t need to import as much oil, or drill for oil in such difficult locations like the gulf…

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