Sustainable IT Systems
Digital technology has a significant impact on the environment, and yet we keep consuming more and more. That’s why at EPFL, we’re building up our know-how in the field of sustainable IT and rolling out a variety of measures to reduce our IT-related carbon emissions. Following a comprehensive analysis of these emissions, we are now developing a new strategy for a more sustainable digital environment at our School.
A preliminary report (PDF, 3.4 MB, French only) issued in 2020 estimated that the use of computers at EPFL was responsible for 25% of our campuses’ GHG emissions. This percentage is lower if calculated based on all sources of carbon emissions at our School, but remains significant.
The main environmental impact of digital technology is related to the manufacture of IT equipment, which consumes many non-renewable resources such as rare-earth minerals and water. It’s therefore essential to take good care of our IT equipment, extend its lifespan and encourage reuse.
→ To calculate the carbon footprint of your own IT use, visit this ADEME web page (in French only).
Reducing the environmental impact of our research activities is one of the goals of the Green Lab initiative being carried out at the School of Life Sciences. This initiative includes a computer program for labs to calculate their carbon emissions, which is currently in the testing phase.
→ Visit the Green Labs web page to find out more.
- Repair, recycle, sell and swap your computer equipment at our Computer Repair Center (CRI)
- For advice on purchasing personal laptops, borrowing backup computer equipment or holding an event, contact Poseidon
- We also offer classes and MOOCs on recycling and lifecycle assessments
Point Smart has opened its doors during the 2023 Spring semester. This new service enables our community members to extend the lifespan of their smartphones and tablets by having them repaired at cost.
Coming soon: More videoconferencing facilities
We’ve started a project to set up state-of-the-art videoconferencing rooms, and as a first step, we inventoried all of our existing equipment. This helped us to identify the additional equipment, rooms, and support staff that we require. It also highlighted the limitations of the technology already in place. Our goal is to upgrade our videoconferencing facilities in order to reduce the need to travel to meetings that could be replaced by videoconferences.
As an example:
- 1 hour of EPFL videoconference → 1.5 kg CO2-eq (a range of 1 to 3 depending on various factors)
- Lausanne – Paris return trip (train) → 46 kg CO2-eq
- Lausanne – Paris return trip (plane) → 270 kg CO2-eq
In 2020, 468,535 Zoom meetings took place at EPFL.
EPFL research projects related to sustainable IT
EPFL’s Machine Learning and Optimization Lab (within the School of Computer and Communication Sciences) has developed a program called Cumulator for calculating the carbon footprint of code in order to optimize the underlying algorithms. For instance, by lowering a model’s precision by 1%, its carbon footprint can be reduced by 10 tons CO2-eq. Being aware of this would allow scientists and engineers to make better-informed choices.
EcoCloud is an R&D center that promotes data-center sustainability. It mainly focuses on developing cloud-computing and artificial-intelligence technology that can help to save energy, and on introducing more sustainable technology for servers.