Universities challenged to power down for the planet

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Climate Savers Computing Initiative is organizing a challenge to encourage universities to “make a dent in pollution by powering down campus computers.”

One winning university will be selected internationally based on the highest percentage of on-campus staff, student and faculty pledges toward use of computer power management tools. Six founding universities of the campaign include: Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of California at San Diego, University of Iowa and University of Michigan. The deadline to enter the competition is March 13, 2009.

“The Power Down for the Planet program is designed to educate and engage college students on a large scale about their computer power consumption and how that affects the environment,” said Pat Tiernan, executive director of Climate Savers Computing Initiative, an international nonprofit organization committed to reducing IT-related waste by half by 2010. “College students in the U.S. alone can collectively make a one million-ton reduction of carbon dioxide emissions by better managing their computers.”

You can find out more about the challenge here, including lots of resources (posters, handouts, etc.) that you can plaster your school with.

What’s the Climate Savers Computing Initiative you ask?

Started by Google and Intel in 2007, the Climate Savers Computing Initiative is a nonprofit group of eco-conscious consumers, businesses and conservation organizations. The Initiative was started in the spirit of the World Wildlife Fund’s Climate Savers program that was created to cut carbon dioxide emissions and demonstrate that reducing emissions by saving energy is good business. Our goal is to promote the development, deployment and adoption of smart technologies that can both improve the overall energy efficiency of a computer as well as reduce the energy consumed when the computer not in use through effective power management.

Their goal: to reduce power consumption in computers 50% by 2010.


  1. […] issued by the Climate Savers Computing Initiative to encourage universities reduce pollution by powering down campus computers. From that story “The Power Down for the Planet program is designed to educate and engage college […]


  1. Of course, another way to ensure idle cycles aren’t wasted is to harvest them with a desktop cycle scavenging technology. A good one is Grid MP by Univa UD – this powered the IBM World Community Grid and is used by dozens of universities.

  2. Robert Link says

    I’m not sure I agree that desktop grid schemes are a net power saver. HPC facilities can generally achieve more calculations per Watt than desktop computers, so running on desktops is a net energy loss. Although you do gain something by harvesting otherwise idle cycles during times when desktops would have been left on, the leader boards used by many desktop grid systems encourage participants to leave their machines on during times when they otherwise would have shut them off. Moreover, modern CPUs can go into a low power state when idling, but running a desktop grid screen saver ensures that this never happens, consuming even more power.

    Desktop grid systems may be a great way for shoestring projects to get more computer time than they could have otherwise, but let’s not kid ourselves; they are energy hogs compared to running on a real HPC facility.

  3. Kevin Buterbaugh says

    I agree with Mary that it would be preferable to leave the computers on and doing something useful. What needs to change is where the energy that powers them comes from. If that energy is coming from solar, wind, or (yes) nuclear, then it’s a win-win situation in my book…


  4. HPC facilities may achieve more calculations per Watt than desktop computers, but it would require buying more hardware, as opposed to using what already exists. Maximum resource utilization makes the most sense for equipment that becomes obsolete before it wears out. Also, just because the HPC compute servers might be more efficient, does not mean there is money to acquire them or infrastructure to accommodate them. More machines means more jonk hitting the landfill on 3 years’ time.