Think before you buy that flashy new technology. Gartner, Inc. estimates that companies will waste over $100 billion on unneeded networking technologies over the next five years. Does everybody at your small business really need snazzy gigabit Ethernet to the desktop? Rethinking your gadget consumption is the best way to cut down on both the electronic and financial types of waste.
At the same time, take into account the future of your network. When building your network, think about where it will be in five years and plan accordingly. Buying some flashy technologies now may save you the trouble of upgrading to them later when they become a necessity, but you can also get away with buying some older technologies (or even reusing some of your old equipment).
Avoid the siren song of early-adoption. While it may give you bragging rights among your peers and co-workers, that bluster can quickly turn to fluster once the technology is betamaxed and eclipsed by a less-advanced but better-supported rival.
Keep up-to-date with the latest developments in sustainable technology and green waste disposal. Environmental stewardship isn't just for hippies anymore. The Treehugger blog is a good resource for environmental news and information and tips on how to make every part of your life greener, while myGreenElectronics hosts a regularly-updated list of environmentally friendly electronic products and manufacturers.
Speak up! Don't expect companies to adopt greener practices on their own. It took government regulation to give us things like seat belts, emission standards, and the weekend. Green networking and electronics are no different. As always, the dollar is your most powerful weapon in these situations, and you can use it to your advantage by purchasing networking gear and other electronics from companies who you agree with. You can also make yourself heard by writing to companies that you do buy from and asking them when they are going to have product take-back programs.
Finding green companies is not always easy to do, as business practices change frequently. But there are a few tools available to help you track the environmental practices of electronics companies. The aforementioned myGreenElectronics lists responsible electronics producers by type, and Greenpeace publishes a periodic guide to green electronics. Neither guide explicitly covers the networking industry, but several of the manufacturers that the guides cover also produce networking products.
Renewable Energy Certificates are an easy way to invest in sustainable energy
Investigate different sources of energy to power your network. A recent study by the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory found that servers in the United States consumed more power than the entire state of Mississippi in 2005. You can help reduce the amount of power your servers and network consume by investing in Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) from a company such as 3 Phases Energy. Each of these certificates represent one Megawatt Hour of renewable energy generated and delivered to your power grid, enabling you and others in your area to use less power from coal and natural gas sources and more from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and biomass.
Do a dry run before crimping your own network cables. This will not only save you a lot of frustration (since we all have suffered the indignity of a poorly-crimped cable at some point or another), but will also cut down on the amount of unusable cable bits that end up in the garbage can.
Pay attention to the types of materials in the equipment you buy, and whether or not the vendors comply with local laws on the inclusion of hazardous substances. Reducing your intake of these types of substances will also reduce your output once it comes time to finally recycle your equipment. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool can help you find sensible computers, notebooks, and monitors, and will likely expand to cover networking products and other electronics in the not-too-distant future.