Thursday, December 13, 2012

Human Nature Newsletter Arrives!

It's a new concept, but an old one. We have a website and a blog. We have in-class visits and curricular discussions. We have spontaneous teaching moments and officially recognized 'indicators'. The Human Nature newsletter (above) is in its infancy, but serves as a 'one stop shop' of the highlights of sustainable and service related practices at ISKL. Read on. Send some feedback. Write an article. Let's get involved and do some celebrating sustainability and service all year round!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sustainable Holiday Decisions

This is it. As soon as you're done reading this article (or instead of) you'll be out the door and on your way to some far-flung location for a well-deserved vacation. Perhaps it's with family. Perhaps it's in a place that makes you relax. Certainly you'll be taking the time to enjoy your 'down time' and looking forward to a new year filled - as it should be - with hopes and promise. 

So, here are some ideas for sustainable choices for the break:
  • Travel as much as you can in public transport. It's such a great way to really get to the place!
  • Ask that presents intended for you are given unwrapped (or in something reusable) and save on single-use paper. Do the same for others.
  • Make at least one meal vegetarian and minimize the impact on the environment from grazing animals
  • Enjoy time outdoors and while you're there plant a tree (or a flower)
  • Make a new-year's resolution that involves sustainability and/or the environment
  • Take some time to help others and show appreciation for those around you (don't we always?)
  • When you come back offset your carbon. ISKL often uses Climate Care but you can feel free to assist future energy production and/or carbon sequestration
The list could go on and on and on. Suffice it to say that as big as that list is, so too are the options for things you can do, right now and over the break, to make your choices more sustainable. Some are easy. Others are not. All are helpful. 

Happy Holidays for those who celebrate them, and all the best for the new year!  See you in 2013.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sustainable Technology: 'Switching' Things Around

Despite efforts to turn off the lights and ACs, in the past two months the energy meters are inching higher when we're all hoping they will reverse direction.  So, when I had the chance to chat with Dave Neudorf about the possibility of turning servers off at night (when use is less) the conversation twisted and turned itself into all sorts of directions. It is to the little victories such as these that I hope to turn out attention to in this article.

Does anyone know what a switch is?  No, not one that you turn the lights on/off with. If I understand it correctly a switch is a connection between devices within the same network. Say we have a computer and it needs to connect to a network to access information or any type of service. A switch will be present between the server and the device to transmit and relay data from one device to the other. Apparently there are switches all over the place at the moment and each switch remains 'on' in case any device needs its functionality. But not for long!

As we take a few weeks over the semester to re-energize and relax, the Ampang campus will be undergoing great changes. When we all return to ISKL in January this will be a whole new place. Except we won't be able to see it. New technology will allow these new and improved switches to use only the power necessary (depending on what is being used). Say a switch provides power to 48 devices (it's maximum) but only one is being used. At present the switches need to remain 'on' for all 48 connections. Not so with the new ones. Needless to say this is the type of 'behind the scenes' technology that makes things more efficient both in information transmission and in energy consumption. 

And what of new plans?  Well, the future could hold great things for our Tech Department. As we move to putting a computer in every student's lap at the Ampang campus we will need more energy. Or will we?  Future ideas, such as server virtualization, might be around the corner for our technology infrastructure as well. Still only in the "brainstorming" phase, a move to virtualization would mean using possibly 90% less energy with more power to make adjustments simply by allowing the servers to recognize what is necessary and funneling the power for that purpose. No more turning on the entire school server system 24/7. No longer keeping everything on because there might be someone using Moodle at 3 am. 

Is if safe to say that as our school grows so does the energy it uses?  Though we are working hard to answer "no" to that, at the moment our data indicate that yes, it tends to. But that shouldn't mean we don't take the time to marry technology with sustainable decision-making for the future. In so doing we can become ubiquitous with 90% less server energy. Now that's a 'switch' worth making!