Green Impact

(originally posted as

My department have done so much to promote sustainability and green issues, but in this article I am going to concentrate on the work done by my team – the IT Service Desk.

In 2012 IT Services were awarded a Green Impact Gold Award for the first time. As part of that initiative we looked at the way we work and made some changes. We cut down on paper, explored virtualisation technologies, and set up a green board in the office to make everyone aware of environmental issues and how each person could contribute.

In 2013 we went a little further, and started a more proactive approach to bringing down the carbon footprint of the team, and raising awareness of the role each of us has to play in building a sustainable future.

Initiatives we undertook in 2013 include:

Putting together a whole workstation by re-using and scrounging furniture and IT equipment. We have used a lot of the old kit from Aston Web C-block that was going to be binned, and have actually saved a fair bit of money by doing things this way. People often forget that reusing things is generally better than recycling them, and this initiative nicely demonstrates that. Also, we did it all in about two hours, and carried all the furniture ourselves rather than using a van.

Along similar lines, we have also just refurbished another office using furniture from C-block, and cascaded our old furniture to other parts of the library.

We have a new Green Board, in the corridor outside our office. We have all the usual things, plus a Green Ideas Tree. Students can write suggestions on it, and we can pass these on to the relevant people periodically. We also have a poster detailing iPhone and Android apps to do with sustainability and environmental concerns (including QR codes so people can download them).

For years we have re-used old PCs as servers, test machines, and as a way to have access to as many different OS/browser combinations as possible for testing purposes. This year we measured the power consumption of these older machines and found they were using significantly more electricity that the other computers in the office. As a result of this we now use virtual machines for anything that doesn’t involve running something on specific hardware, which has cut down massively on power consumption, as well as making the office feel a lot less cluttered.

And finally, we’re also trying to raise awareness with our staff. Just little things like asking them to justify having a second monitor, making sure PCs and printers are switched off when not being used, and trying to avoid using fans, heaters, and anything else that consumes a lot of power. We also use an online Knowledge Base as our primary way of disseminating information to students, which cuts down on the amount of paper we use.

Hopefully what we have done so far has made a difference, but we already have plans for the next twelve months to build on this good work and hopefully aim for a Gold Plus award this time next year.

One Movie a Day – part 4

4th April – Cosmopolis. Adapted from a Don Delilo book by David Cronenberg, and scored by Metric. All people I respect greatly. It’s a well made movie, and one that I enjoyed (although I can also see why a lot of people might not have enjoyed it). I also intend to listen to the soundtrack on Spotify, because I think it really works on several levels.

11th April – Proof. Having seen a rather excellent performance of the play, I thought I should probably see the movie. It’s a good adaptation, that works well, and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the play (although didn’t enjoy some of the performances as much).

13th April – The Man Who Cried. A really beautiful movie that I had not even heard of until this weekend. It is well acted, well directed, and looks and sounds amazing; as well as having a story that will likely bring a tear to the eye. The soundtrack is also great, despite containing a lot of music that I would probably not listen to without it being associated with a movie I really enjoyed. Also it features Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and Harry Dean Stanton. What’s not to like?

14th April – Shinobi. Something a little different than other things I’ve watched recently, but also something that is suitably dark, and touches on a lot of themes I’m quite interested in. I also think it is visually spectacular movie, with some great fight scenes, and was obviously made with a lot of love. Very highly recommended if you like action-orientated Japanese cinema, or anything with an equal mix of fighting and thinking.

One Movie a Day – part 3

Over Christmas 2012-13 I set out to watch (on average) a movie a day. I then continued the experiment over the Easter vacation (which is much shorter, but where they should still be time to watch a few things).

29th March (Good Friday) – Youth Without Youth. I had been meaning to watch this for a while, but I knew it was quite absorbing, and I have not really had a great deal of time recently. I’m glad I waited though, because this is definitely something to watch in one sitting in a darkened room. And also it is probably one to watch alone. I enjoyed it enormously, but would probably not recommend it to everyone.

30th March – (Easter Saturday) – Shutter Island. Something else from my backlog list, which explores some interesting themes and is a really well made movie that I should have watched ages ago. I am reminded of Lost at various points though, although I suppose that is not surprising seeing as it is set on an island and features a lighthouse.

31st March (Easter Sunday) – The Red Dragon. I must have watched this at least ten times already, but I am a big fan of the Hannibal Lecter films (and in fact the books), and wanted to watch something familiar while I was doing other things as well. This is probably my least favourite of the first three movies, but I do enjoy watching them in chronological order (rather than the order they were made, which is different).

(and also) – The Silence of the Lambs. Because I’m on a roll, and because it remains one of my favourite mainstream/blockbuster movies. The subject matter is not pleasant, but it is familiar, and familiar is what I needed today. I suppose I should watch Hannibal tomorrow now.

1st April (Easter Monday) – Hannibal. This one is always a treat for me, because I’m a fan of Ridley Scott’s directing in general, and this was always my favourite book (although I prefer the ending of the book to the film). I find it hard to watch without having just seen the other two movies, but to me this is the one that stands out and the one I keep wanting to come back to. Next up, I think I would like to watch something I’ve not seen before, but that might have to wait a few days as I am pretty busy for the rest of the week now.