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App-Rising.com covers the development and adoption of broadband applications, the deployment of and need for broadband networks, and the demands placed on policy to adapt to the revolutionary opportunities made possible by the Internet.

App-Rising.com is written by Geoff Daily, a DC-based technology journalist, broadband activist, marketing consultant, and Internet entrepreneur.

App-Rising.com is supported in part by AT&T;, however all views and opinions expressed herein are solely my own.

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April 22, 2008 9:31 AM

Broadband is the Best Way to Save Environment

It was Earth Day this past weekend, the day on which we celebrate Mother Nature and get ourselves charged up about doing more to protect her.

Our impact on this planet is more apparent today than ever. Flowers are losing their smell because of air pollution from cars and planes. Land is eroding away rapidly in areas where forests have been clearcut. The ice caps are melting, the sea level rising. And there's a landfill the size of Texas swirling in the Pacific Ocean.

The world seems to be waking up that something needs to be done. The status quo is no longer acceptable. What we need is to leverage new technology to affect real change.

But here's where there's a disconnect. It seems like the vast majority of the efforts to curb our polluting of this planet are focused on establishing alternative energy sources, like ethanol, or hydrogen, or wind and solar.

While I obviously support these efforts, we're not doing near enough to not only talk about but actually implementing aggressive measures to curb our consumption of energy.

We need to acknowledge that our energy consumption patterns are unsustainable, regardless of the technology we invent to create new energy. What's needed is a dramatic reduction in the amount of energy we use.

The problem, of course, is that people don't want to be restricted in what they can do. Most conservation efforts are about doing less and making choices that may not be your first in order to sacrifice for the environment. Let's be realistic: until we can tie the effects of pollution more directly to how they impact individual people's lives, they're not going to be all that willing/interested in changing how they live their lives.

But there is another way: the universal use of broadband and broadband-enabled technologies to introduce new efficiencies and opportunities into society.

Now, this isn't a new thought. There's a terrific list of the ways in which broadband can help save the environment on NextGenWeb's site.

But like most things, there's more talk about the possibilities of broadband than action. And making matters worse in the near-term is that in some areas the use of broadband and information technology has made things worse rather than better.

For example, remember the promise of the paperless office? While the use of computers and the internet was once touted as an end to the need for paper, the reality is that we're using more paper today than ever (except in my "office" where I've been paper-free for years).

But that doesn't mean we can't realize the potential of that promise. The key is we must make the collective decision that something has to be done, and then, based on some fundamental principles, start working through ways in which we can replace our environmentally harmful activities with the use of broadband.

Here are some basic principles to get us started down this road:

Think Before You Print
I'd argue that 9 times out of 10 you're printing something out of habit, because it's more comfortable to read or edit, or because words feel more real and secure when they're printed onto paper. I'd be willing to bet that if we got everyone to take the simple step of pausing for a moment before printing to think about whether we really need that information on paper we could probably reduce the amount of paper we use by half.

No More Paper Forms
I know we're not at the point where everyone's online and aware of what resources can be found therein, but there's no reason we shouldn't be pursuing all efforts to get rid of paper forms in favor of electronic ones. The goal should be to never again have to fill out a printed form as that would have an incredible impact on our consumption of paper.

Shop Online Till You Drop
While most everyone's shopping online a little bit today, why not take it to the next level? Imagine the number of trips to the store that'd be saved if you were set up to have all the essentials delivered to your front door on a regular basis. I'm talking about everything from toilet paper to cat food to books, movies, and music to groceries to clothes to sporting equipment, etc., etc. Anything we buy on a regular basis the environment's better off if it's delivered to our door (plus it saves us time!). Anything we buy that we don't need to make sure it fits beforehand is better bought online since it'll give you more options to choose from than can be fit into a bricks-and-mortar store. And hopefully over time we'll increase our sophistication for buying things that do need to fit you, perhaps by creating a virtual avatar with your measurements that clothes could be hung on virtually. Taking all this into consideration, just think about how many trips to the store can be saved if only we adopted ecommerce en masse.

Why Go to the Office or School?
Working and learning from home hold tremendous opportunities. Even if you're not doing it every day, staying home a day a week means that each week you're using less energy than you were before taking advantage of broadband's ability to allow you to work from home. But we haven't really pushed for this as something everyone should be allowed to do. Some companies have adopted telework policies, but many others haven't. Some individuals are allowed to, but most aren't. Telework is a great example of how just because broadband can enable something doesn't mean that'll have any impact on the environment if no one's taking advantage of it.

Think Before You Travel
With the advent of robust videoconferencing technologies, the need for travel has been reduced, so much so that everyone should be thinking before they travel about whether or not that trip is truly necessary. This isn't about ending business trips as there are some forms of interpersonal relationships that can only be built in person, but instead to simply say that we should try to move away from traveling being the default to using videocalling as the default, and have traveling be the exception.

Make Your House Smart
Unfortunately I'm not sure if we're yet at the point where making your home smart and energy efficient is a straightforward solution other than buying more energy efficient appliances, using energy efficient building materials, and exploring alternative energy sources. Broadband holds the promise of being able to regulate and therefore reduce your use of electricity. But we need to be making a bigger push to equip all homes with smarter technologies that reduce demand for energy.

There are likely a million and one more things I could include in this list, but the point is that the only way we're going to make significant headway in improving the state of this planet's environment is through not only the discovery of new energy sources but through reducing our demand for that energy.

And the best way to do that is to exploit the revolutionary power of broadband to find new solutions that don't just ask people to curb their habits but instead offers compelling alternatives that offer greater opportunities while demanding less energy.


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Comments (1)


Some good comments. I think that when you extract the "transportation" out of any endeavor you save a lot of money, especially today.

Using the internet to shop as well as videoconference saves money at several levels. All of your ideas are sound - if they can be adopted by the business as well as the individual.

Sometimes you need facetime and working from home does not satisfy that need.

Also - take a second look at ethanol. You will find there is too big a pricetag on it.

What is the cost - both in money and energy to produce it? You will find that ethanol is NOT good for the environment as it costs more to produce.

AND a by-product that the economy is just starting to see is the skyrocketing cost of food because farmers are not selling grain for feed, they are selling grain for ethanol production.

If you have not been aware of the food riots going on in other countries it is because of this food shortage caused in part by corn going to ethanol production instead of food production.

Some people have gone overboard with environmental conservatism to a point where it is counter-productive. Let's focus on the right stuff, but ger rid of the extremism.

There are no such things as "carbon credits" and for someone to "buy some credits" in order to fly on their Lear Jet or to run their 110-foot Yacht while others have to sacrifice is total BS.

When everyone telling everyone else they have to cut back switches to hybrids and clean diesels and commercial airline flights instead of government-supplied aircraft, then more people may listen.

You do not see anyone in Congress driving up in a Prius and certainly one of Nancy Pelosi's first issues was to ask for a 757-type aircraft to get back and forth from DC to San Fran.

If Congress had to fly commercial we would be better off at several levels - the elimination of the "Congresssional Air Force" which you may or may not have known about. All the related fuel, personnel and maintenance costs associated with thet would be saved. A great savings and positive impact to our environment. Also - by flying commercial they would see how things are so screwed up in airports they might take action to correct it. Another win for the average flying public.

Another is to cut waste in Mass Transit that is being used minimally by the public. Millions are spent on buses that run almost totally empty on a route. All the costs of the driver, insurance, fuel, maintenance, board of directors and not to mention the bus, could be spent on improving roads for trucks and cars. Buses running with one or two passengers are NOT environmentally friendly and not fuel-efficient. AND - they restrict the flow of traffic

There has been decades of growth and waste, its now time to cut and eliminate some of these institutions.

We have always had a focus on environmentalism - it has been called eliminating waste in various business and organizational processes.

Posted by JAMES CARLINI on April 23, 2008 6:53 PM

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