Written by Beth Hildreth on April 24, 2013
Categories: Blog Posts

Over the last few years, VoIP adoption and implementation has been steadily increasing. Subsequently, steady growth has lead providers to churn new solutions, as well as expand upon existing platforms.

For example, business VoIP includes a variety of features, plans, and functions which allow users to choose an inclusive solution that best fits their business’s needs. Now, as the VoIP industry has expanded as a whole, business VoIP solutions/services have grown to support new functionalities—i.e. mobile VoIP and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). As a result, the workplace has been irrevocably altered—traditional lines are no longer needed, less hardware and fewer devices are necessary, and there is greater room for overall efficiency and flexibility. With all this in mind, VoIP seems a good platform to support the current push for green initiatives—i.e. green energy, green building, environmentally preferred purchasing, etc.

The popularity of environmental, or ‘green,” initiatives has grown steadily alongside VoIP. Many businesses currently pursue environmentally friendly solutions that better utilize resources. As such, business VoIP looks to be an ideal platform. As stated above, expanding VoIP technologies have drastically altered the infrastructure of the workplace. As such, the traditional office is slowly becoming less viable. With VoIP technologies such as cloud solutions, collaboration tools (video conferencing, web collaboration, and unified messaging), and more, users no longer need to be within an immediate proximity of their co-workers and office. While this change boosts morale amongst staff, what type of effects does this have on the environment at large? Sure, VoIP allots for greater flexibility, scalability, and customization, but what do these newer technologies mean for the environment—i.e. are there green applications for these technologies? The answer isn’t black and white (or green).

VoIP has the potential to allow for greater environmental efficiency; however, its effectiveness depends on how the technology is utilized. Environmental practices are a part of the corporate responsibility—meaning businesses are held accountable for their systems’ environmental effects. As such, there has been a push towards more environmentally conscious decisions; however, many businesses continue to disregard this environmental responsibility in pursuit of cost/time efficiency. The irony is that in many instances ‘green’ solutions can actually lead to lower costs. Yes, VoIP systems inherently offer cost efficiency; however, deploying and sustaining an environmentally conscious system can often offer even greater cost efficiency for users.

There are a number of ways businesses can be more environmentally conscious with their VoIP systems; however, some are more involved in others. As such, Citel, a UK based VoIP Migration Company, details a number of ways users can deploy and sustain an environmentally friendly solution. As stated above, efficiency (cost/time) trumps environmental responsibility. Despite this, one simple way of being environmentally responsible is by consciously selecting system hardware (cables and devices) as well as disposing of the outdated materials properly. When fitting/upgrading a system with new IP phones, users will need to replace the existing LAN cables to support IP traffic. Fitting a building with these cables is time consuming, expensive, and potentially harmful for the environment; therefore, users should never replace cables for the sake of it. Again Citel suggests users install telephone VoIP adapters (TVAs) to eliminate these disadvantages. TVAs allow existing handsets to be fit with VoIP capability—i.e. ensuring greater environmental awareness as well as cost and time efficiency.

As important as selecting the right hardware/equipment is, disposing of it is equally as important. That being said, users should dispose of all equipment/hardware/infrastructure according to the proper protocols. A lot of equipment contains harmful materials that need to be gotten rid of in compliance with governmental protocols. Citel cites WEEEMan, eWasteGuide, and the EPA as reputable sources that detail how to dispose of telephones, PBX hardware, and cabling.

Aside from equipment and hardware, VoIP solutions can be altered to account for greater energy efficiency too. In switching to VoIP there is definitely an influx in energy consumed. VoIP runs over the Internet; therefore, the platform requires more energy to deploy all modes of network communications. That being said, it’s not impossible to better fit a system to account for more ‘green’-friendly practices. For example, users should replace the energy hungry TDM PBX with an IP PBX (preferably an energy efficient model) to account for less energy expenditure. Citel goes on to discuss various other means.

VoIP technology has irrevocably changed the office landscape to account for greater mobility. In doing so, users are no longer confined to their traditional office. With greater mobile applications, users can utilize their business phone systems from home offices, the road, etc. In doing this, there is one positive environmental affect—the reduction of commuting. By reducing the number of commuters, greenhouse gas emissions could deflate drastically. “According to a study by Business to Community, if half of the American workforce was able to telecommute at least part time, greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced by 53 million metric tons, equivalent to taking 9.6 million vehicles off the road for one year or the entire workforce in the state of New York never commuting again.” With VoIP altering the traditional office to allow users to work outside of it, this reductive goal seems much more tangible. Inversely, greater mobility could lead to businesses deploying more mobile staff—meaning traveling employees—which would subsequently hinder the reduction of gas emission.

Business VoIP offers users a variety of ways to support more ‘green’ applications. With the availability of environment conscious alternatives, businesses are able to be as involved as they choose—which can be both a positive and a negative. Despite this, corporate responsibilities are becoming more public; therefore, it seems likely that more businesses will shift to more ‘green’ practices. For now, however, business VoIP offers users the option of environmental efficiency, but involvement is ultimately up to the user implementing the service.

by: Michael Ventimiglia, Managing Editor and Tech Enthusiast at GetVoIP.com – Guide to VoIP service providers and innovations. To learn more about eco-friendly communications products, click here.