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16 Jun 2020

"The cleanest data centres are the ones that aren´t built at all."

Susanna Kass, Data Center Advisor to UN Sustainable Development UNEP DTU Partnership
If we want to keep society running, we must deliberately depart from linear practices and embrace end to end sustainability throughout the lifecycle of data centres. 

Consumption of environmental resources that are critical to data centers are becoming increasingly scarce as the demand for data centers, and their 24x7x365 resilient operation, continues to grow.

Digital transformation is a necessity to keep society running, especially in times of disaster such as the mass shutdowns to reduce transmission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the disease affected more people in the months following its initial discovery, a massive surge in the global usage of digital infrastructure was observed.

Digital services for virtual meetings, online learning, telemedical diagnostics, government services, ecommerce, grocery delivery, ebanking, and entertainment all experienced unprecedented growth in demand.

Depletion will eventually stop all growth

If the data center industry is to continue its path of innovation and provide critical infrastructure to connect the world, it must look to circular economics for its future, particularly to address rapid resource depletion.

The materials which comprise a data center must have a circular nature, not be harmful to the environment, and simultaneously prolong the longevity of nature and human progress. 

Rethinking and reusing environmental resources is not only good business but also a very important perspective for human welfare. Especially when considering the massive scale of resources used in the production of the materials for data center construction and the billions of dollars are spent in materials each year.

Sustainable materials that are friendly to both the environment and people can have a perpetual life of use to ensure we can scale data centers when needed and tackle climate change.

If we are to succeed with circular economics in the data center industry, we must deliberately depart from the linear practices, transition to circular thinking, and measure our progress.

The circular economy approach must embrace end to end sustainability throughout the lifecycle for a data center (see illustration) and facilitate these changes for those who design, build, operate, and maintain them. 

circular economy

The cleanest data center is not powered by renewable energy, it is one that does not need to be built.

A circular economy enabled sustainable data center is designed for disassembly, each connection of the data center can be taken apart and each component can be refurbished, reused, recycled with zero waste and remake into a new material to give rise to a circular economic growth. 

The combination of Sustainable Data Center design, 24x7x365 using carbon free energy, and triple zero (carbon, emissions, waste) delivers net zero to the carbon free pledge by data center sustainability leaders and effectively supports the UN SDG goals to tackle Climate Change.

Susanna Kass

Susanna Kass

Susanna Kass is a global Climate Change Influencer, business development executive and IT operation manager with a track record of building teams and operating hyperscale infrastructure operations, 5G, cloud computing e-commerce operations. #CloudComputing, #CleanEnergyInfrastructure #5GEdge #Decarbonization #Circular Economy #UN-SDG.

Further Reading

In her most recent, ground breaking publication Susanna Kass and her co-author Professor Seeram Ramakrishnav, FREng applies circular economics to the data center lifecycle. It is free to access here.

In her previous publication, Susanna Kass and her co-author Alberto Ravagni points the industry towards a sustainable future that is actionable today.

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