After reading about the multitude of events scheduled for this year’s Earth Day, I was prompted to start looking at what initiatives our industry has taken to help reduce its environmental impact (i.e. carbon footprint), and in particular, what we as security professionals can do to help contribute to this important environmental issue.

‘Greening’ the Security Industry

That’s not to say of course that security and surveillance manufacturers aren’t already providing us with green (or at least greener) products. For instance, most of the manufacturers now use recycled material for product boxes and have reduced or eliminated environmentally harmful inner packaging material. In addition to the packaging material, manufacturers are continually reducing the size and weight of products (advantages in shipping) and are often replacing hard copy instruction manuals with a CD-ROM or simply making the information available online.

Many manufacturers also use recycled plastics to manufacture their products. This includes the manufacture of digital video cameras, video displays and computers. These manufacturing changes have been, in part, due to legislation designed to reduce the environmental impact of electronic and electrical equipment, and one of the most far-reaching of these laws is RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances). Although European in origin, RoHS is a global initiative and almost every manufacturer is implementing RoHS compliance in their factories. In the United States, California and Massachusetts have enacted similar legislation and it’s only a matter of time before other states follow suit.

Products with Fewer ‘Footprints’

Many new products coming to market designed to be multi-functional are also impacting carbon footprints of facilities as they perform more operations that require less energy. Examples include a combination power supply/router or a surveillance camera with built-in motion detection capability. Items such as these also tend to cost less than single-purpose devices, and are usually easier to manage than multiple devices or racks of single-purposed components.

A few NVRs or DVRs can now replace a room full of VCRs, not to mention eliminating the need for the large quantity of videotape all of those time-lapse units would have used and eventually would had to have been disposed of. The same “less is more” approach applies to new energy-efficient servers, which consume less electricity and emit less heat requiring less cooling.

What You Can Do

It would appear then that the manufacturers are doing their part to green up the industry and lessen the environmental impact, but how can we as security professionals keep this momentum going and growing in the field? While our hands may be somewhat tied, there are some basics we can implement and which will have a positive effect on the environment.

Starting with system design, choose products that meet the environmental standards established by the Green Electronics Council (GEC). Some of these measurements include material selection, design for end of life (i.e. how is it to be disposed of), energy conservation and packaging. And as mentioned earlier, choose products that perform several functions instead of one, or that help eliminate the need for additional products. An example of this would be to incorporate megapixel cameras into a design because one megapixel camera can often take the place of two or more regular video cameras because of the increased field of view.

Look at replacing power-hungry cathode ray tube monitors/displays with more efficient LED or plasma displays, and consider alternate AC power options such as DC operation or PoE (Power over Ethernet) for the video surveillance cameras. Wireless installations can also facilitate more flexibility in reducing power and cabling requirements. A few well placed wireless surveillance cameras can help an organization cut back on the number of security vehicles having to patrol an area, saving money, oil and energy in the process.

Finally, look at how various systems can be integrated to provide better management of the overall system and to reduce the environmental impact. More specifically, can the access control and video surveillance systems be integrated with the building management system (HVAC, electrical, elevators and lighting)? Benefits of this kind of integration might include better control of energy by connecting the HVAC network to the security system and thereby avoid cooling or heating a room with open windows. Data accumulated from access control systems can even be analyzed to determine optimum temperatures in a particular room or the need for lighting.

These few suggestions can help make a difference in the carbon footprint of a facility and can help preserve the environment. And as the issue continues to grow in importance, hopefully some of these suggestions can be easily justified to the customer as they make good business and environmental sense.