VistaPrint gets regular coverage in the graphic arts trade press as it achieves new efficiencies in the delivery of online printing services. An article in the April 1 issue of CIO magazine salutes the company for engineering an efficient solution of a very different kind: sharply reducing energy consumption in its data-center operations.

The story, posted as "How Green Data Centers Save Money," spotlights an environmental issue that's probably not well understood outside IT departments: the large amounts of energy that are consumed whenever large amounts of data are crunched. According to the article, it's estimated that data centers use between 1.5% and 3% percent of all electricity generated in the U.S. - enough to power the entire state of Michigan for a year. But the real problem is that more than 60% of the power used to cool data center equipment may be completely wasted. The pressure is on, says the article, to develop data centers "designed for maximum energy efficiency and minimum negative environmental impact."

VistaPrint rose to the challenge by installing more energy-efficient servers and improving server utilization in its primary data center in Bermuda. These steps, said to have reduced energy usage at the facility by 75%, are expected to reduce its output of carbon dioxide emissions by several hundred tons per year. VistaPrint also opened a new data center in Canada to run on renewable hydroelectric power - an environmentally "green" move that's also green in the profit sense because of its potential to lower the company's energy bills.

According to a model for calculating carbon emissions cited by the article, the average U.S. company that cuts its electricity consumption the way VistaPrint did in Bermuda would reduce its carbon output by nearly 612 metric tons. Who knew that the heat from the server racks in the printing industry's IT establishments has the same environmental implications as the heat from IR and hot-air dryers in the pressrooms? It's clear that printers striving to win their "green" credentials have more to count than just VOCs.