Facebook’s Biodegradable Computers Should be Used in Cloud Data Centers for Increased Sustainability

Here’s a public-private partnership that has an interesting sustainability goal – creating computer hardware that is biodegradable.

Facebook has teamed up with Purdue University to create an open innovation challenge for students to design a computer with biodegradable components.

Servers are typically replaced about every four years. This is necessary to maintain fast, reliable equipment. Unfortunately, this results in a lot of waste. Open Compute wants to change this starting with the server chassis. These are typically made of steel, which is recyclable, but even recycling generates waste. What would happen if these chassis could be placed in compost instead?

This project is part of the open source hardware movement which allows inventive minds to collaborate freely without restrictive licensing requirements. The open source movement has been around for decades, but as it expands, innovation will become more sustainable by shedding legal barriers and sharing human capital.

I am considering including a session on utilizing cloud computing as a tool to reduce a company’s carbon footprint for The Conference Board’s Summit on Sustainability, as data centers are notorious energy wasters.

Combining the energy efficiency of shared cloud servers with the waste management benefit of biodegradable hardware demonstrates exactly how valuable innovation collaborations are in advancing sustainable business practices.


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