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Hardcover | $24.95 Trade | £17.95 | ISBN: 9780262013932 | 224 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 2 b&w illus., 9 halftones, 8 graphs| March 2010
Paperback | $14.95 Trade | £10.95 | ISBN: 9780262517508 | 224 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 2 b&w illus., 9 halftones, 8 graphs| February 2012

Essential Info

Greening through IT

Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability


Environmental issues often span long periods of time, far-flung areas, and labyrinthine layers of complexity. In Greening through IT, Bill Tomlinson investigates how the tools and techniques of information technology (IT) can help us tackle environmental problems at such vast scales. Tomlinson describes theoretical, technological, and social aspects of a growing interdisciplinary approach to sustainability, "Green IT," offering both a human-centered framework for understanding Green IT systems and specific examples and case studies of Green IT in action.

Tomlinson contrasts the broad ranges of time, space, and complexity against which environmental concerns play out to the relatively narrow horizons of human understanding: it's hard for us to grasp thousand-year projections of global climatic disruption or our stake in melting icecaps thousands of miles away. IT can bridge the gap between human scales of understanding and environmental scales.

Tomlinson offers many examples of efforts toward sustainability supported by IT—from fishers in India who maximized the sales potential of their catch by coordinating their activities with mobile phones to the installation of smart meters that optimize electricity use in California households—and offers three detailed studies of specific research projects that he and his colleagues have undertaken: EcoRaft, an interactive museum exhibit to help children learn principles of restoration ecology; Trackulous, a set of web-based tools with which people can chart their own environmental behavior; and GreenScanner, an online system that provides access to environmental-impact reports about consumer products. Taken together, these examples illustrate the significant environmental benefits that innovations in information technology can enable.

About the Author

Bill Tomlinson is Associate Professor of Informatics at the University of California, Irvine, and a Researcher at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.

Table of Contents

  • Greening through IT
  • Greening through IT
  • Information Technology for Environmental Sustainability
  • Bill Tomlinson
  • The MIT Press
  • Cambridge, Massachusetts
  • London, England
  • © 2010
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

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  • This book was set in Stone Sans and Stone Serif by the MIT Press.
  • Printed on recycled paper and bound in the United States of America.

  • Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Tomlinson, Bill, 1972–
Greening through IT : information technology for environmental sustainability / Bill Tomlinson.
 p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-262-01393-2 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. Green technology. 2. Information technology—Environmental aspects. I. Title.
TD145.T48 2010

  • 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  • For Miles, who kicks.
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments  ix
  • 1 Introduction to Green IT  1
  • 2 Environmental Horizons  29
  • 3 Human Horizons  47
  • 4 The Role of Technology  63
  • 5 Survey of Green IT Systems  91
  • 6 Green IT and Education  109
  • 7 Green IT and Personal Change  129
  • 8 Green IT and Collective Action  147
  • 9 Ways Forward  171
  • Notes  183
  • References  185
  • Index  205


"Greening through IT provides timely insights into the fusion underway between those within the environmental and policy fields, focused on sustainable development, and those in IT with the interest and training to harness all manner of information technology in pursuit of sustainability. Tomlinson explores many examples and uses a cogent narrative to demonstrate that the fusion is emerging, albeit, with far too little recognition and appreciation. This book makes good reading for techno-skeptics who undervalue the contributions IT has and is continuing to make and for techno-optimists who will learn through this comprehensive treatment how far the fusion has come."
Daniel A. Mazmanian, Bedrosian Chair in Governance and environmental policy scholar, The School of Policy, Planning, and Development, University of Southern California, coeditor of Toward Sustainable Communities

"I strongly recommend Greening through IT. This is a timely and extremely valuable book that covers the environmental systems. When about 60% of the world population is currently facing malnutrition and when it is projected that in 30 to 40 years oil reserves will be depleted, this will have a major impact on food production and other environmental problems worldwide."
David Pimentel, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University

"Green is the new digital. IT is the macroscope needed to understand it. What feels counterintuitive at the beginning of this book is obvious by the end."
Nicholas Negroponte, Founding Chairman Emeritus, MIT Media Lab, Founder and Chairman, One Laptop per Child