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Government Funds Website That Says Buy Less IT

Do The Green Thing site gets DECC money. Sweating assets may be good for the environment, but does not do much to stimulate economic growth

Following the news that the IT industry recently witnessed the first fall in demand for PCs since the dot com crash, the announcment that the government is funding a website which calls on consumers to hang onto their kit longer won’t bring much comfort to computer manufacturers.

In a statement released today, the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (Nesta) announced that up to 17 community projects are set to receive around £20,00 each as part of the Big Green Challenge Plus scheme.

The funding for the projects is in addition to the £1million already awarded to 10 finalists as part of the Big Green Challenge. According Climate Change and Energy secretary Ed Milliband the government decided to reward not only the ten finalists but a selection of the runners-up as well.

“Local solutions to the global problem of climate change are vital if we are to make the shift to a low-carbon future. The winners of Big Green Challenge Plus provide an example of the grassroots action we need to encourage in order to meet our goals,” he said. “I was impressed by the quality of the shortlisted projects – and heartened to see so many people and groups across the country showing real initiative and ingenuity in their approaches.”

However, while the government is obviously keen to ride the green wave and promote ethical behaviour, it is also set on a plan of revitalising the economy through spending and ultimately boosting consumption – an approach which is at odds with the sustainable approaches taken by some of the Big Green Challenge Plus projects.

For example, Do the Green Thing, London, which is described as an “On-line social networking project aimed at encouraging up to one million people to make the shift to  low-carbon living’ has a section called “Stick With What You Got”. The section of the site contains videos – including one lampooning the MacBook Air –  and other information urging consumers to keep existing mobile phones, PCs and other technology and not to be swayed by technology marketing.

“The latest phone in pink titanium. The latest laptop that’s 2mm thinner. Peer pressure and ad pressure means you’re incomplete unless you buy them. Trouble is, surplus consumption leads to surplus production and CO2 so far better if you can Stick With What You Got – and be happy,” the website states.

The site goes on to attack the fundamentals of the IT industry and much of the government’s plan on how to drive the economy out of recession. “The only real solution to avoid consuming ourselves out of all our planet’s resources is really just to buy less in the first place,” a blog on the site states.

But despite jarring with the government’s commitment for the UK to spend itself out of recession, the approach of sites such as Do The Green Thing does fit with other aspects of government policy.

Speaking in May at the Green IT ’09 conference in London, Cabinet Office deputy champion for green ICT Catalina McGregor, said that as well as facing mandated targets, government departments will be asked to potentially hold onto existing IT kit even longer.

“For the first time we are getting really good information out of Japan, out of the Swiss, and a number of countries about the carbon footprint of creating kit – how much water goes into creating kit, silicon, sand and on an elemental level – so please keep your eyes open because the math from that production is going to help us make a better judgment call on how long we keep our equipment,” she told an audience of government and private sector IT pros at the two day show.

According to information on the site, Green Thing’s social network advisor is Paul Birch, co-founder of Bebo and it is also supported by Linda Garforth, ex-CFO of BT Business and BT Wireless.