The most effective way to turn information technology green might be as simple as automating it.

That way, IT administrators are more likely to use it and organizations are more likely to benefit when computers idle down and unnecessary gear is powered off.

"The new trend we're going to see is to automate," asserts Nishae Brooks, an award-winning systems administrator at Lone Star College Systems in Texas. "A lot of the focus has to make [green technology] fairly seamless."

Green features have long been the focus of technology development. But adoption has been constrained by a lack of awareness and resources as busy IT departments race from one job to the next. Easing access to the technology could begin to change this.

Automation has been the defining feature of several recent Lone Star purchases, Brooks says. Included on the shopping list are motion sensors to turn off projectors and duplex printers set to print by default on both sides of a sheet of paper.

The college similarly installed motion sensors on classroom lights and is looking at imposing sleep-state policies on its PCs to send them into hibernation when a classroom is vacant in perhaps its greatest departure from past practices.

If the technology is built in, users don't have to turn it off when they finish using a device or remember to print on two sides, says Brooks. In fact, they will have to adjust the printer or computer to do otherwise.

Perhaps the biggest step for the college is its implementation of computer sleep states. The technology is now under study.

Lone Star presently makes use of Intel's vPro technology in about 55 percent of its 120,000 PCs, as well as Symantec's Endpoint and Altiris management software. Together, these programs are expected to save $440,000 in energy costs over three years as PCs are remotely turned off at night when they are not in use.

Adopting sleep-state policies could enhance this significantly by idling machines during the day, says Brooks. This could be particularly useful with faculty machines, which are not yet covered by the vPro and Symantec remote shutdown policies. No one wants to switch off the president's laptop when he is in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation, Brooks said on a conference call discussing her school's green projects.

She says the technology under consideration could power down PCs three hours or so a day when they are not being use. This will be more valuable in years to come as the school is rapidly expanding its 13 campuses to ease a classroom shortage. Rooms will see less use in the future.

But it also is a technology that IT staff have had access to in the past. What triggered its adoption is the rollout of Microsoft's Windows 7 operating system, which made it easier to implement through automation.

"It's about awareness," says Brooks. "I'm sure we had the ability to do some of these things before Windows 7, but we weren't aware of it."

When green technologies are built into computer hardware and software, administrators come to understand their benefits more quickly, says Clyde Hedrick, product marketing manager at Intel. Then, "it becomes ingrained in their thinking."