Kermit the Frog told us that it's not easy being green, but that concept also applies to computers and how they can be more friendly to our planet. Learn how computers impact the environment, and how Green Computing can make a difference...
What is Green Computing?
The phrase "green computing" may conjure up some humorous images if you're not familiar with the term. Normally, we think of gas guzzling cars, factories, pesticides, and such when considering environmental concerns. So what does the term "green" signify in the context of everyday computing?
In a world where computers are everywhere, and environmental concerns are growing by the day, we need to consider how we can build, use and dispose of computers in a manner that's conducive to the health of the environment. That includes reducing the use of lead and other hazardous materials in manufacturing, being careful about energy consumption and paper waste by computer users, and concern for salvage or recycling of old computers. Millions of computers are dumped into landfills each year. That equates to a lot of lead, cadmium, mercury and brominated flame retardants, which will contaminate both water and air.
You may not be in the business of manufacturing computers, but as a user there are some steps you can take to reduce waste and energy consumption.
- Use LCD monitors instead of CRT monitors, which consume a lot more electricity. LCD monitors uses three times less when active, and ten times less energy when in sleep mode.
- Use laptops instead of desktop computers, also cuts down on energy usage. The Everex StepNote NC1501 is touted as the world's most energy efficient notebook computer, using only 12W peak power. By comparison, a desktop model uses 200-400 watts.
- If a laptop is not feasible, look for the Energy Star label when purchasing a computer. New US government regulations make this more important than it's been for the past fifteen years.
- Disable your screen saver. Burn-in is not an issue with modern monitors, and screen savers can prevent your monitor and computer from going into idle/sleep mode.
- Enable the power management features on your computer, to turn off components such as the monitor, fans and hard drive when idle. On Windows, go to Control Panel / Power Options. On OS X, go to System Preferences / Energy Saver.
- Switch off the monitor, printer, scanner and other peripherals when not in use.
Perhaps you've never considered the potential of such small steps, but the global impact can be large if computers users begin to adopt these simple steps. Of course, there are some tradeoffs... LCD monitors and laptops are more expensive than CRT monitors and desktop computers currently. Energy savings do offset some of that extra cost, especially over the course of several years. And if consumers begin a trend towards buying greener computers, economy of scale should result in manufacturing prices trending lower as well.
Resources for Green Computing
The Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics ranks computer manufacturers on how well they do at eliminating harmful chemicals during manufacturing, and on recycling programs for products that are discarded. The guide does not list any major manufacturers as having "gone green" but Dell and Lenovo scored the best, at 7.3 out of 10 on their scale. Toshiba scored a 6, Acer was ranked at 5.7, while HP and Apple shared the worst score of 5.3.
If you have an old computer, check with local non-profits and schools to see if they can use it. If not, check with the manufacturer to see if they have a recycling program. Some electronics stores will also accept electronics items for recycling. The Computer Recycling Center provides several drop-off locations in California, and Earth 911 has a guide to recycling computers.
Despite the challenges involved in going green, awareness is necessary amongst all users whether at the individual or company level. Ultimately we all inherit the earth, but the contribution of green computing can go a long way in achieving the aim of a healthy environment which is safe for future generations as well.
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 13 Jul 2007
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Green Computing (Posted: 13 Jul 2007)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved