Go green

Inspired by Gore? Want to do more? Read on to learn how to compute in an environmentally friendly way.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  February 1, 2008

In this post-Inconvenient Truth era, more people are becoming aware of climate change and many are subsequently thinking about how they can alter their habits to better protect the world we live in.

To this end, there are several changes you can make to how you interact with technology - at home, at work, and when on the move - all of which will decrease your carbon footprint, and that of your company.

Best of all, as many of the following suggestions relate specifically to the amount of power your devices munch through, these tips should also lead to you reducing your energy bills.

1. Power down

According to the team at the WWF-run Climate Savers Computing Initiative (CSCI), the average desktop PC wastes nearly half of the power that's delivered to it. And of course, this wasted electricity translates to unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions (when this electricity is produced), and also higher electricity bills for you.

There are several ways in which you can drastically cut the amount of juice your PC or laptop uses however. Let's examine these in more detail...

• Basics first: turn off your PC when you leave home or work - even if it's just for a break or for lunch.

Let's assume you're running a fairly unassuming 200-watt workstation but you currently leave it turned on all the time. Its direct annual electrical costs might total more than US $125 (calculated based upon a fee of $0.075/kWh). If you even just operate the system during normal business hours, say around 40 hours per week, then the direct annual energy cost would be just $30. And even then, that's assuming you need to use your PC constantly during work hours.

• Also turn off your PC's peripherals when not in use. Your laser printer might sit in standby mode all day for example, yet only be used once or twice. Again, this is an obvious waste of power.

• Activate your PC or laptop's power management settings. The CSCI reckons that by turning on these features (which are available already within your computer's operating system), and choosing energy-efficient computers when you buy, you'll be kinder to both the environment and your wallet - to the tune of an estimated $20 per year.

If everyone used these features, the CSCI's predication is that we could, together, reduce the impact of computers on the environment by 54 million tons of CO2 per year. That's the equivalent of taking 11 million cars off the road.

Once enabled, power management places your monitor, hard drives and computer into a low-power ‘sleep' mode after a pre-determined period of inactivity. A simple touch of the mouse or keyboard then ‘wakes' the PC, hard drive and monitor in just a couple of seconds.

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