This was originally published on the Earthjustice Blog in December of 2008.
It’s a conundrum: how can you reduce your carbon footprint without giving up all of your nifty electronic gadgets? And, if this isn’t your conundrum, it’s surely your spouse’s, or your kid’s or your cousin’s, right? Cell phones, iPods, PCs, laptops, TVs, DVDs, VCRs, DVRs, GPSs, radios, stereos, and home entertainment systems are just a fraction of the energy leaking devices we all have a mix of these days. While selling them all on Ebay is an option, it might not be the preferred solution. So here are some tips on how to reduce the energy output of those gadgets.
Shop Smart. Look for energy-saving features supported by the product, some of which will be listed as such, some not.
1. Energy Star compliance. Dell and HP sell lots of systems, and some are designed to operate more efficiently. The Energy Star program sets environmental standards for technology and certifies them for compliance. You can browse Energy-Star compliant products at their web site.
2. EPEAT. The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool is a website that, like Energy Star, rates products according to environmental standards. Focused on computers, laptops and monitors, this is another great resource for identifying green products.
Use Only What you Have To. Most electronics continue to draw power after you turn them off. This “feature” is designed to allow them to boot up faster and be more responsive, but it’s been widely deployed with no sensitivity to environmental or even budgetary concerns about idle power use.
1. Truly turn off devices. Newer electronics, such as DVD Players and stereos, offer options to truly turn off when the power isn’t on, with an accompanying warning that the product might take longer to start up. It’s worth the wait.
2. Convenient, green charging. Of course, when you charge your phone or iPod, you don’t leave the charger plugged in when you’re done. But this makes it dangerously easy to plug a cord into your phone without remembering to plug in the other end. Look for devices that can charge via the USB ports on your computer, instead of a wall charger, not because that takes less energy to charge them, but because it eliminates the need to plug and unplug the wall charger.
Be Virtual. If there’s a way to do what you want to do without buying another electrical device, go for it!
1. Backup online. Instead of buying a backup machine or drive for your computer, use an online backup service like Mozy or Carbonite (There are many more online backup options, as well – these are two popular ones).
2. Squeeze multiple computers into one. Sound like magic? It’s not. If you use a Mac and a PC (say, because you love the Mac but need a Windows machine for work compatibility), pick up Parallels or VMWare Fusion, programs that allow you to run multiple computer operating systems on one computer, and retire the second machine.
Go Solar. Costco, Target and other retailers are starting to carry affordable solar chargers, $30 to $50 devices that can replace your wall sockets as the power sources to charge your phones and iPods.
Be Vigilant. Turn things off when they’re not in use, aggressively tweak the power settings on your systems, and make green computing a habit, not a special project.
Take it from a techie like me: we don’t want to abandon the 21st century in order to insure that there’s a 22nd. But we do want to curtail our energy use as much as possible. These are relatively easy first steps in our personal efforts to stop global warming.