Go green with a computer


Columbia, MO—With Earth Day fast approaching on April 22, 2008, computer users are looking to reduce energy consumption and waste when they use and upgrade their computers and other electronic gadgets. Few people realize how a couple small changes can help save energy, resources and even the money in their pocket.

Josh Devers is a technical support lead for Socket, a Missouri-based telephone and Internet provider. He is also an active supporter of environmental issues.

“Technology can cause some significant conflicts with the environment,” said Devers. “Fortunately, as technology evolves so do power-saving features and recycling programs, making it easier than ever to minimize negative consequences.”

Going green with a workstation isn’t too difficult, Devers says. The easiest and most significant change a user can make is to conserve power by turning off the computer and accessories when not in use.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a typical desktop computer and monitor running constantly will consume approximately 112 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. Turning a computer off when not in use—such as at night for an office machine or during the day for a home computer—can cut energy consumption by as much as 67% while reducing heat stress and wear on the computer.

Power-saving tools are also included with most operating systems today, which can put the machine in “sleep” or “standby” mode after a specified period of inactivity. Users can adjust these settings to fit their specific needs and activities. When leaving the computer for shorter periods of time, turning the monitor off will also conserve energy.

Additionally, using a screen saver is not recommended because it actually consumes more energy to display the graphics even if the monitor is off. It is therefore best to use the “blank” option for a screen saver.

Computer users should also be aware that electronic devices still consume power even when they are turned off. If possible, use a surge protector or power strip to completely shut down power, and do not leave items such as cell phone chargers plugged in when not in use. Even better, switch to a USB charger, which automatically stops drawing power when a charge is complete.

Devers says another negative result of technological advancements is the increased waste generated when consumers upgrade to the latest equipment. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than two million tons of unwanted electronics are discarded each year, and only 20% of that is recycled. In addition, a significant amount of the waste is still in good working order and can be reused before its life cycle ends.

Many recycling programs exist to minimize this waste. Web sites such as www.techsoup.org can connect worthy charities and non-profit organizations with working equipment that is less than five years old. If equipment is not functioning or is severely outdated, he suggests visiting www.mygreenelectronics.org to find local electronic recyclers.

By making these minor adjustments to computer power consumption and reusing or recycling unwanted equipment, computer users will save money and feel good about making a difference.

“Our planet is a beautiful place,” Devers said. “Any time we can make a small change or take a step toward keeping it that way, it’s a good thing.”

Socket Tech Talk is provided as a service to distribute general information concerning technology-related topics. Please consult your local computer expert for information specific to your situation.