10 Tips for Going Green with Your Computer

November 5, 2008

The information revolution helped spark the green revolution.  Computers have been instrumental in everything from designing more-efficient engines to running alternative-energy power plants to distributing information on the Internet that allows us to make smarter, greener choices.

But computers themselves can be a bit of a problem. Many of their components are manufactured using noxious chemicals, other components present safe disposal problems, and of course, they can be power-hungry consumers of electricity.

Here are a few ways you can do your computing in a more planet-positive way.

1) The good news on cost: on the whole, greener computers don’t cost much more than their non-green siblings. And you’ll save money every minute they’re running, not to mention the peace of mind you’ll get.

2) Before you buy, do the research, using sites like Metaefficent.com. They’ll tell you which companies are doing the most, and which models are the greenest (and which are the worst) The EPEAT system was created by electronics manufacturers working with the EPA to evaluate computers; they’ve got a great set of search tools on their website.  And Greanpeace has a great greener-electronics guide on their site.

3) Energy costs have gone up so much that businesses that use large numbers of PCs are finally starting to take the power consumption of their computers seriously, pushing manufacturers to get serious about efficiency. Dell offers some good models, like their Studio Hybrid; if you’re on the Apple side, the Mac Mini is another energy sipper.

4) The European Union has implemented a Restriction of Hazardous Substances ban that cuts allowable levels of lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, and flame retardants. Even if you don’t live in Europe, you can use RoHS information when buying your home computer.

5) Go with a laptop rather than a desktop. Laptop computers typically have energy-efficiency built right in, to optimize battery life. Add an external monitor, mouse and keyboard for when you’re working at home, and you’re set.

6) For peak efficiency, go for a peak monitor. Lenovo is one of the best; among EPEAT’s gold-certified monitors, 11 of 15 were made by Lenovo. Dell is also making a big push in this area. Look for monitors with reduced energy consumption, often made from recycled materials.

7) Just about everything comes with excessive packaging these days, with huge cardboard boxes full of bulky, non-biodegradable styrofoam. But not all – for instance, HP’s DV6929 laptop comes packed in a messenger bag, itself made of 100% recycled material. Hint: when companies go the low-packaging route, it’s often for units that are already very green; the DV6929 is EPEAT-silver.

8) Recycle your old computers and components responsibly! That probably means more than just taking it down to the landfill. In some places, it’s even the law – Texas just passed mandatory recycling.   There are a number of resources online, like technocycle.com. A Google search can help you find resources in your area.

9) When your computer is running, you want to optimize your power usage. Verdiem has a free software application, Edison,  that allows quick, easy, one-step setup to optimize your computer’s power usage.

10) Do you know about vampire power? Even when off, many computers and monitors can draw a watt of power or more. Put your systems on a power strip, and when you shut down, turn off the power switch on the strip.

11) Finally – really, turn it off! Many people leave their systems running 24/7, burning enough energy to light a small city. Give it a rest!

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Comments

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  • http://www.johnhacking.com/ Brisbane Website Designer

    Thanks for writing such a unique article on going green. We're all about going green nowadays who knew though? THanks again!

  • http://technocycle.com Texas Computer Recyclers

    Some great insights! I appreciate the focus on packaging. I would add to that that when appropriate purchasing used or refurbished gear is actually pretty green. A lot of waste comes from the manufacturing process and not just the finished materials.

  • http://technocycle.com Texas Computer Recyclers

    Some great insights! I appreciate the focus on packaging. I would add to that that when appropriate purchasing used or refurbished gear is actually pretty green. A lot of waste comes from the manufacturing process and not just the finished materials.

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  • cheapuseddellcomputers

    Many popular online retailers sell used and refurbished goods. Adorama, KEH, and B&H are the most well-known. From time to time, sites like Amazon or Buy.com will offer refurbished equipment.

  • HelenOster

    Thank you for the heads up for buying refurbished from Adorama.

    I thought that a little more information might be helpful for people who unclear as to what exactly a refurbished item is.

    Refurbs from Adorama Camera may be ex-store demos, possibly used in field tests or sales displays, or are items that have been ordered in error and returned to the retailer (who can't then sell them as 'new' so they have to be sent back to the manufacturer for refurbishment). They can also have simply been pulled from the production line if something appears faulty, or which haven't passed the final inspection.

    Most of the time it is a very minor issue that needs correcting, nevertheless, once they are pulled from the normal flow of production, they get flagged as a refurbished model, so you may actually get a model straight from the factory that really has never been used!

    A refurbished item will have been checked over by the manufacturer by hand, inspected very thoroughly, diagnosed, and calibrated by experienced technicians, and could therefore turn out to be more dependable than a new item – which will only have been checked by a process of systematic quality control protocol (ie by random sampling as they come off the conveyor belt).

    However, as to the individual history of a single item, the honest answer is we have no way of knowing. Refurbished equipment is not like new inventory; the manufacturers contact us when they have a batch to sell, and the availability is unpredictable. However, if you were to ask my personal opinion on whether the equipment that Adorama offers as refurbished is typically a lot less than a year old, based on the regularity with which we receive batches, I'd be inclined to think it is all relatively new.

    It is important to be sure when buying refurbished that a warranty is offered by the retailer, and in addition, it may be worth considering the purchase of an extended warranty.

    Even after purchasing an extended warranty, purchasers are often surprised to find that they have still spent less than if they had purchased a “new” item.

    I hope this helps, but if you ever have a query or concern regarding an order from Adorama Camera, AdoramaPix or Leisure Pro, please don't hesitate to contact me directly.

    Sincerely

    Helen Oster
    Adorama Camera Customer Service Ambassador

    helen.oster@adoramacamera.com
    http://www.adorama.com

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