5 Tips for Reducing the Environmental Impact of your PC

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5 Tips for Reducing the Environmental Impact of your PC

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Last week we spent some time on Twitter with the Microsoft Windows team discussing “green PC’s”. There are a lot of opportunities to reduce the amount of energy that PC’s and monitors consume while operating, and to also support more environmentally-friendly manufacturing and disposal practices. For instance, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, PC power management such as those built into Windows 7 operating system can save you about $50 each year for every desktop computer. Used widely, power management tools could shave $500 million off the nation’s energy bill and eliminate 3 million tons of global warming pollution.

Here are some tips to consider when purchasing PCs and monitors - I hope you find them helpful:

1. Laptops vs Desktops. If you’re concerned about saving energy, choosing a laptop over a desktop PC might be your best bet, even if you plan to use it with an external monitor and keyboard. Many modern laptops consume less than 30 watts when running at full performance, compared with a modern desktop PC that idles around 60W and can consume in excess of 150W at full tilt -and that’s not including the monitor. Many new small form-factor laptops idle at less than 15W – less than the power used by a typical Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb.

2. Check your power management settings. Windows makes it easy to save energy by automatically putting your computer to sleep and turning off the display when you aren’t using it. It can even extend the life of your monitor. Even if you already have power management enabled, try reducing the sleep and display blanking timeouts – do you really need to be gone from your PC for 15 minutes before the display goes off? It should come as no surprise that screen savers don’t save energy, and in some cases, use more energy than when you are using the PC yourself – so consider disabling them. Climate Savers Computing has some great instructions on how to check and improve power management on various versions of Windows.

3. Make your next PC an EPEAT PC. EPEAT makes it easy to discover the greenest PCs available. Covering full lifecycle of PCs (manufacturing, use and disposal), EPEAT rates PCs and monitors on over 50 criteria and rates them with a bronze, silver and gold status. You can also check for the EPEAT logo when you visit online retailers such as CDW, Best Buy and Office Depot. Ben the PC guy shared more about this the other day.

4. Unplug unused equipment when not in use (monitor, PC, wireless phones, printer, etc.). Many of your older electronic products that are plugged into the wall can still draw significant amounts of energy when they aren’t even being used. If an external power supply is warm, then it’s consuming at least some energy. You can buy smart power strips that automatically cut power to your other devices when the PC goes into sleep mode. The power strip provides the few watts the PC needs while in sleep, but can cut power to everything else until the PC is turned on.

5. Refurb, Reuse, Recycle: Did you recently upgrade to a new Windows 7 PC? Do you have an ancient tower standing around in your living room like Julie? If so, you may want to consider a few alternatives to just chucking it in the trash can. Surveys conducted by the US Environmental Protection Agency have noted that only 15% to 20% percent of retired personal computers, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices are being recycled in the United States. That means that odds are 1 in 5 that you weren’t considering recycling. The thing is, it’s not that hard to recycle and it keeps your information safe.

If you have other tips, tricks and suggestions, please let us know in the comments field below!

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  • Enterprise PC Power Management systems such as Utopia Power Manager is another quick way to save money. PC Power Management is NOT a costly project. More info: www.windows-power-manager.com

  • I think that using windows iteself consumes more energy than Mac. I may be wrong. But, I have found that using my Macbook with Snow Leopard and Windows 7.

    At full battery, running Mac OS X keeps running on battery for 4 to 5 hours ideally and with Windows only 2 to 3 hours. I can not get my head justifying this fact. Why there is a difference of 2 hours with the same machine.

  • It's a good thing to awake the people about the green computing..

    Many people are using their computers without knowing that how much energy they are using in just one hour..

  • A Mac running Windows uses more power than a Mac running Mac OS X because Apple has not provided optimized drivers for Windows like PC OEMs do for their PCs.  The corrent drivers make a big difference to battery runtime.

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