Make Your Computer go Green October 2, 2008Posted by Abdurahman in technology.
Tags: electronics, green, green computer, low energy, power management, power saver
After all, the machine that can provide you with information on how to lead an ecologically sound life can also be contributing to the environmental problem you are trying to solve.
Consider the following: A standard-issue PC and monitor left on all the time (a not-uncommon situation) consume 1,109 kilowatt-hours a year, according to estimates from the Environmental Protection Agency. By comparison, refrigerators that meet federal energy-use regulations use, on average, about 514 kilowatt-hours a year. Surely there are things a user can do to reduce a computer’s carbon footprint. Read on to learn ways to run your PC more efficiently, make ecologically intelligent purchasing decisions and dispose of an old computer properly.
The first piece of advice is the simplest: Don’t leave your computer on all the time. Shutting it down after an 8-hour workday provides 16 hours of savings each day. In addition, your computer should be set to go to sleep after periods of inactivity. Different parts of your system can be set to sleep at different times: Setting your energy-saving preferences to put your hard drive to sleep after 15 minutes of inactivity is a good benchmark; your entire computer (which takes more time to wake up) should be set to go to sleep after 30 minutes.
And ditch your screensaver. Screensavers can use your hard drive to power up, and photo screensavers may require the extra use of a graphics card, which means you’ll have the hard drive, graphics card and monitor all in use. Screensavers are “a throwback from the days of really old-school C.R.T. monitors,” says Barbara Grimes, a spokeswoman for the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, referring to cathode ray tubes. “It’s never been an energy-saving feature.”
There’s also the issue of “phantom” or “vampire” power. Just because your desktop PC or laptop is shut down doesn’t mean it is not using energy. Many pieces of electronics use power even when they are turned off. For example, most TVs turn on instantly because they are always a little bit on. To combat the vampires, take your computer and peripherals and plug them into a device like the Smart Strip power strip, made by Bits Limited, that senses which devices have been turned off and then cuts power to them.
Finally, download a free power-management tool. These applications will show you how much energy you can save by adjusting various settings and will make those adjustments for you in a few clicks. Google’s Energy Saver(http://desktop.google.com/plugins/i/energysaver.html) will, in addition, show you the collective energy savings of everyone using the product; it also integrates into Google’s own Desktop application. Verdiem’s Edison software(http://www.verdiem.com/edison/), released in August, shows users estimated annual savings in terms of money, energy and carbon dioxide emissions. The Edison power management tool lets users choose how aggressive they want to be, with a bar they can slide toward tabs that say “save more” and “save less.”
Out With the Old?
If you do decide to purchase a new computer, make sure that you choose a computer and monitor that are Energy Star compliant. Energy Star computers must meet energy-use guidelines established by the E.P.A. in three areas: standby, active and sleep modes. TheElectronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (www.epeat.net) is another grading system that evaluates products according to 51 criteria. In general, laptops are greener than desktops because they have been designed with power sensitivity in mind. But desktops are easier to upgrade, and therefore may last longer. Newer computers tend to be more energy- efficient than older models. For example, Energy Star-qualified computers must come with the display set to go into sleep mode within 15 minutes of user inactivity.
As for whether Macs are greener than PCs, it depends on whom you ask and which PC you use. Greenpeace’s “Guide to Greener Electronics,” for example, ranks the top 18 manufacturers of personal computers and other products “according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change.” Updated every three months, its September 2008 edition ranked Nokia as the green frontrunner , ahead of rivals Sony, Delland, yes, Apple.
Some manufacturers are removing hazardous or toxic chemicals from their computers. Apple, for example, has said it will eliminate polyvinyl chloride and brominated flame retardants in its products, and arsenic in all glass of flat-panel displays, by the end of 2008.
Unfortunately, that effort has not spread as quickly across the industry as some would like. “I wish I could say that a lot of companies have eliminated their toxic chemicals or had made some significant improvements, but that’s just not where the industry is,” says Barbara Kyle, national coordinator of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
When it comes to recycling your computer, picking the right recycling company is critical. If done right, recyclers should reuse the parts they can and manage waste responsibly, which means making sure parts don’t go to countries with poor ecological track records, like China, and that items that do get exported (like circuit boards and leaded glass) go to green-friendly sites in developed nations. In 2005, used or unwanted electronics amounted to approximately 1.9 million to 2.2 million tons of waste in the United States. Of that number, about 1.7 million tons were dumped in landfills, and only 345,000 to 379,000 tons were recycled, according to the E.P.A.
But it is hard to be sure if the recycler is not dumping your PC behind your back. “There’s no such certification program,” adds Ms. Kyle of the TakeBack coalition, which helps promote responsible recycling and green design in the electronics industry. “At least our partner, Basel Action Network, puts the recyclers through initial screenings. Will people know 100 percent? No, but it’s the best thing right now.” Electronic TakeBack’s list of recyclers can be found at tinyurl.com/5yrb9k.
Computer manufacturers like Apple, Hewlett Packard and Sony offer recycling programs, but Dell goes even further: The company will recycle free, including pickup, any Dell brand product — no matter when it was bought. Dell will also pick up other product brands free if the consumer purchases a new Dell.
Concerning manufacturer recycling programs, Ms. Kyle said that with a number of manufacturers, “you have to either pay them or you have to buy a new computer to get them to take your old PC back for free. There’s a huge disconnect between what people want to do and what they can do and that’s where the manufacturers need to step up.”
taken from : New York Times