Q: With all of the emphasis on “green” everything, I’d like to know what I can do to make my computer more “green.” — Jamie
A: The technology industry accounts for approximately 2 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions (mostly from the power generation), which is equivalent to the emissions generated by the aviation industry, according to Gartner Research. The popularity of the personal computer has no doubt had a major impact on our environment, and if we all start thinking about “green computing” we can collectively reduce the impact. Whether you want to help fight global warming or just save money on energy, these tips can help:
• Tip 1 — Activate the power saving options. Most computers have the ability to set power saving options for the monitor, the hard drive(s) and the entire system. To access the Power Options in Windows, click on the Start button, then on Control Panel and then on Power Options. To access the Energy Saver option in Mac OS X, choose System Preferences from the Apple menu, then choose Energy Saver from the View menu.
• Tip 2 — Turn it off! Your display screen is the biggest power consuming device, especially if it’s one of the older CRT monitors. Today’s flat panels consume less than half the power of older CRT screens, so consider replacing if you still have an old display. Hit the display’s power button when you are going to be away from your computer for a while, or, if you aren’t going to be using the computer for several hours or overnight, shut the entire system down instead of letting it go to sleep.
• Tip 3 — Optimize your computer’s performance. If your computer takes forever to boot up and seems to be getting slower for just about everything, not only is it aggravating, you’re wasting energy. Anything that’s running in the background is expending your computer’s resources and wasting energy at the same time. If you haven’t had your computer cleaned up in the past year or two, getting it serviced will lower your blood pressure and reduce the power consumption.
• Tip 4 — If you have a laptop, use it more. Laptops by design are more efficient users of electricity, so if you own both a desktop and a laptop, use the laptop as much as you can.
• Tip 5 — Get rid of the cutesy screen saver. Many improperly associate screen savers with power savers. Screen savers were designed to keep screens from “burning in” and are actually power wasters. Those cute photos of your family vacation when your screen saver kicks in cause power to be wasted by your hard drive, CPU and monitor. For the lowest power consumption, set your screen saver option to “blank.”
• Tip 6 — Dispose of old technology properly. Never dispose of any electronic device by throwing it away, as the toxic waste in all electronics is substantial. Check with your municipality for local charities, schools, churches or recycling programs to donate or recycle your old electronics properly. Tips for scrubbing your personal information from an old computer before donating or recycling can be found at www.datadoctors.com/recycle.
• Tip 7 — Keep it digital. The popularity of digital music downloads has reduced the number of CDs manufactured by the music industry. Using an iPod or other MP3 players instead of burning CDs reduces waste. Instead of using a fax machine, scan a document so it can be e-mailed. Businesses can set up a fax server instead of a traditional fax machine so all incoming faxes are digitized automatically and save the paper. Instead of printing out something so you can read it, read it on the screen.
Instead of printing out a photo to send to someone, use one of the online photo sharing services. If you think about it, the digital options are almost endless.
Ken Colburn is president of Data Doctors Computer Services and host of the “Computer Corner” radio show, which can be heard at www.datadoctors.com/radio. Readers may send questions to email@example.com.