Environmentally Friendly Decisions for Today’s PC User

Back in the 90’s, I could count on one hand how many people I knew had a computer, or just had access to one. With the fast pace of changes such as Moore’s Law and affordability of computers and hardware over the past 10 years, everybody I know has a PC or are upgrading one, buying their second or third computer. With current buying trends comes certain responsibilities. We need to be thinking about how our purchasing decisions are affecting the environment around us in addition to persons living in other countries. If you want to start making a contribution to saving your environment, you can start by changing your buying habits.

Green logos

The above logos can help guide you in your future buying decisions. Green Computing is a hot topic these days and many consumers are consciously looking into how they can help improve the environment by buying products that are Green certified.

What is Green Computing?

Green computing involves reducing the electricity and environmental waste while using a computer. Computers use and often waste resources such as electricity and paper. The industry has become aware of this problem and is implementing important measures to combat it. Personal computers, displays, and printers should comply with guidelines of the Energy STAR program, which was developed by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) and United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

This program encourages manufacturers to create energy efficient devices that require little power when they are not in use. For example, many devices switch to standby or power save mode after a specified number of inactive minutes or hours. Computers and devices that meet ENERGY STAR guidelines display an ENERGY STAR label.

What can we do with old computers?

You might have an old computer, printer or some other device you are not using anymore. Either its obsolete or just doesn’t meet your needs anymore. You can start by not storing obsolete computers and devices in your basement, storage room, attic, warehouse or any other location. Computers, monitors, and other equipment contain toxic materials and potentially dangerous elements including lead, mercury and flame retardants. In a landfill, these material are released into the environment. There are some options available such as refurbishing or recycling the equipment. A couple months ago I was listening to a call in radio program, a student who just started a Data Operations course at an institution was pleading for some assistance because she doesn’t have a computer and wouldn’t mind getting a second hand PC just to practice Word Processing, Spreadsheet and Database Management. So, even if that old computer is not useful to you anymore, there might be a student or school who might just need it for basic task.

Local governments are working on methods to make it easy for consumers to recycle their old equipment, but you can also help by altering some habits now, here is a list of ways you can contribute to a healthy, more energy efficient environment:

  • Use computers and devices that comply with ENERGY STAR program or recognized Green Computing initiatives. You will often recognize this by a logo featuring a green leaf or similar branding.
  • Do not leave the computer and devices running overnight. I admit, this is a bad habit of mine, but I am cutting it out these days.
  • Turn off your monitor, printer, and other devices when not in use. In fact, I haven’t used my printer at home in months, so you know what I did? I plugged it out.
  • Use paperless methods to communicate – Windows Live services from Microsoft are helping to make this initiative a reality, free electronic email services and programs such as Windows Live Hotmail/Mail, Skydrive, Photos make it easy and convenient to share files with colleagues and memories with family and friends.
  • If you must use paper, ensure that old papers are recycled and ensure that the paper you buy is recycled.
  • Recycle toner cartridges.
  • Recycle old computers and printers.
  • Shop online – there are so many online stores and services these days, cut out the unnecessary travel if you can.
  • Telecommunication is also a great way to help protect the environment. Windows 7 includes tools such as Remote Desktop that allow you to access files and other resources at the office.
  • Download instead of going for the boxed copy. Do you really need to have a physical box or DVD copy? Thick manuals are even more useless, since they become obsolete the moment you pull the box. Online resources and help forums are all the manuals you will need and they always have the latest information “a live person”. Especially with today’s enormous external hard disk on the cheap, just buy one and store your digital downloads on them for backup purposes. Millions of packaging world wide are simply thrown away each year, don’t add anymore to it if you can.

If you are going to donate a used machine, don’t just leave it on the doorstep somewhere. A little planning will ensure that the machine goes to a good cause. Before you give it away, make sure you’ve removed your personal data – letters, financial information etc. onto your new computer using migration tools such as LapLink or Windows Easy Transfer or backup your data to DVDs/external hard disk.

If you plan to keep the software you were using before, you should remove it from the computer you are giving away. When you are ready to give the computer away, call the school, church or organization first. Some will be unable to use the model you’re offering even if it works well. Some groups, however, welcome computers of any age and in almost any condition, but you should still call them before donating. Here are list of organizations you can donate your computer to and give it new life and purpose.


Donate a Computer to Computer Recycling Center

CompuMentor Home Page


National Cristina Foundation

Additional resources:

Computer disposal, donation, and recycle information

HP Environment: Product recycling

eCycling | Common Wastes & Materials | US EPA

Where Can I Donate or Recycle My Old Computer and Other Electronic

Computer recycling – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


The Electronics Recycling Superguide

Windows 7 helps too

Windows 7 extends battery life for your mobile PC, helping you be productive longer while still getting great performance. Power-saving enhancements include increasing the idle time for the processor, automatically dimming the display, and more power-efficient playback for DVDs. With Windows 7, you’re also kept better-informed about battery status.

Get Idle and Stay Idle Longer. An idle processor increases battery life. Windows 7 reduces background activities and supports the trigger-starting of system services, so your computer’s processor can be in an idle state more often.

Adaptive Display Brightness. The display on a typical mobile PC consumes more battery power than any other part of the computer. Windows 7 automatically reduces display brightness after a period of inactivity, much like cell phones do today. And Windows 7 intelligently adapts to your activity. For example, if the screen dims after 30 seconds and you immediately move the mouse to brighten

the display, Windows 7 will wait 60 seconds before dimming the display again.

Power-saving DVD Playback. Your PC will use less power when playing a DVD. Windows 7 requires less processing power than previous versions of Windows and is more efficient when it spins the disc, so you’re more likely to get through a full movie with a single battery charge.

Wake on Wireless LAN. Having your computer go into Sleep state when idle is a good way to conserve power, and Wake on LAN provides a way to wake up” a computer that’s in Sleep state over the network when you need to access it remotely. However, in Windows Vista, waking up a computer that’s in Sleep state could only be done over a wired network connection. Wake on Wireless LAN in Windows 7 provides the same capabilities over a wireless network connection.

For example, if you have a PC in your kitchen that’s wirelessly connected to your home network and want to view a photo on that system from your laptop in the bedroom, the computer in the kitchen can be in Sleep state and wake-up to allow you to see the photo. Similarly, in an enterprise environment, IT administrators can wake up wirelessly connected computers to apply software updates or perform other maintenance. In this way, IT administrators can minimize power costs for wirelessly connected systems.

Smart Network Power. Today, your mobile PC sends energy to parts of your computer when they’re not being used—such as sending power to the network adapter when you don’t have an Ethernet cable plugged-in. Windows 7 automatically turns off power to the network adapter (subject to adapters and drivers supporting this feature) when the cable is disconnected and restores power when the cable is connected. IT professionals can take advantage of this feature to reduce power costs.

Battery Life Notification. Windows 7 provides more prominent, timely, and accurate battery life notifications, helping you remain aware of power consumption and remaining battery life.

Power Efficiency Diagnostics. In Windows 7, the PowerCfg utility is updated to detect problems across devices, policies, firmware, system settings, applications, and other common areas where settings can reduce power efficiency. The information is provided in an easy to understand report. Although this feature is designed primarily for developers and system integrators, it can also be useful to tech-savvy users.

Performance improvements start under-the-hood. Windows 7 is designed to reduce background activity

and adds support for trigger-starting of system services, starting them only when they’re needed instead of ahead of-time. For example, the Windows Bluetooth service is only started when a Bluetooth device is connected. This means that Windows 7 runs fewer services by default than Windows Vista while offering increased functionality.

A couple key areas where you’ll notice improved performance in Windows 7 include the following:

Startup and Shutdown. Windows 7 is ready when  you are. It’s designed to start, hibernate, and shut down faster than Windows Vista, although individual user experiences will vary based on specific hardware and software configurations.

Resume from Standby. When resuming from Standby, Windows 7 is designed to reconnect to your wireless network faster than Windows Vista, so your PC will be ready to use in seconds. You’ll spend even less time waiting for your computer to be ready if you use the Sleep mode.

All of these improvements from Windows 7, to the types of computers and components we purchase can affect our environment for the better, cleaner air, cleaner water and a better life!

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