It’s Kinda Easy Bein’ Green

March 17, 2012 by  

With apologies to Kermit The Frog, there are a number of things you can do to make your computing environment a little “greener.”

Admittedly, I’m no paragon of greenness. My friends and family will probably tell you that my home is something akin to a toxic waste dump, barely able to keep off the list of EPA Superfund sites.

That aside, consider this:

Recycle that CRT Monitor. Are you still using a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor on your computer? Well, if you’re not using an older all-in-one Mac (the original iMac, eMac, or similar machine), you can do your eyes and your electric bill a big favor by recycling that old display and replacing it with a nice new, shiny LCD panel. First, today’s LCDs are crisp, clear, and amazingly cheap. The 22 inch widescreen display I paid almost $600 for about two years ago can now be had for under $200. Admittedly, most LCDs still use fluorescent illumination to light up the display, which has some “green” issues due to the use of highly-toxic mercury as part of the method to make them work. The latest and greatest LCDs use much greener and more energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LEDs) to backlight the displays. Use of this technology also can result in much more uniform display illumination, which should mean more accurate color reproduction across the entire display. That’s a good thing. Take your old CRT display to your nearby recycling center. Here in Palm Beach County, you can usually take your old CRT monitors, TVs, etc. to the larger waste transfer stations, most of which have drop-off recycling operations.

Turn Your Computer Off at Night. One quick and easy way to save some energy is to put your computer and any peripherals (monitors, printers, scanners, external disk drives, etc.) on a power strip. When you have finished using your computer for the evening (or whenever), shut your computer down in the usual manner (Apple Menu>Shut Down). Once your computer has powered down, turn off the power strip. This cuts the power to all those power “vampires,” like those little black power supplies we keep stumbling over and knocking out of power strips, that some like to call “wall warts.” These devices consume power whether the device to which they are connected is turned on or off. The only way to keep them from consuming power is to cut off power at the plug. You’d be surprised how much money you can save over a year. The only reason you might want to alter this plan is if you run backups late at night. If you do not have a large number of files to back up, you might try running that backup when you first fire up your computer. Once the backup program starts, get up, have a cup of coffee (or your favorite beverage), and by the time you get back, your backup should be complete and you’ll be ready to go, happy in the knowledge that you have saved some money AND still did a backup of your computer.

Replace subscriptions of paper magazines with online editions. In some cases, this is being forced upon the consumer. The last paper edition of the venerable and respected PC Magazine, once the flagship of the Ziff-Davis publishing empire, was published last January, and was replaced with a for-pay online edition that promised more content and more timely articles. The jury is still out on that, but with the cost of postage, paper, printing, and distribution going off the scale, more and more publications are either going to fail altogether, or will transform themselves into online editions, either completely ad-sponsored, subscription-based, or some combination of the two. Personally, I still prefer the look, feel, and portability of dead trees. Besides, you can burn your lap trying to read a magazine on your laptop in the bathroom. Kidding aside, in the next few years, online publishing will probably displace the special interest magazine as well as many newspapers. It’s also less hassle to delete a computer file when you are done, as opposed to hauling a ton of newspapers to the curb when the recycle bin is full.

These are just three of many “green” options available to you. Look around, I’m sure you can come up with at least three more without breaking a sweat. That said, sorry, but I cannot abide turning my air conditioner up to 78 degrees. I’d dissolve into a pool of my own perspiration—an image you probably wish I had not shared.