The age of the Internet definitely has its environmental ups and downs. Computers, though they help us avoid paper by allowing us to read newspapers and pay bills online, use up a lot of energy.
The Pew Research Center found that in 2009 74% of adults regularly used the Internet, as do even more teenagers. And Internet users weren't just on personal computers -- they were hooked up at home, at work, at school. That makes for a lot of computers, and a lot of energy use.
For instance, a Dell 19-inch flat panel monitor uses over 34 watts per hour -- and that's not including the energy consumption of the actual computer, just the screen. (That means every year the carbon emissions from the monitor alone will cost $10 and are almost the same as driving 850 miles, according to a handy Dell calculator.) With a typical Dell computer using 112 watts, you're looking at a lot of energy used by one machine. Now picture a computer lab or office with 30 individual computers and monitors running at once (you can do the math yourself).
Unfortunately for the planet, it's hard to get by today without using computers. But by following our simple tips you can scale your computer's energy consumption way back, saving on energy and cost.
Customize your power settings
Most new computers have energy-saving sleep modes that turn off the computer monitor and leave the rest of the system running. Set your computer to sleep mode if you'll be away from it for more than five minutes, or customize your power settings to automatically put your computer in sleep mode after five minutes of inactivity.
Shut it down at night
Every time you're away from your computer for more than two hours, turn it off. Computers still use a little bit of energy when they're plugged in, so unplug them from the power source to make sure they aren't contributing to the phantom load. By shutting down and unplugging your computer when it's not in use, you'll save energy, and $90 a year! Don't worry -- frequently turning off your computer will not shorten its life.
Don't use a screensaver
Having a unicorn prance across your monitor every three seconds might make you the coolest guy in the office, but it is not saving any energy. Put your monitor in sleep mode instead of using a screen saver when you're away for a short period of time.
If you're buying new, go for a laptop
Laptops are smaller and designed to be more energy efficient as a means to extend battery life, so they use less energy than desktop computers. National Geographic found that laptops use up to 50% less energy than desktop computers. To be sure you're purchasing a truly sustainable computer, make sure it is either Energy Star rated or has received a gold rating from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool.
Computer use isn't likely to stop growing, but by following these steps you can help slow the negative environmental impact of the trend.
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