Green Computing Guide

There are two really good reasons to practice green computing: It saves you money and, little by little, it helps protect the planet. It's a major win-win for everyone. There are many ways to be green when using computers, notebooks, or other personal electronics. One of the easiest ways is to conserve energy by simply turning off your computer when it's not being used. If it's inconvenient to completely turn it off, then using the power management features to put your computer into an energy-saving sleep mode or hibernation mode when it's not being used. Another way to be green is to extend the life of your current computer by upgrading or repairing it instead of buying a new one. When purchasing new computing device, look for one with an ENERGY STAR rating or TCO-Certified label which means that the device has a lower environmental affect across its lifespan, from construction to disposal.

Here are some easy and specific tips that anyone can do to make a big difference.

Green Power Cord
  • Turn Off Your Computer
    At the end of the work day or during long periods where you will not be using the computer, turn it off. Also turn on printers and other peripherals (i.e., scanners, external hard drives) only when you need them. Turning off your computer not only saves energy but can extend its life by minimizing heat stress.

    There is still a belief that turning a computer off/on on a regular basis is bad. While this may arguably be true during the early days of personal computers (1980's & 1990's), computers nowadays are better designed and more 'durable' that daily power cycles will have little effect on the longevity of your computer.

    Use Built-In Power-Saving Feature

    The majority of the computers, laptops and tablets today come with power saving features that will automatically idle itself (sleep) or turn off itself off after not being used for a period of time. For Windows computers, you can find the power saving settings in Control Panel. You can save several dollars a year but making this easy adjustment. Do this to your other computers in your household, and the saving can really add up.

  • Print When Needed, Print Double-Sided
    Minimize paper consumption by printing only when you need to and using both sides of the paper when possible. Many office printers can print two-sided automatically by clicking a checkbox in the Printer Dialog box. For those that do not have this feature, simply print the odd pages of your document first, then place these printed pages back into the paper tray (you'll need to check you printer documentation for proper orientation) and then print the even pages onto the backside.

  • Re-Install Before Buying New
    If your computer is running slow and you're thinking about buying a new one to replace it, hold that thought. Many times, a computer that gets progressively slower over time is likely due to malicious or poor quality software. Find that Restoration/Restore Disc that came with your computer and use it to wipe the slate clean by performing a full re-install of Windows operating system. This will almost guarantee to eradicate any viruses, spyware, adware and other malicious software that was slowing your computer. WARNING: You must backup all of your important data before performing a restoration.

  • Upgrade Instead of Buying New
    If re-installing the operating system doesn't help in bringing your computer performance back to normal, try upgrading your than disposing it and buying a new one. Many times, you can extend the life of a computer by buying a memory or hard drive upgrade.

  • Buy Energy Star® or TCO-Certified Equipment
    Look for an Energy Star rating or a TCO-Certified qualified equipment. Energy Star is a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy that helps consumers save money and protect the environment through energy-efficient products and practices. TCO-Certified is a sustainability certification that identifies products that minimizes adverse environmentally affects (e.g., energy efficiency) throughout its life cycle - from manufacturing through its disposal at its end-of-life.

  • Make Your Next Monitor an LCD
    When purchasing your next monitor, look into an LCD. Compared to traditional bulky CRT monitors, LCD monitors consume much less energy, takes up less desk space, weighs less and looks sleek. Computer LCD monitors have come down in price dramatically making them an affordable option for many.

  • Recycle Printer Cartridges and Drum Units
    Don't throw away those empty ink cartridges, toner cartridges or drum units for your home and office printers and copiers. Many printer manufacturers will provide you with shipping labels from their website that will allow you to return these items back to them at no charge to you. Many printer cartridges and drum units can be recharged and refurbished for use again. Visit Recycling Used Computer Consumables for more information.

  • Don't use a Screensaver
    Turning on a screensaver on your computer does not save energy. Your computer monitor is still turned on when the screensaver kicks in and consumes energy. The purpose of a screensaver is to prevent the icons, text and other graphics on your computer desktop from etching a ghost image of itself onto your computer monitor (you see these etching effect on many arcade video game machines). The best thing to do is to turn off the monitor using the on/off switch or enabling the Power Management feature of your computer to automatically turn off your monitor (or your computer) after a few minutes of inactivity.

  • Use a Laptop or a Netbook
    Laptops and netbooks by design consumes much less energy than a desktop computer. If you own both a desktop and a laptop, use the laptop as much as you can.

  • Donate It
    If you are out growing your computer, don't dispose of it yet. Donate your old computers to charity. The computer may not be powerful enough for you anymore but it may be enough for a young child.

    Be sure to wipe any personal information from your old computer before donating or recycling it. Deleted files can still be recovered.

  • Email, Fax, and Telecommute
    Your computer is a powerful tool, with many possible uses. Make the most of it by using your computer to help save trees, reduce paper waste and reduce carbon emission by:
    • Emailing instead of printing your letters on paper when appropriate. If you have hardcopy documents, scan them into digital PDF file format.
    • Fax your documents instead of mailing or using express courier service.
    • Telecommute to work instead of commuting. Some companies allow their employees to work from home instead of driving to work. This saves you time and reduces carbon emission.

  • Properly Dispose of Old Technology
    Never dispose of any electronic devices (e.g., computers, scanners, DVD players, TVs, microwaves, alarm clocks, thermostat, smoke detectors) by throwing it away with your regular trash, as there are varying amounts of toxic elements (e.g., lead) in them. Check with your municipality for local charities, schools, churches or recycling programs to donate or recycle your old electronics properly.

    Be sure to wipe any personal information from your old computer before donating or recycling. Deleted files can still be recovered.

  • Keep It Digital
    The popularity of digital music downloads has reduced the number of CDs manufactured by the music industry. Using an Apple® iPod® or other digital music players instead of burning or buying CD discs reduce waste. There is no audible difference between music played from a CD disc or from a downloaded file. Support your favorite music artists by downloading music legally.

    Distribute your business documents digitally instead of printing handouts. Converting or scanning your documents into the industry-standard digital format for electronic documents (Adobe® PDF) allows you to easily electronically distribute (e.g., via e-mail, CD or DVD, Internet download) your message to your clients, business partners, lawyers and many others.

  • Use Digital Sticky Notes
    Instead of buying pads of yellow sticky notes, keep your notes and reminders digitally using the Notes feature of Microsoft® Outlook®. Don't have Outlook? Just use Microsoft Excel®, Word or even a simply text editor to keep track. Notes and reminders are simply enough that there's probably software on your computer already that can be adopted for this purpose.

  • Turn On Power Management
    Enable the Power Management feature of your computer to automatically turn off your monitor or your computer automatically after a period of inactivity.
    • For Windows 11: Select Start > Setting > System > Power > Energy Recommendation. Apply the energy saving recommendations that fit your computer usage.
      Windows 11 Power > Energy Recommendations

    • For Windows 10: Select Start > Control Panel > Hardware and Sound, then click on Power Option. Adjust your power plan setting to turn off your monitor and put your computer to sleep to your preference.
    • For Windows Vista: Select Start > Control Panel. The Control Panel window has two view options. For Theme View, click on System and Maintenance, and then choose Power Options. For Classic View, click on Power Options. Then choose either the Balance or Power Saver setting.
    • For Windows 98/ME/2000/XP: Select Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display. Select the Screen Saver tab. Choose a predominantly black screen saver and set it to wait for 5 minutes. Click on Settings to reach the power management settings. Click the Shut Off Monitor box and set for 10 minutes. Click the OK button.
    • For Windows 95: Select Start > Settings > Control Panel > Display. Select the Screen Saver tab. Choose a predominantly black screen saver and set it to wait 5 minutes. Click the Low-Power Standby box and set for 10 minutes. Click the Shut Off Monitor box and set for 20 minutes. Click the OK button.
    • For Windows NT: Does not support Energy Star, so you cannot enable a low power setting through the Control Panel. You still can select a dark desktop background and screen saver. Energy Star still can be activated through the computer's setup program, which varies among computer models.
    • Apple Macintosh: Select Apple > System Preferences (OS X) or click the Apple > Control Panels (OS 9). Select Energy Saver. Under the Sleep tab you can set your computer, monitor, and hard drive to go to sleep mode after a period of activity.


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