Tips for Those Keen on Green Computing

Incorporating fewer toxic materials, built to be more energy efficient and wrapped in less packaging, today’s computers aren’t just leaner, they’re greener. To the eco-conscious, how green a computer is might be as important as name brand, RAM, operating system and other components. Before spending your hard-earned green on a new computer, you might consider the following factors if you’re keen on green.

Go for gold (or silver or bronze).
EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) is a comprehensive global rating system for green computing. EPEAT evaluates laptops, desktops and computer monitors according to specific environmental criteria and offers Bronze, Silver and Gold ratings. All computers in the EPEAT rating system must meet 23 criteria.

Computers that meet the most “additional points” (based on 28 optional criteria) are rated greenest. Those shopping for a green computer should definitely pay a visit to EPEAT online.

Consider downsizing.
For green computing, notebooks or laptops make more sense than desktops. They require less material to make and less energy to run. Additionally, laptops likely contain less lead than desktops. Yes, laptops and notebooks generally have a higher price tag than desktops, but in the long run, they cost less given the power savings.

In fact laptops consume five times less energy than desktop PCs. Being so portable, they’re more convenient, too. But if you think nothing tops a desktop, consider a small-form-factor (SFF) desktop. Manufacturers include Apple, AOpen and Shuttle. Modest in size and designed with energy-efficient notebook components, SFFs tend to use less power than full-size towers. Check out these top five SFF picks.

You can also visit manufacturers’ websites to sort their greenest models. They should be free from brominated fire retardant (BMR), arsenic, lead and mercury, made with recycled or recyclable materials and include reduced packaging.

What about a monitor? You’ll likely want to buy a flat-panel LCD display. Of course, CRTs are available, but they not only require more desk space but also more power. LCDs use about one-third the power of CRTs.

Reach for Energy Star.
Definitely look for the EPA’s Energy Star label when shopping for a green computer. Having recently been updated (for the first time in 15 years), Energy Star requirements are more stringent than ever. Energy Star computers meet strict Typical Energy Consumption (TEC) requirements, including being able to save energy while in use and in sleep mode. Feel free to search the Energy Star website for energy-efficient computers (by brand or by model number).

Score with Multicore.
The makers of computer processors (e.g., Intel) have been hard at work to reduce power usage. For example, not only is the Intel Core 2 Duo desktop processor said to be 40 percent faster, but it’s also considered more than 40 percent more energy efficient than its single-core predecessor. Sipping not gulping power, so to speak, it consumes power very efficiently by powering up processor components, selectively, and only when necessary.

Power save.
Sure, powering up takes time, but consider this. Leaving your PC running actually consumes more energy than shutting down and rebooting. Not sold? At least put your computer in Power Save/Sleep Mode. It’s the next best thing, and it’s easy to do.

In Windows, click the Start menu, choose Control Panel, then click Power Options and select the power plan “Power Saver.” From this window, you’ll also see the option “change when the computer sleeps.” Use the pull-down menu option to select a sleep mode time trigger (e.g., 10 minutes, 15 minutes), so that when you’re away from your computer for that amount of time, sleep mode automatically kicks in.



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