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Save money by going green with your tech kit

Re-use, recycle and decrease power consumption. We explain how.

Tips on saving power (and money)

  • Turn off your PC before you finish for the day. It only takes a minute to turn it on again and, contrary to urban myth, experts tell us that turning it on and off won’t wear it out prematurely.
  • Don’t forget to turn off your peripherals when you’re not using them. These too all add up and if you have a laser printer, it might consume as much as 40W, even on standby.
  • Unplug things when you’re not using them. Your PC might be using more power than you think, even when it's fully shut down.
  • You’ll probably not turn off your PC if you’re only going to be leaving it to make a coffee or answer the phone but do configure Windows’ Power Options so that it’ll go into an energy saving mode during periods of inactivity.
  • A few pence a day doesn’t sound like a lot but it all adds up. There are considerable savings to be made if you have several PCs, each with a range of peripherals.
  • A cheap power meter will show you how much electricity your kit is using. Plug your gear into one of these and it’ll provide the motivation to make a saving.
  • Consider investing in a device that turns your kit off automatically when it’s detected that you’re not using it.

How green are manufacturers?

Computers, in general, are more energy efficient than they were a few years ago and some companies such as Tiny Green PC offer PCs which are designed specifically for low energy consumption. So choosing a computer on its power efficiency credentials is surely a sensible move.

However, given that statistic about the environmental impact of manufacturing a PC being more substantial than that of using it, should you consider the green credentials of the manufacturer when you buy a new PC? If you’re concerned about the environment then you’ll probably think that’s a no-brainer but it’s important to consider if companies really do differ that much in how much damage they cause to the planet in manufacturing and distributing their wares.

According to Greenpeace, there is a difference in their environmental impact and should be a factor when choosing kit. In its latest Guide to Greener Electronics, Greenpeace indicates how its evaluation criteria include issues such as the company’s own energy efficiency, the energy efficiency of its products, its use of toxic substances in manufacturing, recycling policy and use of sustainable materials.

The rankings are shown on the Greenpeace website and, while scores differ substantially, it’s interesting to note that even the best-rated companies (HP led the pack when ranked in November 2011) score well below the maximum of 10 points.

Interesting as it might be, Greenpeace’s ranking includes only 15 of the world’s largest manufacturers of electronic gear and, in addition to computers, that list includes manufacturers of TVs and mobile phones.

Unless you’re intent on buying a big-name PC, therefore, this guide won’t help you choose a manufacturer based on its environmental credentials. What’s more, while the large companies in the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics will manufacture many of the parts in their PCs themselves, the same isn’t true of most of the smaller manufacturers.

Since these manufacturers buy in components such as motherboards, hard disks, power supplies and cases from the same few Far Eastern manufacturers, differences between the environmental footprint of these smaller system builders will not be nearly as large. Indeed, you might think that it makes more sense to consider transport costs by going to a small local system builder in preference to buying from a large retailer and buying a big-brand PC that will have been shipped to and fro between factories, warehouses and stores.

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