Going green is fashionable, but how easy is it to do? Many small changes that you can make in your everyday life will add up to a big impact on the environment - and a positive impact on your bank balance.

And the good news is that you don't have to buy a Toyota Prius to be more eco-friendly. In many cases, it's a simple matter of getting a gadget to do the hard work for you. Here are 10 steps you can take with technology to help save the planet.

Reduce

Before you can keep track of how successful you are at reducing your impact on the environment, you need to know what your impact is. A slew of gadgets, gizmos and software programs can get you started.

It's possible to modify your entire house to monitor its energy use. Agilewaves Resource Monitor links a flat-panel touchscreen with your home's power, water, gas and temperature systems. The panel lets you access real-time usage data (and time-lapse data) by floor, room, individual appliance, or specific utility.

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You can also access the internet with it, of course.

If you don't have the big bucks to drop on digitising your house, consider a simpler alternative. You can plug P3 International's Kill A Watt (about £20) into any electrical outlet and then plug the appliance you want to measure into Kill-A-Watt.

The device measures kilowatt-hours of energy and tells you how much the appliance costs to run.

NEXT PAGE: painless ways to cut back on power use > >

  1. Reduce your impact
  2. Painless ways to cut back on power use
  3. Electrical efficiency
  4. Reuse and recycle, and going green when buying new

Going green is fashionable, but how easy is it to do? Many small changes that you can make in your everyday life will add up to a big impact on the environment - and a positive impact on your bank balance.

Of course, the point of monitoring your energy intake is to help you waste less power. Here are some painless ways to cut back:

PC: A typical PC consumes 600kwh of electricity every year. Software can help you reduce that expenditure. Most programs, like Verdiem's Surveyor, automatically shift your computer to its lowest power settings when the machine isn't not in use.

Monitor: Energy Star recommends shutting your monitor down after five minutes of inactivity.

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Conveniently, Energy Star provides a link on one of its pages to a Computer Management Savings Calculator, which includes a monitor component.

The site also offers drop-down lists of Energy Star-qualified monitors from various vendors on its Monitors page.

Finally, there's a downloadable PowerPoint presentation of the program's guidelines for qualifying monitors.

The web: Some authorities contend that the amount of energy a cathode-ray tube monitor uses depends on the colour it displays. According to the Department of Energy, for example, a white screen uses 74W of power, while a black screen uses only 59W. So you may be able to save power by using a black Google screen such as those offered by Google-Black, GreenerGLE, Earthle, and Darkoogle for your searches.

Similarly, you can display Word documents as coloured text on a black background. Or enable a starry night screensaver.

Use less paper: Even if 'print less' is not an option for you, you can reduce your paper use by 4.75 percent: simply by changing your margins (www.changethemargins.com). The standard Microsoft Word document sets the margins at 1in on the top and bottom of the page, and at 1.75in on each side. Reducing those margins to .75in each saves paper, money and trees.

NEXT PAGE: electrical efficiency > >

  1. Reduce your impact
  2. Painless ways to cut back on power use
  3. Electrical efficiency
  4. Reuse and recycle, and going green when buying new

Going green is fashionable, but how easy is it to do? Many small changes that you can make in your everyday life will add up to a big impact on the environment - and a positive impact on your bank balance.

Plug in to efficiency: Your computer, monitor, printer or other electronic hardware sucks power out of your outlets even when it's inactive. The best solution is to plug each component into a device that prevents useless power drain. BITS Limited's Smart Strip powers your PC and your peripherals at the same time.

And when you turn off your PC, the strip automatically suspends power to all other devices you aren't using.

Another option, Watt Stopper's IDP-3050 power strip, has a motion sensor that turns its outlets on when the strip senses someone in the room - and off when no one is there.

At home: Every light in your house uses energy. Lighting-control systems such as Watt Stopper's Wall Switch Vacancy Sensors can replace your light switches with motion sensors that turn lights on when they detect people in a room.

More-comprehensive systems such as Green Switch can reduce your energy costs by at least 25 percent by retrofitting your house with a master switch for simultaneously turning off all light switches, wall plugs, and air-conditioning systems you put under its control.

Outdoors: Water conservation is becoming a major issue. WeatherTrak provides a service to regulate your lawn-watering system, reducing water use and runoff.

The company's irrigation system will automatically schedule watering based on the soil type and slope of your lawn along with data gathered from local weather stations and NOAA satellites.

NEXT PAGE: reuse and recycle, and going green when buying new > >

  1. Reduce your impact
  2. Painless ways to cut back on power use
  3. Electrical efficiency
  4. Reuse and recycle, and going green when buying new

Going green is fashionable, but how easy is it to do? Many small changes that you can make in your everyday life will add up to a big impact on the environment - and a positive impact on your bank balance.

Reuse and recycle

Technology enthusiasts tend to buy lots of new gadgets. But instead of dumping the old ones, why not recycle them?

PCs: Under the WEEE directive, UK PC manufacturers have to take and recycle computers at the end of their lives, but perhaps the best thing you can do with an old computer is to donate it to a charity that will reuse it. See Green computing & PC recycling made easy for more.

When buying new, go green

Another essential aspect of energy use conservation involves looking ahead. Every time you buy something new, make sure it's green. Here are a few low-power toys to get you started:

Earth-friendly PC: Hewlett-Packard offers a full line of Energy Star-compliant products. The The HP Compaq 2510p laptop (reviewed here) comes with an 100GB SATA hard drive, 1GB of DDR2 memory, an Intel Ultra Low Voltage U7600 processor, and the Windows Vista Business operating system. Under optimum conditions, according to HP (and our tests), it consumes much less energy than a standard laptop.

Green storage: Western Digital's Caviar GP WD10EACS is a 1TB hard drive that consumes less power and operates at lower temperatures than comparable-size drives. It scored fairly well on our tests against a similar non-green hard drive.

Light up less: Replacing the light bulbs in your house with compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs can reduce your energy use for lighting by 75 percent (CFLs last about 10 times longer than standard incandescent bulbs, too). Or go a step further and get Motionbulbs - CFLs equipped with motion sensors that turn on when you enter a room and turn off when you leave.

A different kind of pod: Your iPod is great, but how energy efficient is the constant recharging? Maybe you should try a Wind Up Eco Media Player (£150) instead. This device has an FM stereo radio, plays video and music, and comes with a built-in microphone, LED light, and SD Card reader.

To charge its 20-hour battery, you turn a crank at the back - 1 minute of winding yields 40 minutes of audio playback. (Or you can plug it into a USB port and let the electric company do the cranking.)

  1. Reduce your impact
  2. Painless ways to cut back on power use
  3. Electrical efficiency
  4. Reuse and recycle, and going green when buying new