8 simple ways to ‘green’ your computer usage

We are all familiar with the more common “green” lifestyle changes we can make to combat climate change and be environmentally friendly, thanks to the frequent calls to action from the media. Unfortunately, we are also familiar with the justifications for why these changes are not implemented – hectic schedules, the inconvenience of altering routines, the inability to break life-long habits.

But there are several measures which can be easily integrated into your usual routine to negate or, at the very least, lessen your environmental footprint – through your computer usage.

Take a look at these eight simple suggestions, which can all be done with the minimum of fuss, right at your desktop.

1. Znout

How many times a day do you use a search engine to help discover and navigate content on the web? According to Znout, a single Google query utilises the same energy as an 11-watt lightbulb does in one hour. A way to neutralise these emissions from your searches is to use an environmentally friendly search engine. Znout, which stands for Zero Negative Output, utilises Google technology and makes your internet searches eco-friendly by making them CO2 neutral. This is achieved by purchasing renewable energy certificates with advertising revenue to balance out the sites carbon footprint.

To calculate its total energy consumption, Znout takes into account not only the energy consumption of its own servers and the CO2 emission of the entire network infrastructure being used, but also the statistically determined energy use of your own computer. To date, more than 11 498 300 watt hours have been “turned green”, with an option on the website to view how much carbon dioxide has been saved.

2. Ecosia

The Ecosia search engine, powered by Bing and Yahoo, donates 80% of its advertising revenue to a WWF rainforest protection program. According to Ecosia, searching with it will save about 2 square metres of tropical forest, which means 2 square meters more of trees to remove CO2 from our atmosphere.

3. Treehoo

Treehoo offers both a “tree planting” search engine and an email service. Trees are planted for 50% of the profit made from advertising and retail sales, with more than 10 000 trees having been planted through search related profits. For the webmail service, the company estimates one tree could be planted in developing countries for every 20 emails sent, which has massive potential when considering the massive numbers of emails we receive and send each day. Sign up for Treehoo’s email (Treemail?) and make a difference while keeping in touch with friends and family.

4. The Green Spider/Blackle

Another easy way to save on PC energy consumption is by changing the background colour of your search engine. This is based on the premise that more energy is required to display certain colours than others and by changing to a colour requiring less energy to display you will save watt hours. According to information from the US Department of Energy, white consumes 74 watts and black 59 Watts of energy (other colours range between these two figures) so using a black background will save on your computers energy consumption.

Note that this applies to CRT monitors (the big old fashioned monitors) only; LCD monitors actually use more energy to display dark colours. So adjust accordingly.

Blackle is one of many search engines available with a black background. An alternative to this and perhaps the better option in case black proves too visually harsh and you don’t have a CRT monitor, is The Green Spider which gives you the option of 14 other colours to set as your background, with the colours’ associated power consumption. One more point to note: given that LCD monitors are widely used, when designing your blog or site use lighter colours like white to enable better energy efficiency.

5. The 350 Challenge

For bloggers, a simple, free way to green your blog is via The 350 Challenge project. Bloggers add the 350 badge to their blog and for each participant doing this, Brighter Planet will purchase and donate 350 pounds of CO2 offsets. To give you an idea of what offsetting 350 pounds of carbon translates to — it’s like switching off 100 light bulbs or not using your car for 2 weeks. That’s a pretty significant contribution for merely taking 3 minutes to add a badge to your blog and notify them of it.

The initiative began with the aim of reaching 350 bloggers, which they reached in under a month. To date 3 900 bloggers have posted this badge offsetting more than 1 365 000 pounds of CO2.

6. CO2Stats

CO2Stats is an initiative that assists websites to reduce their carbon footprint. Inserting a green certified, eco-friendly web badge lets CO2Stats calculate the specific environmental footprint of your website, after which steps are taken to offset the carbon emitted from it to negate its impact. In addition it claims to improve your sites energy efficiency and even increase traffic.

7. Ecofont

The production of ink is an especially CO2-intensive process that is expensive as well. By installing eco-friendly fonts, one of which is Ecofont (winner of the European Environmental Design Award 2010), you can make a real difference. Printing using this free to download, free to use font uses up to 25% less ink and toner.

It is easily installed and you have the option of choosing commonly used fonts such as Arial, Calibri and an Ecofont variant of your own fonts, among others. When printed out the font has holes along its center, which ultimately saves on ink without sacrificing legibility or layout.

8. Verdiem’s Edison PC Energy Saver

Edison is a free energy monitoring, power management application from Verdiem. It actively controls and optimises your computer’s overall energy consumption, and thus its CO2 emissions, by using an effective power save mode. It measures and relates the power settings correlated with money, watt hours and CO2 savings, and displays in depth reports of your savings since installation.

To counterbalance your energy consumption and help you “go green”, you should make an effort to adopt at least one of these measures, which can be easily incorporated into your daily computer use. These simple day-to-day actions, though seemingly small, can collectively have tremendous benefits.



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