Your choice of computer could affect the environment in two ways. To begin, a computer could contain harmful chemicals like lead, hexavalent chromium (the same chemical that gained notoriety through the film Erin Brockovich), PVC, PCB, PBDE and other compounds. These substances can leak into the environment both during the manufacturing stage and when the computer is dumped at the end of its life.
Computers can do even more harm by being inefficient. Many manufacturers build computers with cheap, inefficient power supplies for the budget market that waste thousands of watts of power over their lifetime.
There is more to green computing than merely buying clean and efficient computers, though. Many people buy powerful computers for vanity reasons – when they don’t require such power. Others have careless energy habits. They neglect to shut their computers down when they don’t use them.
There are two steps to saving the environment with the way you use your computer – choosing the right computer and then being responsible with the way you use it each day. Before you buy a computer, make sure you keep the following in mind.
When buying a computer, most people only look at how powerful and impressive each model is or how much it costs. They rarely put energy efficiency on their list desirable features. Thankfully, it’s easy to check for the energy efficiency of a computer purchase – you just have to make sure that the computer you buy is Energy Star rated. This one step alone can ensure that your computer surpasses the government’s minimum energy efficiency standards by 25%.
The US government doesn’t have an effective program in place to label products containing dangerous chemicals. The European Union, though has the well-recognized Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) program. Since many computers sold in the US are also sold in Europe, you could choose a computer with an RoHS label.
Computer manufacturers indulge in much greenwashing these days They make deceptive environmental claims for their products. To make sure that you cut through all the nonsense, look for independent certification. Energy Star certification is a good one to start with. You could also look up the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool online to make sure that the computer you buy is as green as the vendor claims. The EPEA lists independent investigations of many computer products on its site. Climate Counts is another resource to check out.
There are many green guides that help people make environmentally friendly purchase decisions in a variety of product areas. Treehugger is one of the most prominent ones green guide websites.
Since laptop batteries are expensive, there is a thriving market for cheap replacements. Cheap batteries, though, aren’t a sound choice for the environment, at all. They are more polluting than name brand batteries and they don’t last long, either. Cheap batteries need more frequent replacement than quality batteries – a shortcoming that puts more hazardous waste into the environment. It’s always a better idea to buy a green battery from a major manufacturer.
If you aren’t sure about how efficient the power supply in your desktop computer is, try replacing it with a new unit that offers power scaling. Power supplies with this technology built in only put out as much power as your computer needs at any given time. They are far more energy efficient than conventional power supplies.