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Published on October 22nd, 2007 | by Stephanie Evans

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Green Technology

If you were to list the greenest things on the planet, it’s unlikely that technology would earn a spot anywhere near the top.  Yet, electronics are here to stay, having become efficient and effective communication tools for both work and play.  So, how can we reconcile what appears to be the ‘great divide’ between protecting our environment and the effects of energy-siphoning, greenhouse gas spewing, hazardous waste-filled electronics?

Luckily, there’s some good news.  Eco-friendly electronics and technology are at the forefront of concern for both users and manufacturers with the expectation for momentum to increase at a rapid pace.  Here are just a few of the green technology initiatives currently in practice and underway to narrow the gaping divide.

Computers 

Notebook Computer

A newly launched standard for “green” computers is the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).  It was initiated by a group of manufacturers, environmentalists, and purchasers, created by the Green Electronics Council and is funded by the U.S.  EPA.  The standard, known as IEEE 1680, encourages manufacturers to design more durable products that can easily be upgraded, use less energy, and can be

harmlessly recycled.  The EPA estimates that in the next five years, purchases of EPEAT-registered computers could reduce hazardous waste by 4 million pounds and save enough energy to power two million homes.  These green computers can do a lot to help maintain an eco-friendly technology workplace.

Did you know that of the $250 billion spent per year on powering computers worldwide, 85 percent of that power is wasted while the computer simply idles? An ingenious new “smart” power strip automatically turns power to all connected devices on when the accessories and peripherals are in use.  Based on a user-defined time lapse, these devices will automatically turn off when they sit idle for the specified length of time. 

Did you know that of the $250 billion spent per year on powering computers worldwide, 85 percent of that power is wasted while the computer simply idles?

Need an example of eco-friendly technology? Chip manufacturing giant Intel has been working to eliminate toxic lead from its computer chips.  As early as 2002, the company took a green technology approach and designed flash memory using lead-free solder made from tin, silver and copper.  By 2004, it replaced 95 percent of the lead solder with their new tin-silver-copper solder – without affecting the performance of the chip. 

Cell Phones and PDAs 

pda1.pngCell phone manufacturers have jumped on the green tech bandwagon and are beginning to produce eco-friendly technology for cell phone users and PDA addicts.  Do you plug in your cell phone or PDA to charge overnight? If so, you’re wasting a lot of energy.

Some cell phone manufacturers, including Nokia, are preparing to introduce “unplug alerts” for their units, which cause phones that are fully charged to sound a beep and display an alert stating that the battery is full, and requesting that the user unplug the charger.  A simple advancement in green technology such as this could save enough electricity to power 85,000 homes annually.
How about using a “no electricity” option for chargers? Solar chargers are a great alternative available for cell phones, PDAs, iPods, and laptops.  Many have an onboard battery pack that can charge while the solar cells are in the sun, and then transfer the power to your device when you need it.Better yet, imagine a mobile phone that always remains charged – no plugs, no cords.  Motorola has patented a new screen design that uses a large solar cell placed behind the screen, allowing more light to pass through it.  Although previous designs have been proposed, only 6 percent of light passed through normal LCD screens to the solar cell.  Motorola claims its new innovation can raise this to 75 percent.

ISPs and Web Hosts

Can the Internet “go green?”  Not only can it — many portions of it already have.

Most people don’t think much about the environmental impact of their web surfing, but consider this:  The energy used for single users to log on is a fraction of the energy needed to keep sites up and running – sites that are on 24/7 using system servers.

Virtualization software allows a web server to partition and run many different “virtual” servers on a single piece of hardware.  This reduces the number of servers needed and translates into reduced energy use, less maintenance, and cost savings because there are fewer machines to purchase.

In addition to finding technological solutions to “greening” the Internet, there is a growing list of ISPs and Web hosting companies that are committed to lowering the carbon footprints we all leave behind. Search for companies that use renewable energy resources, like wind-powered e-mail servers and solar-powered web servers.  Or, sign up with services dedicated to developing programs for carbon neutral operations, working out of solar-powered offices, and donating a portion of company profits to support green organizations.

Other Eco-friendly Technology Tips

While manufacturers strive to make greener products, and service organizations continue to tap into the production of environmentally conscious choices for consumers, we can take personal responsibility to introduce sustainable technology into our environment and create a more eco-friendly environment. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • When you’re ready to upgrade your computer monitor, consider buying an LCD flat screen. It uses far less energy.
  • Look for Energy Star labeled computer equipment.  The new 2007 specification for desktop computers requires 80 percent or greater AC power supply efficiency, a significant increase from the previous standard.
  • Charge your phone or PDA off your computer’s USB port instead of plugging into a wall socket.
  • Plan for upgrades instead of obsolescence. Purchase computers that are designed for longevity and allow for easy upgrading as needs increase.
  • Choose laptops instead of desktops, if possible. They use less energy.
  • Use rechargeable batteries, preferably with solar powered rechargers.
  • Don’t throw away old computers – sell them online, donate them to charity, or recycle them. Recycling computers and peripherals is becoming easier.  While only a handful of original manufacturers will take the equipment back, there are many recycling program start-ups, like the one recently launched by Staples office supply stores. Take in your computer, monitor, printer and other peripherals, and they will recycle it in accordance with environmental laws.  The cost? Just $10, with mice and keyboards recycled for free.





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