Environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility. With that in mind, here are nine tips to reduce your computer’s impact on the environment. These tips are platform universal, you may use them just as easily on a Windows or Linux machine.
1. Shutdown when finished using.
Many people don’t realize just how much electricity is wasted due to “standby” mode in televisions, stereos, microwaves and computers. Sleep Mode is a low power state, not a no power state. To conserve electricity and reduce your carbon footprint, shut the computer down when its not in use. If its a laptop, you will get bonus points for doing this – The battery’s charge will last a little longer and it will make transport a bit safer.
Also remember to shut off the power strip, as some machines will continue to draw electricity even when they are shut down.
If you really can’t wait for it to boot, set it to start itself in the energy saver preferences. Perhaps you begin work every morning at 8:00. Set it to start up a few minutes early and it will be ready for you. Go to your System Preferences, choose Energy Saver and at the bottom click on Schedule.
2. Unplug your laptop’s charger when not in use.
Even when not charging, the transformers inside your power adapter are always running. You can feel the adapter is warm even when not plugged into your laptop. That’s wasted electricity. Unplug the charger. I also think the charger will last longer if you do this due to eliminating the constant idling.
3. Reduce or eliminate paperwork.
I love OS X’s built in Print to PDF function. I use it all the time. Instead of printing out a receipt from an online purchase, bill or confirmation, I will use the Print to PDF function.
Remember, if you ever need to print it out on paper, you can always print the PDF later on.
This is also a great method to archive your business and personal receipts. Much easier than a giant box of papers and it takes up less space too.
Note: If you want to do this in Windows, whether its Parallels or BootCamp (or an actual PC), use CutePDF.
You can also take this a step further by using online bill payment and delivery. Check the company’s website, most offer this free of charge.
4. Stop printing emails.
This wastes tons and tons of paper each month in offices around the world. Most people I’ve talked to will do this because they have trouble reading the email on the screen.
Fortunately OS X has a zoom function as part of its Universal Access features. Just open System Preferences and turn on the Zoom.
To activate the zoom, press the Apple, Option, and = keys. To zoom out, press the Apple, Option and – keys. Here’s what it looks like:
This way you can read the email comfortably and reduce paper usage!
5. Use a portable USB drive instead of wasting CD-Rs.
Oh the dreaded presentation. So many wasted CD-Rs.. What happens to them after it’s over? In the trash..
I whole heartedly recommend using a USB drive instead of this. They are reusable, a 1GB model will hold more data than a CD, they are incredibly portable, no worries if it burned properly or not, and they work seamlessly in OS X, Windows and Linux.
They are also cheap. Currently you can get a 1GB drive for about $20. Here’s a recommended drive from Imation.
6. Use an external hard drive for backups.
Backups can be such a chore. Music, pictures, and movies can really take up alot of space. I used to be content with burning a backup DVD once a year. Now, I’d need to burn 20 of them to get everything. With the growing size of portable FireWire/USB hard drives, it is such an easy thing to plug it in and copy the files over. Its also much faster than burning a ton of DVDs.
While I recommend burning one or two DVDs per year to back up the critical files and putting them somewhere safe, the non-critical space consuming files can happily exist on a portable drive.
7. Take care of your equipment and consider an upgrade instead of a new purchase.
Properly taken care of equipment will last longer and require less repairs. Consider an upgrade instead of a new machine. If your machine behaves slow and applications take forever to run or start up, check the amount of RAM you have. Even now, a new MacBook will come with 512MB unless you upgrade. If that’s all the memory you have, that’s why the computer is slow. It is swapping memory to and from the hard drive. Upgrade to at least 1GB and you will see a huge difference. MacBooks are very easy for a user to replace the memory and hard drive. Just make sure you replace both memory chips – they need to be matching pairs for best performance.
8. Sell, Repurpose or donate your old Mac.
Consider selling the old machine on Ebay instead of throwing it away. You could get at least $100 for a seriously old machine, possibly more if its only a few years old and well taken care of. You can also repurpose the machine as a file server or DVR.
Many organizations will accept older machines as donations. Either for use in a school or for reselling with the money going to charity.
Check with a local Apple Independent Retailer if they offer any trade-in deals. When I bought my iBook, I traded in my G4 Desktop and it took around $350-$400 off the price. If you’re in the Philadelphia area, I recommend Springboard Media.
Note: Remember to securely erase all data from your drive before selling, donating or recycling your computer.
9. Take advantage of Apple’s recycling program.
When you buy a new computer from Apple, you can recycle your old machine for free (even if it was a PC). They also will take old iPods and cell phones as well. If you’ve got any old Apple laptop batteries floating around, recycle them at any Apple Store. Visit the Apple recycling page for more information.