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Five tips to reduce the environmental impact of your PC - and save money in the process

20 October 2011 | Zdenek Jiricek, Industry Solutions Director, Worldwide Public Sector

​While the use of tablets and other mobile devices is emerging in government, the reality is that many people still depend upon desktop PCs to carry out their daily business. If not properly managed, however, PCs can waste a lot of energy. In a recent white paper, we estimated that in some organizations, desktop PCs are wasting as much as 75 percent of the energy they consume.

The good news is that it’s a largely avoidable problem. Below are five tips to consider when purchasing/operating PCs and monitors, which can help your organization conserve energy, improve environmental sustainability, and achieve significant cost savings in the process.

  1. When purchasing: Laptops vs desktops.

    If you’re concerned about saving energy, choosing a laptop over a desktop PC might be your best bet, even if you plan to use it with an external monitor and keyboard. Many modern laptops consume less than 30W when running at full performance, compared with a modern desktop PC that idles around 60W and can consume in excess of 150W at full tilt - and that’s not including the monitor. Many new small form-factor laptops idle at less than 15W - less than the power used by a typical Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) bulb.
  2. Check your power management settings.

    Windows makes it easy to save energy by automatically putting your computer to sleep and turning off the display when you aren’t using it. This feature can even extend the life of your monitor. If you already have power management enabled, try reducing the sleep and display blanking timeouts. Ask yourself: Do I really need to be gone from my PC for 15 minutes before the display goes off? Also, it should come as no surprise that screen savers don’t save energy, and in some cases, they use more energy than when the PC is in use. Climate Savers Computing has some great instructions on how to check and improve power management on various versions of Windows.
  3. Make your next PC an EPEAT PC.

    EPEAT and other Global Ecolabelling Network (GEN) standards such as Blue Angel (Germany), TCO Certified (Sweden), the EU Ecolabel (Europe), Eco Mark Program (Japan), Good Environmental Choice Australia (GECA), make it easy to discover the “greenest” PCs available. Covering the full lifecycle of PCs (manufacturing, use and disposal), EPEAT rates PCs and monitors on over 50 criteria and rates them with a bronze, silver and gold status. 
  4. Unplug unused equipment when not in use (monitor, PC, wireless phones, printer, etc.).

    Many of your older electronic products that are plugged into the wall can still draw significant amounts of energy when they aren’t being used. If an external power supply is warm, then it’s consuming at least some energy. You can buy smart power strips that automatically cut power to your other devices when the PC goes into sleep mode. The power strip provides the few watts the PC needs while in sleep, but can cut power to everything else until the PC is turned on.
  5. Refurb. Reuse. Recycle.

    Did you recently upgrade to a new Windows 7 PC? Do you have an ancient tower standing around in your office or at home? If so, you may want to consider a few alternatives to just chucking it in the trash can. In the United States, surveys conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have noted that only 15-20 percent of retired personal computers, TVs, cell phones and other electronic devices are being recycled in the U.S. As public sector leaders, and as citizens, we can all do our part to ensure that we waste less and recycle when possible.

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Have a question for the author? Please e-mail us at ongovernment@microsoft.com.

Zdenek Jiricek
Industry Solutions Director, Worldwide Public Sector

Microsoft on Government Blog posts

About the Author

Zdenek Jiricek | Industry Solutions Director, Worldwide Public Sector

Zdenek is responsible for developing strategies that enable governments and solution partners worldwide to effectively transform the latest technologies into leading solutions for boosting worker productivity and modernizing the workplace.