We learned that the 11 billion consumer devices attached to our global ICT infrastructure is expanding the Green ICT focus outside of the core. Now, there is growing awareness how device use can impact the energy consumption and carbon footprint of the network and core. Jenna Wortham writes in The New York Times:
E-devices are so pervasive in our lives that we might not consider the full potential of personal e-waste reduction. The British weighed in with a law that, according to Discover magazine, expands the e-waste definition to include electrical 'adult toys'. Individual manufacturers are also offering green devices.
Earth Hour is an initiative sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund and others to raise awareness about global warming by asking individuals, municipalities, and businesses to turn off their lights for one hour (8:30PM local time, 28 Mar). Turning off our personal computers and e-devices appears to be a more complicated issue.
"Consumer electronics is the fastest-growing source of electricity use in people's homes," says the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). "It's now up to 15 or 20 percent." Video game consoles are the latest devices to come under energy use scrutiny. "Today, more than 40 percent of all homes in the United States contain at least one video game console . . .they consumed an estimated 16 billion kilowatt-hours per year -- roughly equal to the annual electricity use of the city of San Diego. Through the incorporation of more user-friendly power management features, we could save approximately 11 billion kWh of electricity per year, cut our nation's electricity bill by more than $1 billion per year, and avoid emissions of more than 7 million tons of CO2 each year." Until the industry steps improves its devices' power management, "gamers can significantly reduce the energy consumed by their consoles through simple steps like turning off the console when not actively playing a game or watching a movie and enabling power management features when available." Visit the NRDC's consoles page to read the comprehensive report, Lowering the Cost of Play by Noah Horowitz, and to learn how to enable power management features on existing consoles.
[Thank you to NRDC's Anthony Clark for providing graph.]
I've previously covered the emerging use of corn-based plastics in e-devices. Now, in its coverage of a new phone using corn bioplastics, The New York Times offers this critique:
"Unfortunately Samsung’s new cellphone relies on a flawed equation:
National Geographic's "High Tech Trash" is loaded with everything from an interactive toxic tour of a computer to an e-waste quiz to stats like ". . . in the U.S. [in 2005], between 1.5 and 1.9 million tons of computers, TVs, VCRs, monitors, cell phones, and other equipment were discarded. If all sources of electronic waste are tallied, it could total 50 million tons a year worldwide . . ." The Photo Gallery tells the story most powerfully - check it out!
The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) initiative represents the cutting, if not controversial, edge of green e-device design. The Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) has published an interview with OLPC's CTO Mary Lou Jepsen, which is a insightful must-read for anyone interested is sustainable e-device design.
Responsible consumers are finding more options available for recycling their e-waste. One innovative approach is BuyMyTronics.com, which offers cash for iPods, iPhones, and game consoles, including broken items. Most existing services just accept e-gagets as donations or even charge for disposal. Here's what I learned when I did a obsolete gadget sweep:
Consumer electronics suppliers will face growing scrutiny of their sustainability practices from retailers. But consumers need to support these efforts by evolving their behavior. Sierra Magazine reports:
"With the power of a good-size country, Wal-Mart has put the squeeze on its 60,000 suppliers to reduce their carbon footprint. Starting in 2008, the retailer will use data from suppliers to measure the impact of its entire supply chain. The incentive: Wal-Mart promises better placement in stores for products that have addressed sustainability issues."
The website for the The Green Book cites a number of statistics that can motive more sustainable use of personal electronics:
"Unplug your power. Ten percent of the electricity used in your home is burned by communication devices and appliances when they are turned off!" (These are sometimes referred to as "vampire devices" because they silently drain power during the night.)