personal

Earth Hour and Sustainable Use of Personal e-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.

Energy Efficiency Improvements in TV Converter Boxes

Vertatique raised the issue back in 2007 of increased home energy consumption and carbon emissions due to widespread deployment of digital-to-analog (DTA) converter boxes in 2009. Energy Star reports that "In the U.S. alone, depending on viewer behavior and product design, EPA estimates that conventional DTAs could consume more than 3 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) per year and cost Americans $270 million annually in additional electricity bills."  New DTA models hold hope for improving the situation.

Gaming consoles next target for improved energy consumption?

"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.]

Best Buy and Vampires

5%-10% of residential power can be consumed by devices that are turned 'off'. Best Buy declared 30 October 2008 "National Vampire Awareness Day" The point? Alert customers to the 40% of home electronics energy consumption (and associated carbon emissions) that occurs when devices appear to be off are actually in standby mode. These are called "vampire devices" because the suck energy during the night. Best Buy offers these tips, applicable to home, dorm room, and office:

Climate Savers' Software Tools for Green Computing

Vertatique has been tracking the Climate Savers initiative over the past year and I'm pleased to see its site continue to grow in value. They now offer a robust set of free software applications to help individuals and enterprises tune the power settings of their equipment. I'll report on these tools as I try them out.

Corn-based Bioplastic

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:

e-Waste in Pictures

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!

Sell Your Consumer e-Waste?

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:

Suppliers, Retailers, and Consumers

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."

But adds:

Personal Electronics

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.)

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