Thursday, July 30, 2009

Greening your computer - Courier Mail by Graham Readfearn

ALL in all, your computer (and mine) is one big environmental and unsustainable dog’s breakfast (and I’ve not even got a dog).

Like most electronic products, understanding all the environmental aspects of having and using a computer is a tough job because there’s energy and resources being used up all over the place.

You’ve got to dig up stuff like silica, copper, lead, cobalt, cadmium, gold and oil. You need energy and water to transport and manufacture the parts and manage all the waste materials - some of them toxic - that come from these processes.

You’ve got to put the thing together, get the resources and materials to package them up and then distribute them. Once it’s out of the box and doing its stuff, it’s using electricity which in most parts of the world means burning more fossil fuels, emitting more greenhouse gases as well as other nasty by-products like mercury. According to a detailed study of the impact of computers on the environment, the total fossil fuels used to make one of them is about 240 kilograms.

But then you can play games on it.

After you’ve used your computer, you’ve then got to dispose of it which takes more energy and in most circumstances ends up in landfill, which means wearing the risk of burying toxic substances and wasting all the energy it took to make the various parts in the first place.

So what can you do? Two new solutions have hit my inbox this week.

The first comes in the guise of a desktop widget called The Little Green Genie that sits on your screen and monitors the emissions from your computer, using as a base research figures from a United Nations Environment Programme centre. To get the widget (available for individuals and businesses) you need to add credit to an online account (minimum $10) which is used to buy carbon credits for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency from Climate Friendly. These are a good quality credit, as because they’re offshore they are not counted as part of Australia’s national greenhouse accounts, which means under Kyoto, you’re not simply giving high-polluting industries more room to pollute up to the national cap.


A second solution that can lower the impact of your computer is stunningly simple. Every time you want to do a safe search on the internet (one that doesn’t bring up stuff you wouldn’t want your grandma or kids to see), then just do it at Grevox. For each search, carbon offset company Climate Feet will offset for free the equivalent of 50 grams of greenhouse gases by purchasing credits through the Voluntary Carbon Standard accreditation scheme. The Grevox site is even being hosted on servers powered by renewable energy.

So there you go. Now you can use your computer to play games, surf the web, read your emails, network and even… yes even.. do work on it… with your conscience a little clearer and greener.
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