Geeks Guide to Earth Day
Earth Day is just around the corner, April 22nd, to be exact. While we may be geeks, we still like to do a lot of the same things non-geeks do, just with a bit of a geeky spin to them. Sure our sense of normality may be skewed just a tad but that doesn't mean we aren't concerned about our planet.
Besides it was classic Science Fiction writers who made us all aware of the harmful affects us humans could have on our planet, thus forcing us to "seek out new worlds and civilizations." So we want to do our part for Earth Day, too. After all, Earth’s the only planet we’ve got — for the time being, anyway.
So just why is it important for us geeks to be concerned? Mainly because of our fascination with technology and everything that is new and shiny. We demand, no crave, the newest and best of everything, hardly giving time for what we have to be used to its full potential.
The problem is that technology demands a certain level of exploitation when it comes to the environment. Metal alloys that are building blocks of tech devices are harnessed from the earth’s bounty. One of the most important components that any business, whether IT or non-tech, is energy. This is the food that fuels day-to-day operations. But there is no such thing as an unlimited resource, and our use of natural resources shouldn’t be a one-way street.
One way we can help curb our CO2 impact on the planet is to limit our Google searches. According to Google, each search uses roughly 0.0003 kWh of energy, or 1 kJ. The human body uses 8000 kJ a day of energy from food, so a Google search will use about the equivalent of 10 seconds of human energy. In relation to automobile use, a Google search creates 0.2 grams of CO2 emissions, that’s not a whole lot considering driving one mile produces the same amount of emissions as 1000s of Google searches. So if you willing to sacrifice you daily drives or seak out alternative means of transportation, you can feel good about sitting inside and searching Google all day.
Earth Day was started back on April 22nd, 1970, when 20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. The idea behind Earth Day came from founder Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the impact of the 1969 massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California. Since then Earth Day has evolved into a global phenomenon that brings everyone together to think about the Earth’s needs and what we can do to help.
But what exactly is it that we geeks can do? Unfortunately computers and technology are a major part of our daily lives and the manufacturing and use of these items are also a major contributor to our waste stream and energy consumption. Take a moment to read the tips below to help reduce your impact on the environment (and save some cash in the process!).
Reduce Energy Consumption
1) Did you know that approximately 40% of the energy used for home electronics is consumed while these devices are turned off or idling? When not in use for extended periods, switch your computer OFF and unplug it. Despite popular belief, powering your computer on and off daily will not harm your computer.
2) Configure your power saving options for energy savings when your computer is temporarily not in use. For example, set your computer to put your monitor to sleep, spin down your hard drives.
3) If you’re going to use a screen saver, use a blank (black) screen – animated screen savers just consume more electricity.
4) Don’t forget your EXTRAS! Turn off your power-hungry printer, speakers, monitor, and any other hardware that is sucking up energy when not being used.
Reduce Paper Waste
1) First and foremost, ask yourself: Do I really need to print this? While some paper gets recycled, it is still the largest component of the waste stream that ends up in landfills. Do Earth a favor by saving trees.
2) If you are printing from the web, there are several easy to use tools that will help you remove stuff like ads and images before printing, which saves ink and paper. Here are a few: Aardvark (firefox extension), GreenPrint (also works with Office) and PrintWhatYouLike.
3) If you have a bunch of one-sided print-outs that you no longer need, contribute them to the scrap paper box located on the counter of the library service desk. Use both sides of paper before recycling.
Reuse and Recycle Hardware
1) Before purchasing a new computer, consider upgrading hardware in your current machine. Some extra memory or a new hard drive may be all you need to restore life to your current system.
2) As time goes by, your machine may suffer from software bloat. All the updates, installing of software, applications running in the background that you don’t really need clog up your machine up and slow down its performance, which in turn increases electricity consumption. Consider doing a reinstallation of Windows and your software. A lean machine will sip less electricity and perform much better.
3) When you do replace your computer, donate or recycle it.
4) Better yet recycle cardboard, cans, and bottles as game terrain. While you may already recycle we're sure the efforts are only somewhat effective due to the resources required to gather the recyclable materials, separate them, and do the actual recycling. So why not be a true geek and find a new way to reuse them. With a little creativity, a pair of scissors, some paint and some glue, and you can create some nifty terrain for a miniatures campaign, or maybe work into a custom display for your prized action figures.
Conserve around the house
1) Install a programmable thermostat in your home. It’s really simple, not that expensive, and is pretty well guaranteed to save energy, and to reduce your utility bills drastically. While getting the programming just right to keep your family comfortable can be a hassle, the chance to do some experimentation has never made us turn away from anything.
2) Buy and use an energy-saving surge protector / power strip. These devices act like regular old surge protectors, but with an added feature to help eliminate “phantom power” waste. “Phantom power” is the little bit of power many devices draw even when they’re switched off. Go for extra geek points and get the Belkin BG108000-04 with a remote control.
3) Install solar panels on your roof. Of course this will only work if you get a decent amount of sun. Solar energy can really reduce the amount of electricity you draw from your utility company. The only downside is that solar panels aren’t quite efficient enough yet so you’re unlikely to see a drastic difference (especially in winter). But then again why let perfectly good energy going to waste?
4) Find and fix air leaks in your home. Houses, especially older houses, tend to have a lot of little air leaks. While one leak isn’t too bad, a lot can be a huge energy drain. If you’re looking for an excuse to get a new gadget then this one serves a double whammy. With a Black & Decker Leak Detector, you can use a piece of technology to help save some money.
By following just a few of these tips every day, we can all help make an impact on our Earth.