Thursday, March 26, 2009

Going Green - Shutting Down the Vampires

SSF is undergoing a tectonic shift in the personal computer arena. We had the opportunity to buy 2nd-hand MacBook Pros for a fraction of their retail value, so jumped on the deal and are switching off the desktops and powering up the laptops. The beefy Mac we bought 2 years ago to handle Mark's musical recording needs will now be used almost exclusively for that purpose. The Mac Mini that's been handling my stuff and serving as the family's calendar and internet is about to become Dylan's, used fairly sparingly, at night.

I am curious to see if this switch is readily obvious in our upcoming electricity bills. Newer laptops use something like 30% less energy than their desk-bound counterparts. Also, people - including us - are more likely to turn their laptops off at night. A study out this week estimates that corporate employees waste $2.8 billion each year simply by leaving their computers on at the end of the workday.

We are lazy, and I am ashamed to admit that even with good intentions often left both our Mac Mini and our energy hogging Pro on while we slept. Which is ridiculous. So, we'll see if our numbers bear out the statistics.

But, there's another, stealthier, energy thief at work in most homes. In this mobile life we all lead these days, we carry cell phones and digital cameras and cordless razors and iPods and who knows what else. The revolution that moved us away from disposable batteries into rechargeable electronics is significant - the throw-away nature of battery-operated devices is obviously unsustainable.

But, these devices are generally made as cheaply as possible and that means there's no mechanism that tells the charger when the device is good - nothing to indicate that it's time to stop sucking electricity out of the socket. So. Whether your device is charging, or, in fact, is even plugged into the charger, the charger continues to pull electricity.

A cell phone here or there, probably doesn't really amount to much. But look around your house and take stock of how many outlets have little black boxes attached to them. Hmm. So, you might want to try your own experiment - unplug those guys every time you grab the devices attached to them. Then look at your bill. Any difference? We'll be doing that on top of the leaner computers and seeing what the numbers are looking like.

Finally, if you're interested in seeing how community can come together while being scattered across the globe, consider participating in Earthhour this weekend. A global demonstration to illustrate how much power we have to reduce their carbon footprint, Earthhour simply asks people to power down their homes for one hour this Saturday, from 8:30 to 9:30PM.

We'll be having a small birthday sleepover, so we plan to bring out the candles and the board games and have a ball. Who says sustainability can't be fun?

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