Green Home Computing For Dummies®

Table of Contents


About This Book

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Getting a Little Green Behind the Ears

Part II: Choosing Your Green PC Path

Part III: Greener Under the Hood

Part IV: Telecommuting, Teleconferencing, and Teleporting

Part V: The Part of Tens

Icons Used in This Book

Part I: Getting a Little Green Behind the Ears

Chapter 1: What Is Green Computing?

Knowing What Green Computing Means

Setting a green standard

Finding good green info

Getting Started with Green Computing

Assessing your impact

Exercising your purchasing power

Thinking efficiency

Reducing consumption

Reducing waste (and watching where you throw it)

Speaking Green Jargon

Chapter 2: Checking Out Your Carbon Footprint

Knowing Your Carbon Footprint ABCs

The carbon cycle: Don’t hold your breath!

Connecting fossil fuels to carbon emissions

Facing the Facts: Calculate Your Carbon Footprint

The Nature Conservancy’s carbon footprint calculator

Moving toward personal sustainability

Tallying your ecological footprint

Reducing Your Footprint

Chapter 3: The Straight Scoop on Power

Checking Out Sources of Electricity

Creating electricity

Thinking about renewable energy

Fitting solar panels on your roof

How Much Energy Are You Using, Anyway?

Tracking your bills in a spreadsheet

Calculating costs and savings with a home energy audit

Monitoring usage with ploggs and smart meters

Checking for Efficiency with the Energy Star

Penning Up Energy Hogs in Your House

Controlling power flow to electronics: Managing your media

Squealing over heat and air conditioning costs

Cutting the pork from appliances

Leave the light on, Mother

Upgrading to green batteries, anyone?

Trimming fuel consumption

Part II: Choosing Your Green PC Path

Chapter 4: Assessing What You’ve Got

Starting an Inventory of Your Computing Equipment

Spotting an energy hog

How much juice is it, really?

Understanding How You Use Devices

Knowing how much energy your computing tasks need

Thinking about your printing habits

Doing the peripheral math

Working Better with What You Have

Developing computer habits that save energy

Using your monitor with efficiency in mind

Souping up your current computer

Control your fans, control your fate

Behold the power of power strips

Considering your mouse’s environmental impact

Speed up your Internet access

Choosing an ISP who cares

Making the Case for a New Purchase

Chapter 5: Giving Your Computer a Green Makeover

Weighing Your Makeover Possibilities

Shrinking the Elephant (Er, Monitor) on Your Desktop

Finding a green monitor

Understanding Energy Star standards for monitors

Gaming and More with a Greener Video Card

Adding Memory without Ginseng

Finding out how much memory you have

Finding your computer’s memory type

Adding memory

What’s a Terabyte among Friends?

Improving Your Laptop Battery

Greening Your Power Supply

Looking closer at your power supply

Finding an efficient power supply

Chapter 6: Buying a Green Computer

So You Decided to Make a Purchase, Hmmm?

Understanding what makes a computer green

Deciding what green means to you

Matching a computer to your needs

Researching Your Options

Cutting through the greenwashing

Climate Counts for you and me

Let’s hear it for Energy Star

EPEAT that, will you?

Using green buying guides

Listening for the green buzz

Checking Out Small, Green, Niche Computers

Fujitsu’s Esprimo Green PC

The CherryPal Bing

fit-PC: You’ve gotta see it to believe it

Making Your Purchase

Chapter 7: Choosing Earth-Friendly Peripherals

Planning Your Purchases of Green Peripherals

Sharing Peripherals: A Friendly Way to Save the Earth

What can you share?

Picking Printers

Operating costs (in energy and dollars)

Printers that do it all

A printer all by its lonesome

Seeing Some Specialty Drives

SimpleTech (re)drive

Kanguru Eco Drive

Earthy flash drives

Selecting Keyboards and Mice

Logitech possibilities


Calling Router Rooter

D-Link is d-place to be

Netgear Green

Making the Purchase — and What to Do Afterward

Chapter 8: Recycling Your Computer

Facing the e-Waste Facts

What e-waste are we throwing away?

What’s really in computer waste?

Exporting the e-Waste Problem

Seeing Reasons to Recycle Computers

Planning Your Computer’s Retirement

Wiping Your System Clean

Uninstall as needed

Back it up, big fella

Delete the rest

Clear your browser files

Remove all user accounts

Use a disk-cleaning program to remove everything else

Finding Great New Uses for an Old Computer

Doing the pre-donation paperwork

Finding a refurbisher

Donating to a worthy cause

Finding a Reputable Recycler

Do your research

Ask questions

Know the recycling laws in your area

Going Back to the Source (Almost)

Recycling Computer Supplies, Too

Taking Local Action to Clean Up Global Computer Waste

Part III: Greener Under the Hood

Chapter 9: Optimize Your Computer Power Management

Taking Your Computer’s Temperature

Energy Appetites 101

What’s going on under the hood?

Quick Energy Cutbacks for Your PC

Unplug peripherals

Dim the lights

Dump your screen saver

Managing Power in Windows Vista

Putting your computer to sleep

Checking out Vista power plans

Choosing a power plan

Switching your plan

Creating your own power plan

Energy-Friendly Windows 7

Choosing Power Options in Windows XP

Choose a power scheme

Alert! Diet infraction!

Bring in the batteries

Tell your power buttons what to do

Saving Mac Power

Hushabye, little Mac

Choosing a Mac power plan

Adding Power-Management Software

Monitoring energy for free with Edison

Reducing CO2 with Snap’s CO2 Saver

Chapter 10: Greening Mobile Devices

Getting a Handle on Energy-Saving Settings

General battery-draining features

Saving energy on your mobile phone

Charging Your Gadgets with Green Power

Running Mobile Applications to Monitor and Adjust Power

Turning Your Mobile Phone into a GPS Navigator

Reading E-books on Your Mobile Phone

Dialing In to Green Mobile Phones

Motorola MOTO W233 Renew

Samsung solar-rechargeable Blue Earth mobile phone

Nokia 3110 Evolve and N79 eco

Disposing of Gadgets the Green Way

Erasing your personal information

Getting rid of mobile phones and gadgets

Chapter 11: Print Less, Breathe More

Rate How Much Your Printer Eats

Understanding the Impact of Paper

Choosing Good Print Alternatives

What we need for good print alternatives

The PDFs Have It

Collaborating with online documents

Why Duplexing Is Good for the Planet

Setting up duplex printing

Calculating duplex savings

Print . . . If You Must

Tree-Saving Printing Tips

The Ins and Outs of Recycled Paper

Greening Your Printer Supplies

Recycling your print cartridges

What’s up with soy-based ink?

Chapter 12: Seamless Sharing across Systems

Sharing at Home: The Networked Way

Benefits of networking

Types of networks

What you need to get started

How to pick a network type

Setting Up a Home Network

Getting your computers talking

Mapping your new network

Discovering the joy of Network Discovery

Securing the wireless airwaves

Sharing the Easy Stuff

Sharing printers

Sharing media files

Streamlining Your Whole Setup with Windows Home Server

Figuring out what it is: hardware, software, or both?

Getting green with Windows Home Server

Keeping Your Footprint Low at Home

Working with backups

Cleaning things up

Monitoring your resources

Part IV: Telecommuting, Teleconferencing, and Teleporting

Chapter 13: Making the Case for Telecommuting

Telecommuting: Its Time Has Come

Rating Yourself: Could You Work at Home?

Exploring the Upside(s) of Working at Home

Heightened productivity

Flexibility and creativity

Closer to family

Bunny slippers-to-work day

Managing the Challenges of Telecommuting

Establishing expectations

Managing time effectively

Distractions and boundaries

Slipping through the cracks

You’re Set to Telecommute: Now What?

Arrange for data exchange

Sorting out software licenses

Meetings here, there, and everywhere

Resolving difficulties

Tracking Your Green Savings

Chapter 14: Telecomm Central: The Green Home Office

Peering Through a Green Lens at Your Home Office

Figuring Out What You Need to Work Efficiently

Envisioning the Layout

Choosing Your Office Location

Talking Green Furnishings

Start with the desk

Find the chair

Bookcases and more

Adding Green Touches


Circulation and temperature controls

Know your energy use

Don’t forget the plants

Sustaining Green Practices

Buying Green Office Supplies

Chapter 15: Collaborating and Cloud Computing

Communicating with the Office

Meeting the Remote — and Globally Green — Team

Finding Out What Makes Your Effective Team Tick

Exploring Communication Options

Adding your work e-mail address to a Web-based account

Just-in-time messaging

Keeping your colleagues clued in

Boring Name, Big Benefit: Windows SharePoint Services 3.0

Sticking Your Head in the Clouds: A Smart Way to Work

Discovering how cloud computing is green

Google Apps


Finding the right kind of hardware to work with clouds

A to Zonbu

The Moderro Xpack

Chapter 16: Making the Connection: Virtual Presence

Requesting Your Virtual Presence

Getting Started with Telepresence

Messaging, instantly

Have Web, will meet

Get ready, get set, video conference!

Reducing Your Carbon Emissions with Free Phone Service

Getting started with Skype

Calling all Skypers

Presenting via Webinars

Connecting with Remote Desktop

Working remotely

Ending your remote session

Chapter 17: Your Green Small Business

Getting to the Heart of the Matter

Trash to treasure

The Good Housekeeping Green Seal of Approval

Greening Your Business: What Can You Do?

Greening your space

Greening products and services

Greening practices and people

Putting Green Business in Context

Discovering Four Simple Green IT Techniques You Can Implement Today

Collaborating the Green Way

Create Your Own Green Timeline

Finding Five Online Green Business Resources

Green Maven

The Small Business Environmental Home Page

Green America

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 18: Ten Best Ways to Make Your Computer Greener

Turn Stuff Off

Manage the Power

Let Your Computer Get Its Beauty Sleep

Use a Smart Strip

Keep an Eye on Your Power Use

Look for the Energy Star

Boost Your RAM

Increase Air Flow, Reduce Heat

Share Your Resources

Recycle Responsibly

Chapter 19: Ten (Plus) Online Resources for Green Info, Action, and Products

Staying Up to Date with Green News and Information



Best Green Blogs

Planet Green

MSN Green


Finding Tips, Tools, and How-To’s

Alliance to Save Energy

Climate Savers Computing Initiative

Make Me Sustainable

Here a Wikia Green, there a Wikia Green

Checking Out Online Buying Guides

Treehugger’s Green Buying Guides

Green Electronics Council

Consumer Reports Goes Green

Where to Shop for Green Products

Green Home Computing For Dummies®

by Woody Leonhard and Katherine Murray


About the Authors

Woody Leonhard’s tree-hugging tendencies date back to his years in the Boy Scouts, where he specialized in whittling divining rods, analyzing pterodactyl droppings, and stammering at Girl Scouts. He’s written a whole lotta books, starting with Windows 3.1 Programming For Mere Mortals, back in 1992. Somewhat more recently, he’s created many For Dummies books, in multiple editions, covering myriad aspects of Windows 7, Vista, Windows XP, and Office. Woody’s a Contributing Editor for Windows Secrets Newsletter (, and he runs his own blog at, which is tied into a giant all-volunteer computer Q&A site that currently boasts more than 600,000 entries. If you have a question, you know where to go.

A decade ago, Woody moved to Phuket, Thailand, where he now lives with his wife, Duangkhae (better known as “Add”), and his father, George. Together, Woody and Add run Khun Woody’s Bakery and three Sandwich Shoppes. If you’re ever in Phuket, drop a line —

Katherine Murray’s big ambition in life was to be Dr. Doolittle when she grew up, and she’s getting pretty close. She writes (mostly) in a home office surrounded by her many four-footed friends, her children (two-footed), and grandchildren. She’s been writing about computers, digital lifestyle, home business, parenting, and more since the 1980s, back when IBM PC XTs were cool and nobody had heard anything (yet) about new-fangled software called Microsoft Windows. Since the mid-80s, when she wrote her first books on technology, Katherine has published more than 50 computer books on topics related to digital lifestyle, Microsoft Office, and social and blogging technologies. In addition to her technical book writing, Katherine is the managing editor for The Educational Forum, an international research journal in education published by Kappa Delta Pi ( Katherine publishes a number of blogs, including BlogOffice, where she posts tips and Office miscellanea. A long-time lover of the earth, Katherine was thrilled to be able to work on this project and has grown decidedly greener with every finished chapter. :)


Woody: To Add, who put up with all sorts of problems while the books finally took form. To Dad, for providing great inspiration. To Claudette Moore and Ann Jaroncyk, the best agents a guy ever had, and to the editorial and production staff for bringing it all together. Most of all, to Kathy Murray, for doing the (vast!) lion’s share of the work to make this book a pioneering effort in an important and all-too-frequently neglected field.

Katherine: To my grandbabies, Ruby and Henry. May they — and all our grandchildren — have beautiful blue skies; fresh, clean air; crystal clean waters; and a healthy, peaceful planet flourishing with life to pass on to the ones they love.

Authors' Acknowledgments

At the heart of the green movement in the world right now is the knowledge that we are all truly interconnected and interrelated. None of us works in a vacuum, and no project — this one included — is ever produced without the vision, talent, creativity, and effort of many people along the way. We’d like to thank the following people who helped take this book from a great idea to the reality you now hold in your hands:

Claudette Moore of Moore Literary Agency, for her support, insight, friendship, and tried-and-true publishing experience;

Becky Huehls, Project Editor, for being this book’s champion, shepherding it through the various deadlines and processes that make a book happen;

Joe Hutsko, author, who jumped in and wrote Chapter 10 for us when the deadlines loomed large. Thanks, Joe! (Be sure to check out Joe’s green book, Green Gadgets For Dummies, Wiley 2009.)

Heidi Unger, Linda Morris, Kathy Simpson, Adam Vaughn, and all the production staff for great line-by-line checking and editing. If you think this book looks great and reads well, their efforts had a lot to do with that.

Katherine would like to thank Woody for the opportunity to work with him on a topic so near and dear to her heart, and for his friendly and encouraging partnership.

And we’d both like to thank you, the reader, for caring about the planet, for believing you can do something about it, and for purchasing this book to begin making that difference.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Rebecca Huehls

Acquisitions Editor: Amy Fandrei

Copy Editor: Heidi Unger

Technical Editor: Adam Vaughn

Editorial Manager: Leah P. Cameron

Sr. Editorial Assistant: Cherie Case

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Senior Project Coordinator: Kristie Rees

Layout and Graphics: Reuben W. Davis, Timothy C. Detrick, Andrea Hornberger, Jennifer Mayberry, Christine Williams

Proofreaders: Laura Albert, Evelyn W. Gibson, Jessica Kramer

Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC

Special Help
Linda Morris, Kathy Simpson

Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies

Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director

Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director

Publishing for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Welcome to Green Home Computing For Dummies!

It’s the first step in making a great green change for the planet.

As you’ve no doubt noticed, green is all over the news. Green jobs, green products, green programs, green people. Well, maybe not green people. Yet.

But you don’t have to look far to see that the U.S. is — finally, some would say — waking up to the realities that our planet needs our attention and care. For decades, we’ve been pumping unhealthy chemicals into the air, using valuable resources as though there were no tomorrow, mowing down trees, and sinking drums of toxic waste in the middle of the ocean, thinking that the consequences of these actions were not our problems.

Today, we know that kind of “not my problem” thinking is the problem. And by picking up this book and resolving to make a green difference by making earth-friendly choices about your computer use, you have become part of the solution. Congratulations!

About This Book

Green Home Computers For Dummies is all about making good choices that reduce the wear and tear that our computing practices have on the planet. This book helps you learn about the power your computer, peripherals, and other tech equipment — like your game systems, PDAs, and mobile devices — are consuming right now, and puts it all in context so you can clearly see why that matters.

After you have a sense of the impact you’re making — called your carbon footprint — you learn a variety of ways to reduce your power consumption by changing your practices, upgrading your system, buying green, and much more. You’ll also learn how to dispose of old computer equipment in a way that is kind to the planet and find out how changing the way you think about work (telecommuting, anyone?) may be one of the greenest home computing possibilities around.

Foolish Assumptions

As we wrote this book, we envisioned you, the reader, as a person we were sitting with, sipping organically grown, free-trade coffee in a funky sidewalk cafe (that of course went all green long ago). We chatted about ways we can green the planet by expanding our awareness and exercising our choices about the way we use our computers. We made some assumptions about you and the type of information that would be most helpful to you as you start greening your home computing:

Our first assumption is that you care about what you’re hearing in the news about global warming, deforestation, water worries, species extinction, and more — and you’re wondering what you personally can do, through your computing choices, to help turn the tide. That’s a good place to begin!

We also assume that you know something about computers, but it’s not necessary to know a whole lot. In this book, you’ll find examples for a collection of operating systems, from Windows XP to Vista to Windows 7 and Mac OS X. You’ll find lots of good green info, a huge range of resources, great practical eco-friendly ideas, and techniques, tips, and suggestions for greening your computing practices from the inside out.

We also assume you want to know how to modify the system you already have and perhaps either upgrade it or recycle it and buy a new greener system. You’ll find that information in Part II.

We also assume that you want to understand how personal technology in all its forms — PCs, laptops, mobile devices, game systems, and more — contributes to our planetary challenges. You’ll find ways to evaluate the impact you’re already making, find practical ways to reduce that impact, and discover ways to reuse and recycle what you can.

How This Book Is Organized

Green Home Computing For Dummies is designed to give you the big, global picture (what is global warming and how are we contributing to it?) and then take you into the small stuff (how do I set up power management in my PC?); but you don’t have to approach any of the topics in a particular order. Each chapter stands on its own right, and if it contains the information you’re looking for most, just jump right in — the water’s reasonably warm.

Here’s a quick look at what you’ll find in the various parts of the book:

Part I: Getting a Little Green Behind the Ears

Part I starts the book by exploring why greening your computer practice is important for the environment and helping you see how much of an impact you’re already making. In this part, you calculate the size of your carbon footprint and see how your power consumption contributes to the gas bubble that is warming the planet.

Part II: Choosing Your Green PC Path

Part II helps you take an up-close-and-personal look at your own computers and peripherals and get a sense of how many resources you’re using. Here you get practical information on how to upgrade your computer to make it greener, shop for a new green system, choose earth-friendly peripherals, and ultimately, recycle the computers you’ve got in a way that’s good for all of us.

Part III: Greener Under the Hood

Part III takes a closer look inside the computer for ways to reduce power consumption and cut down on other resources like paper, water, and time. In this part, you learn to set up power management in your computer, green your mobile devices, reduce the resources you use in printing, and use home networking to share resources throughout your house.

Part IV: Telecommuting, Teleconferencing, and Teleporting

Part IV explores ways in which you can green your practices by, first and foremost, using technology to work from home, which reduces your travel time, gas costs, and CO2 emissions right off the bat. This part also shows you how to set up a green home office and use cloud computing, teleconferencing, and other communication tools to be successful at work no matter where you’re working.

Part V: The Part of Tens

Finally, Part V provides sets of quick items to make your computer greener, find reliable green tech sites, and shop for green electronics online.

Icons Used in This Book

tip.eps The Tip icon marks tips (duh!) and shortcuts that you can use to make green computing easier.

remember.eps Remember icons mark the information that’s especially important to know. To siphon off the most important information in each chapter, just skim through these icons.

technicalstuff.eps The Technical Stuff icon marks information of a highly technical nature that you can normally skip over.

warning_bomb.eps The Warning icon tells you to watch out! It marks important information that may save you headaches or keep you from heading into waters that are more greenwashing than really green.

Part I

Getting a Little Green Behind the Ears


In this part . . .

Our computers are hungry. Like most of the people you know, some computers (and mobile devices, and peripherals) have bigger appetites than others. This part of the book introduces you to green computing and shows you how you can start to get a handle on the natural and energy resources that get gobbled up when you use your computer, when you open the fridge, when you drive to the store. For every action there is a reaction, as you’ll see in this part of the book, and in some cases, those actions are turning up the temperature on global warming. The good news is that awareness is the first part of positive change, and you’ll have lots of opportunity for that in this part of the book. Today is a good day to find out where all that energy is going and choose to manage it wisely (so it doesn’t manage you!).

Chapter 1

What Is Green Computing?

In This Chapter

Defining green computing

Getting past our past

Tugging at the roots of global warming

Getting started with green computing

Learning green lingo

Greening computers — and mobile devices, too

Starting with the easy stuff

Contrary to what Kermit the Frog says, today it’s pretty easy to be green. Take a look at any media channel — TV, Web, or print — and you’re sure to see an ad about the latest must-have green product for your home, car, kitchen, or office. Organic is in and consumers are spending more and more on items that manufacturers promise are earth friendly.

Computer manufacturers are right there in the mix. Dell is offering a laptop made of 95 percent recycled materials; Apple is touting its greenest MacBook yet; and most hardware vendors are busy producing four-color glossy marketing materials that tell you how environmentally conscious they are and how good you can feel when you write that check or sign the credit card slip.

This chapter gives you a quick look at what green home computing is — and isn’t. (Hint: It doesn’t mean going out and buying all new green-colored computer equipment.) Here, we also help you start thinking about simple ideas that you can put into action right away to begin making your computing — and your life — a little greener.

Knowing What Green Computing Means

You’ve probably noticed that people and corporations — big corporations — are suddenly all over the green. Perhaps that’s happening because environmentalists’ ideas about conserving energy and reducing waste are catching on and people want to begin making changes. Of course, it’s also possible that businesses have discovered that green sells. And many people are discovering that real green technology is more efficient and can save them some real cash.

The result is that more and more people are becoming aware that they need to make good choices about the way they use the earth’s resources — water, energy, land, and air. That’s where green computing fits in.

The overall goal of green home computing is to use our systems efficiently and effectively, being smart about the energy we’re consuming and responsible about the way we dispose of the components we no longer need.

Green home computing asks you to interrupt your day-to-day habits and consider these five simple ways you can reduce your consumption, make the most of what you have, and be more conscious of your earth-impacting computing choices:

1. Reuse what you can.

2. Rebuild or restore systems and peripheral devices.

3. Share resources.

4. Replace energy hogs with energy-efficient equipment.

5. Recycle safely.

Setting a green standard

A number of standards-setting organizations have been focused on greening technology for a while, and in this book, you find out how the resources each provides can guide you toward greener home computing.

Energy Star: One organization you may already be familiar with is Energy Star. Created in 1992 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Energy Star offers consumers a way to know whether the manufactured item that they’re purchasing meets energy-efficient standards. You see the Energy Star logo on any electrical appliance or computer that meets the EPA’s standards. Other countries have adopted similar standards to encourage conscientious use of energy.

tip.eps To find out more about the Energy Star rating, go to

EPEAT: EPEAT is a program sponsored by the Green Electronics Council, which focuses on issues of electronics and sustainability. EPEAT is a green electronics “certification” program that helps consumers learn more about the energy use of laptops, monitors, and desktop computers they are considering purchasing.

Greenpeace Guide to Green Electronics: In the summer of 2006, the international environmental group Greenpeace began rating technology companies to gauge their progress in promises to reduce emissions, increase energy efficiency, and discontinue using toxic chemicals in their product manufacturing processes. In Figure 1-1, the Guide to Green Electronics chart from Version 11 shows the results of the March 2009 rating. As you can see, by this rating, Nokia and Samsung lead the earth-friendly tech companies, and Nintendo and HP pull up the rear.

Figure 1-1: Greenpeace connects the dots in the November 2008 Guide to Greener Electronics.


tip.eps To see more of Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics, go to

Finding good green info

Searching online is always a good place to start when you want to find out more about any aspect of anything. But green is a popular topic, and it’s growing by leaps and bounds. In fact, if you just enter the word green in a search engine and press Enter, you’ll get more than one billion (yes, with a “b”) results! How can you narrow your search and find good information on the topics you want to research? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Keep an eye out for greenwashing. Greenwashing is the phrase used to describe companies that are using earth-friendly language to describe products that really aren’t. In other words, their environmental consciousness is more marketing ploy than green effort. Throughout this book, you’ll learn ways you can determine that a company is truly offering a green product or service, but in short, green companies who deliver on their promises care about energy efficiency, use materials and manufacturing processes that minimize the use of resources and the production of waste, and make it easy for consumers to dispose of equipment or devices they no longer use.

Stick with objective sources. Computer manufacturers and vendors may give you the straight scoop on the green capabilities of the items they’re selling, but when you’re doing your homework to see how systems compare and what really matters in terms of energy efficiency, look for media sources (like, university sites, or third-party research organizations that can supply data based on research.

Use wikis wisely. Wikiagreen, at, has a great green wiki that brings together all kinds of resources in one handy-dandy reference. As always, remember that open posting and editing of wiki entries means that not everything there is vetted; look for other sources to back up the information you find before you write a big check or otherwise wager something important.

Whenever possible, go straight to the source. When you hear about a new study on global warming (released, for instance, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), go directly to that organization’s official site and see what they have to say. No need to search through blogs or articles when you can get the original document and see the charts and data yourself.

Know the names in the business. If you’re interested in one area more than another — say computer recycling is a big hot button for you — know who the experts are in that area and subscribe to their blogs, read their books, and follow the publications that their comments appear in.

As you dig deeper into green computing topics later in this book, you find help for researching specific topics and products, too.

Getting Started with Green Computing

Throughout this book, you build on the simple ideas of green computing in a variety of ways. Here you find an overview of how home computing can be greener and also how technology can improve efficiency and help you consume fewer resources.

What we cover in this section is just the tip of the rapidly melting iceberg. For details about how to get started with any of these topics, flip to the chapter we cross reference.

Assessing your impact

So now that you know a bit more about what’s behind the need to green, you’re probably wondering what you can do about it. Awareness is a good place to start. Take a moment and look around. Wherever you’re reading — in the living room or your home office — notice the energy that’s being used around you. What kind of lights are shining, and how many are there? Is the room (if you’re in one) hot or cool? What’s fueling that? Notice devices, computers, fans, and MP3 players. Anything that gleams, notice it. As I write this, I can see eight different devices that are drawing electric current (plus the furnace, which I can hear and feel but not see).

In Chapter 2, you can explore in detail the impact you make on your environment every day. You find steps for using a carbon footprint calculator to find out where you can conserve energy and see how your habits and practices contribute to increased carbon in the atmosphere.

tip.eps In Chapter 4, you find tips and steps for assessing your home and home computing setup, including all the points where you’re consuming power. Make tuning in to the power use in your surroundings part of your normal coming-and-going routine. Noticing your surroundings when you first enter a room, and again as you’re ready to leave, will help you stay awake to the energy you can conserve. For example, when you leave an average 150-watt computer running for a year, it uses an amount of energy equal to half a ton of coal (that’s 1,000 pounds) or more than 100 gallons of oil.

remember.eps According to the Consumer Electronics Association’s April 2008 Market Research Report: Trends in CE Use, Recycle and Removal, the average U.S. household includes approximately 24 electronic products.

If you’re in your own home, of course, you can control the lights, the systems drawing power, the temperature, and the number of peripherals you leave on all day.

Exercising your purchasing power

People are voting green with their dollars more than ever before. The public reaction to earth-friendly products may be occurring, in part, because An Inconvenient Truth, the popular movie about the problem of global warming, struck a chord. Perhaps the public is tired and suspicious of potentially hazardous chemicals, or craves a simpler, more pure life. Whatever the reasons, green marketing is at an all-time high, and you can be sure that green initiatives are growing.

When you purchase a new computer or mobile device, do the legwork to find out the science behind the manufacturer’s promises. Find information from objective sources to help you evaluate the best and most environmentally responsible choice for your home and family. Read user ratings and reviews; talk to other users if possible; and put time into weighing out the right choice. Your new computer or device will be part of your life for a while — maybe several years — using energy you’ll be paying for. Some manufacturers offer trade-in programs when you purchase new computers; they’ll dispose of your old computer safely for you.

In Chapter 6, you find tips for cutting through the greenwashing and finding a truly green new computer. In Chapter 10, you can check out a few green gadgets to go with your new computer and other devices.

Thinking efficiency

We don’t think people set out to be deliberately wasteful. But in the world in which we live, efficiency takes a little work, at least up front. It doesn’t help that technology changes so rapidly that keeping up can be a part-time job. That’s why we show you ways technology can help you achieve efficiency and then forget about it, or least achieve efficiency with as little maintenance as possible.

Chapter 4 helps you take stock and begin thinking about the systems in your house, whether it’s your computer system or your method for recharging devices or plugging in all your electronics. You find out how to

Become aware of your own energy use.

Take steps to increase energy efficiency at home.

Begin to look for alternatives to energy use or spending.

Discover how much power your computer needs.

You can also improve efficiency by doing the following:

Rebuild, purchase, or streamline systems and peripherals to green them up. (See Chapters 5 and 6.)

Share resources to coordinate systems and peripheral use. (See Chapter 7.)

Improve your system and manage its power. (Check out Chapter 9, which helps you set the power management features that come with your operating system.)

Being efficient with your computer use means powering up when you need it, consolidating tasks, and powering down when you’re through. It means using only what you need and coordinating your peripheral use. With a little reorganizing and changing the way you work with your computer, you can get a little greener.

Reducing consumption

Consumers come in all stripes. Chances are, if you’re looking for ways to be more efficient in the way you use your computer and other technologies, you can also trim back the way you consume collateral products and resources. For example:

Paper recycling and conservation can make a huge difference not only in the volume of paper you go through in your office, but also in the way you feel about your green efforts and your overall impact on important, big-picture issues like reforestation and sustainable resources. You can reduce your paper consumption by as much as 50 percent when you adopt a simple plan to use only recycled paper for in-office documents; print on both sides of the page; and use electronic documents whenever possible. And that’s not small potatoes, in terms of good care of the earth. In Chapter 11, we discuss greener printing in more depth.

Virtualization and telecommuting can make the most of your time and resources. Working in a virtual environment and telecommuting enables you to complete your work without traveling to the office, which saves gas, travel time, and CO2 emissions. You learn all about telecommuting — including making the case to your boss — in Part IV.

Reducing waste (and watching where you throw it)

Waste of all kinds is a huge problem. Landfills are brimming; communities are sprawling; wildlife has less room to roam and do what wildlife does. The problem of computer dumping has become a mountain of an issue for developing countries. Because most computers — even those sold today — are manufactured with a number of toxic chemicals, they’re a hazard when they’re dumped without thought about proper disposal. Although it’s illegal to do so, much of the toxic e-waste that we generate when we mindlessly toss out our computers, cellphones, televisions, and other devices is packaged and shipped to China and Africa, where families burn the materials to retrieve the precious metals and earn a small wage. The result is that children are growing up in villages where the streets are mounded with huge hills of discarded tech equipment, and the air has a sickening smog of burning chemicals.

tip.eps For a disturbing look at the illegal practice of computer dumping, see this video report from 60 Minutes at

To avoid these problems, you can make sure you get the most out of the computing equipment you have (see Chapter 5) and recycle your computers and devices safely. A number of computer manufacturers and vendors offer reuse and recycling programs that enable you to donate or recycle your electronics. Getting rid of your equipment safely is such a big issue that we devote all of Chapter 8 to this topic.

Speaking Green Jargon

Even though the word green can mean you’re anything from financially flush to jealous to inexperienced to seasick, when you’re talking about earth-friendly phrases, there’s a whole new language developing. Here are a few green (as in, environment-friendly) words and phrases you can throw around at your next dinner party:

Biofuel is energy created from renewable, biological sources, like plants, and used for heat, electricity, or fuel.

Biomimicry uses designs based on patterns and processes in nature to solve human problems (for example, studying a leaf to design solar cells).

Brown power/energy is the type of energy that results from the combustion of nonrenewable fuels (oil, gas, coal) and contributes to greenhouse gases.

Carbon footprint refers to the human contribution to the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Closed-loop recycling uses a recycled product to manufacturer a new product.

Closed-loop supply chain is a supply process in which all wastes created during the production of a product are reused, recycled, or composted.

Ecological footprint is the overall human use of natural resources compared to the capability of the earth to replenish or renew them.

Fair trade is an international trading partnership that focuses on equitable trade, especially among producers who have often been exploited in the traditional market system.

Geothermal energy is a natural form of heat energy from steam and hot water sources below the earth’s surface.

Global warming is the increasing temperature of the earth’s surface and atmosphere as a result of greenhouse gases.

Green design is used to create products, buildings, services, and processes that are in tune with environmental needs, create greater efficiency, and reduce consumption.

Greenhouse effect is the trapping of heat within the earth’s atmosphere; this effect is caused by greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Renewable energy is energy that comes from non-fossil fuel sources, and it renews naturally. It can include wind, hydro, geothermal, or solar energy.

Sustainability refers to the ability to meet environmental, social, and economic needs effectively over time.

Zero waste is a system of production that seeks to eliminate waste and toxic materials through conservation and recovery of resources.