The term “green” gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it really mean and how far does it go? Everyone knows (or should know) the three basic R’s; Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. We may want to add “Recharge” to the list and rethink our environmentally friendly tactics.
Sure, you may drive a hybrid car and use canvas shopping bags, but what about your 50” plasma TV? Even though it may be turned off, it still draws power, which costs both you and the environment. Here are some ways to help reduce your electronic carbon footprint and save some green at the same time.
For any power-hungry device, like some older digital cameras, consider purchasing rechargeable batteries and a smart charger instead of traditional alkaline AA or AAA batteries. Although it may be a slightly more expensive initial investment, newer technology enables the cells to be recharged in as little as 15 minutes. Over the long run, these systems will pay for themselves many times over and reduce unneeded waste.
As for that plasma TV, you might be surprised to learn that roughly 40% of the power it uses is drawn while it isn’t even turned on. Many high-technology home electronics are energy “vampires” and use much more electricity that you realize. A way to combat these wasteful devices is to use smart power strips that detect when a component is turned off and truly cuts power to it.
When the time comes to get rid of the old iMac in your garage, what then? Even if it doesn’t work, it still has value. Many companies will buy back old electronics or give you a credit towards new ones. Craigslist and other online auction sites are also good to keep in mind, considering many people buy their electronics used and you may be able to recover some of your initial cost. This is a good practice if the parts still work because it lengthens the product’s useful life-cycle and limits the amount of waste that needs to be recycled.
Even though electronics are being recycled, the process still requires energy, much of which is focused on managing the toxic ingredients like mercury, lead and cadmium that went into producing the product. As much as 70% of all hazardous waste that is generated are discarded electronics. Many manufacturers are going to great lengths to greatly minimize the extent to which they use these hazardous elements, including Apple, who is making progress in eliminating mercury from displays and brominated flame retardants from other internal components.
Armed with this knowledge, your next home technology purchase will be easy, better for you, and better for the environment. Being green can be as simple as insisting on efficient, Energy Star rated products that are manufactured without toxic substances, and using smart power strips once you get them home. Remember that being earth-friendly doesn’t stop once you un-box your new gadget. Extend its lifespan, recycle responsibly, and you’ll contribute to keeping the environment healthy for many years to come.