Save the Planet - Turn Off Your PC

How many of us actually turn off our PCs, cell phone chargers and other digital devices when we’re not using them? After reading this piece by Bill Thompson for BBC News, I’m going to think twice before allowing all my electronic devices to burn through the night or during holidays.

A study done by Canon calculated that fax machines, phone rechargers, PCs, copiers and other common electronic devices will, if left powered on, consume over forty million kilowatt hours of electricity over the holiday break, pumping 19,000 extraneous tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere at a cost of around £8.6m — and that’s just in the UK alone (presumably.)

Although PCs are the biggest culprit of unnecessary electricity consumption, mobile devices are a big contributor too, with over 10 billion mobile chargers sucking up resources around the globe. The massive number of servers that companies run also chew up electricity.

Second Life’s Linden Labs runs 4,000 servers to support its two million registered users, even though only 15,000 users are typically in the virtual world at any given time. Nick Carr estimates that each Second Life avatar uses up 1,752 kilowatt hours of electricity per year - as much as the average person in Brazil and equivalent to 1.17 tons of carbon dioxide, which is what you’d get if you drove a large car 2,300 miles.

Some of the solutions include using virtual computers (running several PCs on one computer), the use of which Pacific Gas and Electric in California will offer rebates, up to $4 million/year. MIT’s new laptop developed for the One Laptop Per Child Initiative automatically powers down its CPU when not in use. And Google’s engineers have apparently developed a new, more efficient method for powering PCs.

Until new energy-saving solutions come along, the easiest way to stop being such an electricity hog is to just turn off all the devices when not in use. As Thompson says in the article:

So turn off the hardware as you leave the office for your Christmas break - the only shining lights in the darkness should be the ones on the tree at home.

2006 IP Democracy Forum