Computers are miraculous things. Where once they were only seen in laboratories and libraries, now they are in our pockets, our cars, and even our fridges. But all this proliferation has also resulted in a whole lot of pollution, from the side effects of manufacture to the problems caused by disposal of obsolete technology.
Over the last few years, the green computing movement has really taken root. Computer manufacturers all over the world are competing to discover new, greener ways to manufacture, use and dispose of our computerised goods. Today we'll be looking at two key areas of green IT, and offering you some handy tips on how to choose, use and dispose of your computer equipment.
There's no getting around the fact that computers need metal to run. While there have been some interesting experiments with biological and crystalline computing, these technologies are still likely decades away. However, manufacturers are increasingly making plastic components from biodegradeable materials. If you're buying a new computer, ask about what plastics are used.
When your computer reaches the end of its life, make sure you recycle it, as many manufacturers are now able to use recycled parts in new machines. Many large computer retailers offer a recycling scheme which ensures old machines are returned to the manufacturer for re-use. Dell, for example, offer a free collection service for computers at the end of their life.
Even if you use your computer for years past its sell by date to minimise on material wastage, you may be hurting more than helping. Older computers are far less efficient in their use of power. One of the most promising avenues of Green IT research lies in minimising power use, and today's laptops and desktops use far less power than machines from even a few years ago. If you're not ready to upgrade, you can still do your bit by shutting down your computer and monitor when not in use, or by looking into lower power alternatives.
Another way of offsetting your power usage is to use alternative energy sources. After all, what does it matter if your ancient computer is inefficient if you're running it from a wind turbine?
So, if you've been worrying about the potential impact of computer technology on the environment, there are several reasons to be optimistic. Maybe the biggest reason lies in the new connectedness that computers have created. Thanks to our online world, we are able to come together and create new responses to environmental issues.