Is Green Computing Really Possible?

The arrival of Apple’s long-awaited iPad—a device that’s bigger and more powerful than an iPod but not really a full-featured computer–got me thinking:  does each of us really need another gadget?  How much electronic “stuff” is each of buying, using, and discarding?  Is it possible to be up-to-date technologically and really live a green lifestyle?

If you’re a baby-boomer like I am, you can remember when one or two administrative assistants in the office had electric typewriters on their desks and the rest of us had only pen and paper. We wrote out reports and presentations longhand.  We jotted appointments in a paper calendar.  Memos that everyone had to see were passed from one person to the next (check off your name when you’ve read it) until everyone had seen them.  Yes, we used a lot of paper, but we bought, charged, and trashed way less electronic junk.

Today, in that same office, everyone has a computer on his or her desk.  There’s a laser printer in the corner for everyone to use and some people have printers just for themselves. Everyone’s got a smartphone in his or her pocket and a “dumb” phone on the desk.   The typical computer CPU and monitor use a couple of hundred watts of power.  Additionally, computers and printers drawing power all day long generate heat and require the building to have extra cooling.  One American university estimates that personal computers generate $700,000 in annual energy costs.  And that’s just at the office.

At home, many of us have several phones, several computers and at least one huge flat panel TV.  We have cameras, scanners, iPods, and electronic game players.  Many of these things run all day, and at night we plug everything in to recharge before we go to bed.  Most of these things will become obsolete in 3-5 years and we’ll discard them and get new models.

But how much power are we using?  How much junk are we putting in landfills?  Even if we’re careful to turn off what we’re not using and to recycle what we discard, we’re still gobbling up way more than our share of the world’s resources.

So, the question I ask is this:  is it possible to keep up with technology and truly live a green lifestyle?  What do you think?


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