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Myths and Realities of Green Computing

written by: •edited by: Bill Bunter•updated: 5/6/2010

Computer technology is continuously evolving and there are some dedicated companies that are actually searching for environment-friendly alternatives. It becomes essential to understand the myths and realities regarding green computing.

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    Green revolution in the world of computers has become the buzzword across green blogs/sites dedicated to the cause of promoting eco-friendly computing. Agreed, that this increased environmental awareness is a welcome change and green computing can make a substantial contribution. However, many myths have been created regarding the practical execution of green computing methods. Computer technology is continuously evolving and there are some dedicated companies that are actually searching for environment-friendly alternatives. But in contrast to their honest efforts, there are many computing vendors that are merely trying to peddle their goods. In such cases, green computing is restricted only to the realm of sales pitches. Therefore, it becomes essential to understand the myths and realities regarding green computing. Following are some of the most common misconceptions regarding green computing technologies, along with explanations and sensible alternatives:

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    Myth: Being ‘Paperless’ Means Being Green

    Reality— this is perhaps the most widespread myth that most people fail to comprehend. The term ‘paperless office’ was used with the advent of web-centric offices and it was believed that by dumping physical use of paper, businesses and people were actually making a contribution to the cause of the environment. It is generally believed that through this paper-free approach people are saving the trees and hence, assisting in environment conservation. Folks who are harping about the paper-free advantages of the computing environment fail to realize that in the current scenario, the use of computers is actually increasing the demands on the ecosystem.

    How? The reason lies in the increasing energy demands that are being created due to computerized environments. To a normal PC user, it isn't very apparent, but the fact is that PCs tend to heat-up the environment in a workplace. As a result, more energy-sapping solutions are being sought in the form of installations such as heaving air-conditioning devices at workplaces. Further, a PC itself isn't the more power-efficient gadget that has been invented. This is also the challenge faced by innovative vendors who are trying to promote greener PCs, i.e. those with reduced power-consumption patterns — such eco-friendly computing technologies aren't cheap to develop and hence, have limited marketability.


    There are simple methods of developing a PC environment that actually reduces the consumption of power and is greener:

    • Purchase computers that are Energy Star–compliant — this is just one of the many certifications that can differentiate authentic, low power-consuming systems from the rest
    • Use flat-screen monitors that use substantially lesser energy than CRTs. Similarly, laptop models are known to use lesser energy than the conventional desktop models
    • Use darker backgrounds on the screen as they use slightly lesser power than brighter displays
    • Try to read/review documents and e-mails rather than printing them
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    Myth: Turning-Off The Computer Means Consuming More Power

    Reality— somehow, a perception has been created among PC users that repeatedly turning the computer on/off harms the computer’s electronic pathway. Further, it is believed that there is a lot of power sucked-in every time the PC is switched on. This ideology is beyond the scope of any scientific theory. Manufacturers themselves believe that there aren't any noticeable harms that are caused to the circuits of a PC on being periodically switched on/off. Obviously, it doesn't make sense to switch-off your PC for every moment that you are going to be away from the desk, but leaving it on for substantial periods of time, based upon a detrimental supposition just doesn’t make sense.

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    Myth: Screen Savers and Idling Computers Use Lesser Energy

    Reality— the term ‘saver’ doesn't mean use of lesser energy in any way. However, a screen saver can still affect a computer's performance. The use of power even with screen savers is at par or may be even a bit more than a system that is being actively used. Similarly, idling computers use as much energy. Just because someone isn't actually using it doesn't translate into the PC sapping lesser electrical energy.


    The reality is that there a number of practical ways that can be combined with switching-off the PC to make the entire PC-using experience greener. Try the following tips:

    • Use surge protectors for plugging-in your computer — this device has a master control point that is able to sense when the PC is not being used and cuts the power after a certain period of inactivity
    • Plan computer-related functions which will enable you to use the PC in a more organized manner and hence the very need of switching the computer off is negated to a large extent
    • Use the Standby/Sleep mode more often to ensure that you waste minimum electricity

    Perhaps, the biggest myth is regarding the entire approach to green computing — some folks believe that the efforts of an individual aren't worthy of making a substantial effect to the cause of conserving the environment. Unless, this mistaken perception is resolved, the best of green computing efforts can deliver very little utility.