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How to make Laptops more Eco-friendly?

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

Laptops do create carbon footprints, consuming electrical power and contributing to ecological problems such as dumping of toxic components. There are some simple ways of making the entire laptop experience more eco-friendly.

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    Laptops have gained mass popularity across global markets, as their utility remains unargued and user-related convenience has been maximized. However, one aspect of laptop technology that is under skepticism is its eco-friendliness. Laptops do create carbon footprints, consuming electrical power and contributing to ecological problems such as dumping of toxic components. There are some simple ways of making the entire laptop experience more eco-friendly:

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    Choosing the Right Display

    One way of making a laptop more environment-compatible is by using LCD displays. LCD or Liquid Crystal Display is known to consume considerably lesser power than a conventional display due the presence of a better technology — fluorescent backlighting. Now, efforts are being made to further improve upon the performance of laptops by popularizing models with Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs).

    However, the difference between a LCD and LED display is not substantial and the real improvement would be the introduction of the much-anticipated Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs). The OLED technology is already in use in the form of cell phone displays and uses significantly lesser power than either LCD or LED displays. However, the challenge lies in creating OLEDs in a cost-efficient manner, as laptop screens are much bigger than those used in mobile phones.
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    Reducing Power Consumption

    Laptops are essentially computerized electronic items and there is a need to introduce comprehensive ways of reducing the strain they put on energy resources. Recently, the green movement has caught the attention of the global audience and as a result, many innovative ways of powering the laptop have been suggested. These include:

    • Using battery-powered sources — this is ideal for static use of laptops. Power can be sourced from batteries that can sustain power need for hours but use much lesser electricity used for periodic charging
    • Using portable solar chargers — their use cannot be recommended for low sunlit areas but are being emphasized for being included as a part of new laptop casings. They are more suitable for the ‘on-the-move’ laptop consumer
    • Using fixed solar panels — highly recommended for offices/homes that have comparatively lesser mobility of laptops, i.e. laptops installed on desks and workstations.
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    Think About Hard Drive Alternatives

    This is a way of reducing a laptop’s energy consumption, effectively when used in combination with other such measures.

    • Reason — nearly 10% of a laptop’s energy demand can be reduced by replacing the conventional hard drives with useful replacements like flash memory.
    • Advantage — the flash memory system has negligible power-hungry components like the contemporary hard drives, though their performance is at par with most laptops. Dell has already taken the lead in this effort by creating the first commercially-viable, solid-state drive that offers 32 GB of memory.
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    Reducing Toxicity

    The commonly-used laptop casings present a huge threat to the environment, being made from petroleum-derived/plasticized products. The emphasis should be on using naturally-produced polymer casings rather than the conventional plastic casings. Another major eco-threatening ingredient of laptops is the lead content. Eco-standards regarding the level of lead present in manufactured products need to be raised. There are alternatives for making greener laptops, like using blended fabrics and recycled materials.

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    Eco-friendly Manufacturing

    This is perhaps the most decisive factor for making a laptop, greener. Whether it is reducing the amount of toxic components or effectively recycling spare parts, ultimately the manufacturers have to take the initiative. If manufacturing units equip themselves with better (power-saving) production methods, then the energy used to make a laptop and hence, its carbon footprints are automatically reduced.