Electronics are finding their way into more and more households across the world. They can be used as tools or as toys, for work or for pleasure. Sometimes they come in the form of a large flat-screen TV, other times they can be as small as a pocket-sized iPod. Often, electronics allow us to perform tasks more efficiently, communicate with each other more effectively, and access information effortlessly. Aside from the endless benefits that advanced technology has afforded us, the progress comes with a large environmental footprint. Many electronics can use an unnecessary amount of energy and over 40 percent of that energy is consumed when the devices are turned off. Moreover, as we constantly strive to keep up with the latest models on the market, the old electronic devices end up in our landfills accounting for 70 percent of all hazardous waste in the United States.
Below are some simple solutions to make your electronic use a little more eco-friendly.
Minimize vampire power... Vampire power, or "standby power," is the electricity consumed by devices when they are plugged in but turned off or in standby mode. As noted above, vampire power accounts for about 40 percent of the energy consumed by electronics. In order to reduce this wasted energy, unplug devices when not in use. Another, more simple approach is to plug all of your electronic devices into a power strip. When not in use, switch the power strip off or unplug it completely.
Look for rechargeables! Over 15 billion batteries are sold each year to power our electronics, but most of them are disposable and few of them are recycled. Look for rechargeable electronics-it will save the environment a lot a manufacturing and battery waste.
Buy used or extend your use. At the rate that technology is advancing, it seems like new devices are coming out every week. In order to keep up with the latest trends, many perfectly functional electronics are ending up in landfills as hazardous waste. Using services like Craigslist.org, eBay.com, or FreeCycle.org, you can find high-quality, used electronics that will not require new materials to be made and will be saved from ending up in the landfill. Also, try to extend the use of your electronics. Constantly replacing electronics with new models creates an enormous amount of waste, both in the manufacturing of new materials, and the discarding of old ones.
Support green companies. If you are in the market for new electronics, it is easy to make that experience more sustainable by supporting companies that take the environment into consideration. Greenpeace released the Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and games consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Some of the front-runners include Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Toshiba, Philips, and Apple. To see the full guide, go to: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/toxics/electronics/how-the-companies-line-up.
Support green products. Aside from supporting companies that support the environment, you can also make your electronic experience more sustainable by purchasing products that are specifically energy efficient. Look for ENERGY STAR certified products-a joint program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy-helping us all save money and protect the environment through energy efficient products and practices. For desktop and laptop computers, thin clients, workstations and computer monitors look for the EPEAT label-EPEAT is a system that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.
Recycle e-waste! E-waste refers to discarded, surplus, obsolete, or broken electrical or electronic devices. They are often found in landfills and considered hazardous due to the amount of toxins, contaminates, heavy metals, and other pollutants they release when discarded. Many manufacturing companies will recycle an electronic device when no longer in use and many stores or other distribution centers offer electronic recycling.