Save Energy, Save the World: Making your digital life more efficient



We can’t avoid using copious amounts of electrical energy. Chances are that you’re accessing this article on a computer powered by a mains electrical outlet. In a well lit room. In your centrally heated house, office, or library. With an internet connection reliant on a router. You can see what we’re up against. But for the environmentally conscious amongst you, there are numerous ways you can conserve energy, and preserve the environment, without abandoning your essential devices and retreating into a cave.


The most simple route to saving energy is one which is often touted, but rarely explained in a way that makes it appealing: Simply turn your laptop off when you’re not using it. Or, since standby features are now being implemented specifically to reduce energy wastage, turn it to standby when you go out rather than leaving it running. Although in individual instances, the energy and money saved in this way may appear tiny, if done consistently by even a handful of individuals, the incremental reduction in cost and environmental damage has the potential to be huge.


For those of you who want to get slightly more involved in the process, consider the possibility of upgrading your hardware with more energy efficient alternatives. Broadly speaking, laptops are more energy efficient than their desktop counterparts, and often equally as powerful and capable of fulfilling your computing needs. This should be taken into consideration when the time comes to upgrade. If you really can’t do without a desktop, consider swapping out some of your older components for sleeker and more efficient alternatives. Many manufacturers are now optimising their new hardware to cater for an increased demand for more environmentally responsible components from the growing body of ethically conscious consumers.


You could also go all out and replace your conventional computer with a tablet or smartphone. Somewhat counter-intuitively, although you have to charge most of them at least once or twice a day, charging a mobile device uses on average only around 4kWh per year, which amounts to about 45 cents. Recent developments in nanotechnology may even overcome the high initial environmental and social cost of mineral extraction needed to make these devices.


These basic principles of digital energy efficiency can also be applied to your domestic environment. Avoid leaving your lights on when you’re not in the room by making a habit out of flicking the switch whenever you walk through the door. Take advantage of your newer appliances’ optimised standby functions, or if you are able, switch them out for alternatives optimised for their energy efficiency. While the initial investment may sometimes be off-putting, you could stand to save hundreds, if not thousands, in the long term. You might also consider investing in an energy monitor, which can give you a full breakdown of your usage, and may even be able to advise you on ways to curb overconsumption. If you’re really invested, you could also take the big step of switching from your regular utility supplier to a source of renewable energy. Installing solar panels for homes is a great way to keep your bills down while making your house energy efficient!


Although it has been characterised as a joyless waste of time, energy efficiency is much easier to obtain than a lot of people seem to think, and you may even be accidentally doing it without even realizing it.