16 May 2008
How green is my PC? How do I get rid of a redundant computer?
How green is my PC? The day-to-day energy consumption of a computer in use is relatively easy to assess from the technical information on most manufacturers’ websites. Some processors use less power than others, and all operating systems offer automatic energy-saving modes.
However, manufacture is the real sustainability issue, requiring high levels of embodied energy and components that contain toxic heavy metals and organic compounds. Manufacturers’ standards are key to controlling the risks these pose to the environment, and are most easily compared by consulting a suitable pressure group.
Gooshing is a price comparison website which runs ethical ratings alongside prices on a five-star basis. More comprehensively, the Corporate Critic scores companies out of 20. Greenpeace provides an environmental rating of the top 20 or so consumer electronics firms.
In use, the best strategy is to achieve a long, useful working life from the computer. Buy one with spare Ram slots and twice the processor capacity you need as this will enable future upgrades without wastage. While people often budget to replace computers on a three-year life cycle, I know of users who have eeked out eight years’ life from their equipment.
Environmental concerns don’t have to cost more, and acting on them when you buy helps to raise the profile of the issue.
How do I get rid of a redundant computer?
I would always advocate finding a second user for your redundant computer, either through a local scheme or specialist recycling organisation. The UK-wide Donate a PC allows people to donate equipment to good causes in the UK. Computers for African Schools and Computer Aid International give donated computers to the developing world. Minimum standards often apply, so check with the organisations.
If disposal is your only option, you can use the manufacturer, a commercial recycling firm or a local authority facility, all of which should comply with the latest legislation. Some companies offer a data-wiping service, or you could keep the hard disk as an archive or use software to reformat and zero the data yourself.
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