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No dearth of Earth Day tech tips

April 22, as you may have noticed, is Earth Day, which means no end of "green" marketing from companies that may or may not have the appropriate eco-credentials.

As one example, the first Earth Day-themed pitch arrived in my e-mail back on Feb. 19. It noted that April 22 was "quickly approaching" and touted such gadgets as a solar-powered battery charger and iPod headphones and speakers made of "recycled and natural materials like wood, hemp and cork." Most of the PR suggestions I've received since have followed that pattern: Buy our great new products to help protect the environment!

As a tech columnist, I feel obliged to join in the festivities, but I'll try to keep my advice brief, affordable and -- in the finest environmental tradition -- recycled from last year's Earth Day post and other writings I've done on the subject.

1. Set your computer to go to sleep automatically. Not only will you save on electricity -- most machines use about the same amount whether they're asleep or off but plugged in -- you'll also save time you'd spend waiting for the computer to boot up and shut down. The Climate Savers Computing page offers detailed instructions for Windows and Mac machines.

2. Realize that older electronic devices can be a major energy drain. As I've found in my own tests, although a new LCD or plasma HDTV may draw a fair amount of current when it's on, it will consume next to nothing when off -- while an older CRT set can require a few nightlights' worth of juice full time. Unplug those old sets when you're not using them.

3. Or recycle them -- just don't toss them out in the trash. See this Help File item from December for advice on that. First, though, you'll want to wipe your data from an old computer and erase it from a cellphone.

4. Compact fluorescent bulbs really do work. And not only do they use less electricity, they last a lot longer. If you've never used one before, start with ceiling fixtures that have required you to get up on a ladder twice a year to replace incandescent bulbs. (And no, you don't have to worry about the mercury in CFLs, as those tree-hugging pinkos at General Electric explain in this Q&A.)

As I write this, it's a beautiful day in Washington. So I'll make one other suggestion: if you must remain in front of a computer, give my stuff a break and go read our gardening columnists Adrian Higgins and Barbara Damrosch instead. Then step away from the computer altogether and get some dirt under your own fingernails--it's the right time of year to get a garden started or renew last year's efforts.

Have other tips to share about the intersection of electronics and the environment? The comments are all yours.

By Rob Pegoraro  |  April 22, 2010; 10:34 AM ET
Categories:  The business we have chosen , Tips  
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Comments

I now have my DVR software running on a 5 watt SheevaPlug computer to replace the 100-plus watt PC - uses less power at full speed than some of my "sleeping" systems, generates less heat for the A/C to pump out in the summertime.

Posted by: Chalres | April 22, 2010 4:56 PM | Report abuse

In addition to your recycling advice, DC residents can drop off electronics at the Fort Totten trash transfer station on Saturdays for "e-cycling."

http://dpw.washingtondc.gov/dpw/cwp/view,A,1202,Q,640279.asp

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | April 22, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

Falls Church has a recycling event Sat from 9-2. It's right behind the Long John Silvers on Rt 7. And the rt 66 recycling center will collect electronics on Sunday. It's sorta opposite the costco on Ox Road.

Posted by: MAL9000 | April 23, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I use CFLs in some hard-to-reach fixtures, but until units come out which work with dimmers, I need to stick with incandescents in most fixtures and table lamps (some of which have built-in dimmers). I keep hearing that dimmable CFLs are available, but I still don't see any of them in local or big-box (e.g., Home Depot) retailers here. I tried yellow CFLs in our front porch fixture, which has a light sensor, and because of the rapid cycling around sunrise and sunset, they burned out in two days. Not very environmentally friendly.

Plus that color balance thing needs work. I don't want to feel like I've walked into a hospital hallway when I come home.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | April 23, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

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