If you want to make a difference and reduce your power usage, as well as save money in the process, there is much that you can do around the home.
Go paperless (as much as possible)
Many utility companies, banks, and internet service providers such as Telstra, Vodafone and iiNet offer the option to send billing statements via email, rather than wasting paper by sending physical bills in the mail. Services such as B-pay also allow you to pay for various household accounts electronically.
Reduce print waste
Ever printed a webpage only to have your printer come out with an almost blank page at the end, containing just a few lines of unnecessary text? Greenprint is a free program designed to counter this, removing blank pages before you print them out. Greenprint can be downloaded from printgreener.com and requires Windows 2000, XP or Vista to run.
Using regular throwaway batteries is not only harmful for the environment, but can also become quite costly if you use batteries regularly. Rechargeable batteries can be slightly more expensive than the alkaline variety, but can be charged and recharged up to 500 times, and reduce the amount of disposable batteries that end up as landfill.
Turn off devices when not in use
Put devices like TVs, amplifiers, DVD and CD players, game consoles, speakers, and other devices into standby mode when not in use or, better still, turn them off at the wall — as our testing showed, some devices in standby mode can still consume moderate amounts of power.
Traditional powerboards are handy for those times when you are short on power outlets in a particular area (such as in a computer room!) however multi-switch powerboards include a switch for each outlet, allowing you to reduce energy usage by turning off individual devices.
Reuse and recycle printer cartridges
Instead of buying expensive new ink cartridges every few months, used cartridges can also be refilled at stores such as Cartridge World, saving you money while also reducing waste. If reusing cartridges isn’t your thing, used cartridges can be recycled by placing them into ‘Cartridges 4 Planet Ark’ collection boxes at participating Australia Post, Officeworks, Harvey Norman and Dick Smith Powerhouse stores. According to Planet Ark, four million printer cartridges have been diverted from landfill as a result of the program.
Rent instead of buy
Rather than buying a new computer outright every few years, renting a computer means that you can upgrade to the latest model more frequently, and allows your old computer to be re-used by someone else. Some rental outlets will even replace a computer if you encounter a hardware problem, eliminating the downtime of sending the computer in for service. Local rental services include microrentals.com.au, macrent.com.au and hireit.com, though prices vary.
Sell your old computer
Once your computer becomes obsolete, there are many alternatives to simply disposing of it. Selling old computers on eBay can fetch good results, as obsolete hardware may be worth much more than you think. Whether working or not, computers and the parts within can be of value to others, potentially providing you with some extra cash towards your next computer purchase.
Old computers of little value can also be recycled instead of simply throwing them out, reducing the amount of waste disposed to landfill and allowing materials to be reused in other ways. Planet Ark and Sensis have established Recycling Near You (recyclingnearyou.com.au), a site that allows you to search for your closest computer recycling centre. However, recycling fees may apply. Some hardware manufacturers also offer recycling programs for obsolete computer equipment.
It might sound obvious, but using webcams to conduct virtual meetings instead of traveling to a meeting by car can help reduce fuel consumption. Videoconferencing is effective and fairly simple to set up, requiring just a webcam, instant messaging software and, of course, a computer. Many notebook computers also include built-in webcams.
Upgrade your monitor
Our tests found that bulky CRT monitors can consume over twice as much power as LCD displays. LCD displays may be a more costly up-front purchase, but can save you money in the long run. Reducing the brightness of your display can also help to reduce energy usage.
Enable energy-saving features
Enabling the power management settings on your computer reduces energy usage by putting your computer into a power saving ‘sleep mode’ after several minutes of inactivity. Both Windows and Macs offer easy to use power saving features, which are explained on the next page: Energy saving settings.