Make your Computing More Environmentally Friendly

We all want to do what we can to reduce the impact of climate change on our planet, but did you know there are things you can do with your own computing life that can help.  In this article I wanted to offer some tips and advice.

Smartphones

At the moment, cellular networks encourage us to upgrade our phone every two years on contract.  They do this by offering incentives at the end of the contract and by not automatically reducing the monthly cost when you’ve finished paying for the handset.  There are a few things you can do however.

  • When your contract ends, and if your smartphone is still usable, contact your carrier and tell them to switch your tariff to a cheaper, SIM-only contract, or to a pay-as-you-go contract.  You will then be free to upgrade your phone at a later date, as mobile networks will almost always let you out of a SIM-only contract without penalty if you’ll be upgrading to a new phone, and a more expensive contract.
  • If you can afford to buy the handset outright, then doing so and opting for a SIM-only contract will not only encourage you to use the phone for much longer, but it will also work out cheaper than buying the phone on contract.
  • Opt for a mid-range phone.  The smartphones we use today are more powerful than the desktop PCs of just a few short years ago, but do we really need all this power?  Unless you often play the most graphics-intensive games on your phone, or need a professional grade camera for purposes such as shooting 4K video projects, then a mid-range phone is not only cheaper, but will offer all of the power and flexibility you need.  These handsets often use components that are cheaper and easier to manufacture than the latest components, reducing the energy and sometimes the materials needed in manufacturing.

Mobile Devices

If you’re fond of mobile devices in addition to your smartphone, such as a smart watch or a tablet, ask if you can choose your products more sensibly.  Often the previous generation of products is just an iterative step behind the latest model, and you will be buying from existing stocks, rather than having new stock manufactured.

Additionally, if you use a tablet, ask yourself if you can purchase a device, or add-ons that will enable you to combine the tablet’s role with another device, reducing the number of devices that you need.  Both Microsoft’s Surface Pro and the Apple iPad Pro with their snap-on keyboards allow you to easily switch between tablet and laptop when you need to.

Desktop PCs and Laptops

The things to look out for with both desktop and laptop PCs are noise and heat.  Some components inside a PC, especially the processor (CPU) and graphics card will always get hot.  The amount of heat generated by a component is directly proportional to the amount of electricity it is consuming.

If you are using an everyday PC and it is getting hot, and the fans spinning up and creating noise are an easy way to determine if this is happening, then it probably means that something is wrong.  Cleaning the inside of the PC or the vents on a laptop with a vacuum cleaner turned to low power, or by using a clean and unused paintbrush to remove dust from components such as the processor heat sink, can often alleviate the problem and make the PC more efficient.

If you have a PC or laptop that heats up too often, then it might be wise to consider upgrading to a newer, more power-efficient computer, or swapping out inefficient components such as the power supply.  While on the face of things this might seem like a waste of natural and other resources when the existing PC still works, when a PC uses too much electricity it is contributing to global warming, rather than helping to solve the problem.

Online Services

The online services we use are housed in gigantic data centres across the world.  Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Netflix and other popular service providers all own and operate such facilities.  While it might be tempting to choose one company because you like what they provide, a search online for their green credentials might soon change your mind.  While all technology companies are striving to reduce their carbon emissions, at the time of writing only Apple and Microsoft have set strict targets to become completely carbon neutral.

Environmentally Responsible Companies

This brings me neatly onto the subject of the most environmentally friendly companies.  Details for which are the best companies to use change periodically and it’s always wise to search online to see how a specific company ranks.  In technology however, Apple, Microsoft, HP, Dell and Lenovo are often praised for making the best progress towards becoming completely carbon-neutral and environmentally responsible.

Product Lifecycles

In January 2020 Sonos made headlines and created a lot of anger for saying that some of their speakers, which were only a few years old, would no longer be supported and would effectively stop working.  After outcry from the press and customers the company quickly backtracked.  It can be worth considering how good companies are at supporting products for an extended number of years.  Amazon is a great example of this with even their first generation Echo devices still operating well.

Recycling

So what happens when a product comes to the end of its life?  If the product already has, or is soon going to stop working then your local council will have technology recycling facilities at your local refuse centre.  If the technology is still good and you want to upgrade, have a think if there’s somebody you know, or somebody they know that might want the device themselves, perhaps because they can’t afford to purchase one.  This reduces waste and helps make sure our devices are used most effectively and for the longest period of time.

 

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