Computers have turned out to be the greatest asset of people’s lives these days. Have we thought about their part in global warming and the astronomically huge issues they cause to the environment?

Green computing is is very important to make yourself, your surroundings and the planet healthy. What is green computing? It can be defined as environmentally responsible use of computers and their resources. In an average year, 24 million computers in the United States become obsolete. Only about 14 per cent of these will be recycled. The rest – more than 20 million computers in the US – will be dumped, incinerated, shipped as waste exports or put into temporary storage to be dealt with later.

We never stop to consider what happens when our laptop dies. Rather, we toss it.

The reality is that it either decays in a landfill or children in developing countries end up wresting its components apart by hand, melting toxic bits to recover traces of valuable metals.

Many governments worldwide have initiated energy-management programmes, such as Energy Star, an international standard for energy-efficient electronic equipment that was created by the United States Environmental Protection Agency in 1992 and has now been adopted by several other countries.

Energy Star reduces the amount of energy consumed by a product by automatically switching it into “sleep” mode when not in use or reducing the amount of power used by a product when in “standby” mode.

Windows 7 can be a lot more energy-efficient than Windows XP and even Vista. Although it may need a more powerful PC to run than XP, in tests they both take about the same amount of power doing typical office work such as word processing. However, it’s when the machine’s not in use that most savings can be made.

Most hardware will contain some sensitive or personal data, and steps need to be taken to ensure that it is properly cleaned. In order to ensure there are no grounds for recourse, care must be taken to ensure that the company taking responsibility for the equipment is properly accredited, and that its services are sufficiently secure before the systems are taken away.

Don't use screen savers. They waste energy, not save it.

Let’s start buying computers and monitors labelled “energy star” which can be programmed to automatically “power-down” or “sleep” when not in use. Turn your computer and peripherals off when not in use. This will not harm the equipment. Use flat panel monitors, which use about half of the electricity of a cathode-ray tube (CRT) display.

Buy ink jet printers, not laser printers. Ink jet printers use 80 to 90 per cent less energy than laser printers and print quality can be excellent.

If all of us did this every day, we could make a small difference.

(Anusha studies at Meenakshi Sundarajan Engineering College, Chennai.)