Working from home
My computer is my life. For now, it is my source of income, my source of entertainment and my connection to my family members. I don’t have a television, but I watch certain shows online. I talk to my family using Google’s free video-chat feature. But, most of my time spent on the computer is for work. I feel as though my work life now is more eco-friendly than when I worked in a law office and used supplies like sticky notes, pens, copy paper, highlighters, labels, printers, postage machines and manila folders. In every office that I have worked people go through paper as though it grows on trees, not from trees. But, seriously, a 2004 study by the National Energy Education Development Project (the NEED Project) shows that 27,500 BTUs of energy is needed to produce one ream (500 sheets) of copy paper. The amount of energy needed equals about 2 gallons of gasoline. If you work in an office building that uses a printer and makes copies, you probably know how quickly that 500 sheets is exhausted. Pencils and pens take energy to produce. Although the details are slim, German pencil company Faber-Castell claims it uses water-based paint to cover its pencils and began a reforestation project in Brazil. With both paper and pencils, a lot of transport is involved to keep businesses supplied. By working from home, I use zero paper, rarely drive (and therefore rarely need gasoline and rarely emit carbon dioxide from my car) and submit all my work electronically. It sounds good, but it’s not as great as it sounds. Computers use a lot of energy. You can calculate about how much energy yours uses on the U.S. Department of Energy’s website. Laptops generally use less energy to power, and I’ve estimated that my laptop uses about 110 kilowatts annually. Here are some tips to save energy while using your computer:
  • Ditch the screen savers. They require more of your computer’s CPU (which translates into more energy used) to run, and they don’t really save energy.
  • Use your computer’s sleep mode when you’re not going to use your computer for a while.
  • When you’re done with your computer for the day (or even for several hours), turn it off.
  • If you have your computer plugged into a surge protector, turn that off as well. Every little bit helps.
And last, but definitely not least, I’m lucky enough to live in a high-rise apartment that offers on-site recycling. Not all of my friends in the area have this option. I do have to take my recycling down to the designated area on the first floor, and I usually coordinate my trips to the recycling area when I’m leaving the building. By doing that, I use the elevators as little as possible (to save energy AND because no one likes to wait for the elevator).