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Environmental impact concerns of consumer electronics

by Lee Koo (ADMIN) CNET staff/forum admin / January 17, 2008 8:10 AM PST

My question isn't a technical how-to one, however I hope you do consider presenting it, as it is an important one. I know everyone here is into technology, and I love technology as I'm a gadget freak myself, but my question to you has a bit of a twist in it and it has to do with the environment impact of all these devices as they become more abundant, better, larger, and more powerful. To give a couple of examples: computers and plasma TVs. As you probably already know, plasma TVs suck up a lot of power, probably a lot more than our old tube TVs. And newer computer requires quite a lot more energy to power as people like me require more and larger hard drives, better graphics cards, and all those added on devices to satisfy our computing needs. Now it doesn't seem like much from individual standpoint, but when everyone adapts to these standards, I can only see more energy being consumed globally and that is a concern, especially with all the energy crisis going on, and of course, global warming. So why aren't manufacture coming out with Energy Star complaint consumer electronics as they do for home appliances like refrigerators or washers? Shouldn't this be their responsibility? Or is it our responsibility to raise awareness to these manufactures to be more environmentally conscience of the product they manufacture to be more energy efficient?

I often do not turn off my computer for work purposes, but I feel so guilty for leaving it on. Which leads me to my second question. Where does our individual responsibility lie? Do you make a conscience effort when buying electronics to see if it is going to use unnecessary energy? What are some of the things you do to do around your home (electronically speaking) to ensure your part in conserving energy? I know this isn't a typical submission, but I really want to hear what people have to say in regards to this growing concern of mine. Maybe people just don't care at the consumer electronic level, which I hope isn't the case. Thank you all in advance for your input and thoughts. Looking forward to reading them.

--Submitted by: Rebecca D.

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Rebecca --there is really only one answer.!
by SinbadSailor / January 18, 2008 11:03 AM PST

Electric Companies have charts and charts to give you approximate electric useage for varying capacities of differing appliances, computers, etc. etc. BUT there is ONLY ONE WAY TO FIND OUT YOUR USE! You must meter it yourself. Go to "Blue Line Innovations" at ""!

No, it isn't cheap but it can save you the cost within a year or less because you will know what shutting down certain items for certain periods of time can mean to your bill!

FIRST call your electric company and ask if they have any monitoring program for you to use! You can run a lotta electonics on the same power burst needed to kick in the motor on a home furnace or compressor on and AC unit. AND if money is tight, I assume you have explored all the obvious cost-savings methods first. Eliminate credit card debt, make extra mortgage payments every month or two, don't buy that new car quite yet and give up at least ONE extravagance per person in your household (smoking, excessive expensive eating out) and get off ebay and Amazon and "opt-out" of those "special" sales that you cannot be without!

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Save the Earth, Balance within = balance in the environment
by kidgenie / January 25, 2008 11:24 PM PST

Mankind should balance himself in order to take better decisions that will balance his environment. People should dive deep within themselves and experience the silence there. This will help them to be connected to their environment on a very deep level so they will treat the environment better and help save the earth.

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Know how much energy is being used to help decide how to sav
by acejohnson / January 26, 2008 2:45 AM PST

For a cheaper meter (under $30)to measure individual appliance usage in real time or cumulative kilowatts or amps try the kill-a-watt meter from My laptops average 30 watts while my desktops with monitors avg. 120 watts. Easy for me to justify buying more expensive laptops over desktops when considering TCO.

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by mdoggolfer / January 27, 2008 7:53 AM PST

what freaks. who cares about the environment. I'm gonna get my mustang gt out of the garage and roll up next to the priuses and floor it

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by DADSGETNDOWN / February 21, 2008 12:52 PM PST
In reply to: ugh...greenies

People who have a brain that's who.
People who don't have hatred for no reason, other than ignorance and stupidty.
People who Love life.
People who can think beyond right now, for our children, future and money.
Useless time taking, space taking posts.
I own a nice 68' Mustang 302 built from Ford MotorSport Racing.

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it depends,
by TechieAJ / January 18, 2008 11:07 AM PST

ar u just going to use ur computer for email, myspace, surfing, small programs(like word, itunes, etc.), then just get a small computer, get like a 2.0 Ghz single core processer, 512 mb of ram,

or do u want performance like me, i have a Dell XPS 410, (their med. gamer) and am running Windows Xp Pro and Ubuntu 7.04, their going to consume lots of energy, nothing can really be done for my situation

PS(the above also doesn't apply if ur using CRAPPY @#$@! Windows VISTA, if this is case just forget about being conservative, theres no way those power hogs can be saved)

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Vista isn't that bad
by MiltoxB / January 26, 2008 4:22 PM PST
In reply to: it depends,

actually vista can save power and be quick. When the computer goes to sleep, the computer goes to sleep much almost entirely, except just enough to be brought back to an active state really quick... You don't have to shut down with vista just put it into sleep.

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Not just Vista.
by morrie 52 / February 2, 2008 8:47 PM PST
In reply to: Vista isn't that bad

XP is also good,recently,put it in to hibernate( I am using Vista Transformation Pack 8.01)and powered off accidentally at mains and re powered on then pressed computer button once and it come back to my desktop,proving that the onboard battery was supporting the OS.

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Hibernate doesn't use internal batter
by tails5 / February 4, 2008 5:38 PM PST
In reply to: Not just Vista.

Actually, Hibernate doesn't use an internal battery, it saves the state of your computer to your hard drive, and completely powers off. When Windows starts up, it looks for the file, if it's there, it resumes your session, if it's not, Windows starts normally.

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if your settings are wrong, you can have battery drain
by cwerdna / February 4, 2008 5:46 PM PST

Your post is correct about the state being saved to the hard drive, but it CAN cause a battery drain due to improper settings.

Both my Lenovo Thinkpad T61p and my dad's T61 were causing VERY SIGNIFICANT (from say 65% down to almost 0% within 1-3 days) drain on brand new batteries while in hibernate w/Vista. Apparently, w/Intel's on-board LAN hardware, there are all sorts of wake on LAN settings and the defaults were to allow wake on LAN (I believe w/a magic packet). I fixed this by finding ALL those settings in various property panels and the CMOS settings and setting them to disabled.

This surprised me since I'd never had this issue w/previous laptops.

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Energy efficient computers
by ellen307 / January 18, 2008 11:57 AM PST

This was a excellent suggestion, yes have to agree they are coming out with washers, refrigerators whic required less energy.
We tend to forget about computers. The same question I always think
do we turn them off to conserve esp if we are on and off them or what,

Sounds like some serious works has to be done with computers as you said video cards to take alot of energy,plus processors etc.

Let me know what else people come up with.
Thanks Ellen
Good Luck

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Environment impact of consumer electronics
by jakejr7 / January 18, 2008 11:59 AM PST

In the first place, your fears and concerns are based on false information. Rather than worry about how much destruction all of us are causing by leaving our computers running all day long, - mine runs 24/7 and I have no guilt whatsoever - you really should do your own research into the problem and not rely on information that is filtered down to you from people you do not know. Including me.

For example, try this. Figure out how much electricity your computer uses in one months time if you ran it 24/7. Your answer should be in either dollars or killo-watt hours. Now, figure out how much electricity your hot water heater uses in a months time. And as before, either in dollars or killo-watt hours. What you will likely find is that if you would turn off your hot water heater and stop using hot water for any and all reasons then you would save far more than enough electricity to run all of your electronic stuff and never have to turn it off and yet keep the same or smaller carbon footprint - whatever that is. Are you willing to do that? I'm not and we don't have to take cold showers just to not feel guilty about leaving our computers running.

Rebecca, with all due respect, you have bought into one of the biggest scams to date. Nature is not that fragile and the whole of mankind will never have the where-with-all to harm her. Popular belief says that the dinoasurs were wiped out all over the world by some catastrophic event almost overnight. Yet big momma Nature didn't feel a thing and just kept right on rolling along. One can use many words to describe Nature. Fragile is NOT one of them.

If you want to persue this further, please feel free to write.

Fear not and think - just think for yourself,


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Nature may not be frasgile, but human society is
by rbsjrx / January 19, 2008 1:08 AM PST

Your "point" is a non-sequitur. Sure the planet can, has, and will likely again survive catastrophes. However, it may just do so without humans. The planet can tolerate sea level rises of 10-30 meters, but Miami, New Orleans, New York, Venice, and The Netherlands sure can't! The natural world could continue to thrive if global temperatures rose 10 degrees, but the effect on the human population would be devastating.

So no, nature isn't fragile. The planet's systems all have built-in feedback mechanisms to keep things constant when viewed over geologic time scales. We, on the other hand, depend on a much narrower range of acceptable parameters to maintain a habitable environment. Sitting there in front of your computer committing crimes against English ("wherewithal" - note the spelling - and "kilowatt" aren't hyphenated), you might consider that nature's survival plan could mean that some aboriginal people in third world countries might survive while you might not since you depend on a much more complex set of resources than they do.

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30 Meters! Are You Kidding?
by alfordw / January 25, 2008 12:07 PM PST

Who in the world convinced you that we could experience a 30 meter rise (100 ft) in sea levels? Even if we do see a substantial rise in sea levels, enough to flood NY, New Orleans, etc., it won't happen overnight. It will take 50 or 100 years or more. And I guess 50 years isn't enough time to escape "the great flood."

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That's not what rbsjrx said.
by Greg Morgan / January 25, 2008 12:56 PM PST

He said the WORLD, not the people in it, could, and has survived such changes as plus and minus 40 meter sea level changes. In fact, it has survived +/- 20

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Here we go again about the enviroment!
by Gonzo0967 / January 25, 2008 9:11 PM PST

Hello Rebecca,
Your concern about the enviroment is an honest one that I'm sure that everyone, whether the admit it or not, have some concerns about. To actually answer your question, it is up to the individual to restrain themselves from wasting energy. Not the manufacturers. The companies are designing systems to meet the needs of the consumers. If the consumer asks for more, the company will give more, yet since the U.S. is a free country, I'm sure no one wants the government to control what they do in their own homes. If so, why then even call it the land of the free? The fact of the matter is that everyone has to be responsible for their own actions and make the changes they feel to do to try to preserve the planet. With the understanding that, no matter what you do, global warming will still happen causing humanity to finally become extinct. That is the nature of things. It is funny, just last night, I was watching a show in the History channel about global warming. It has been discovered that the planet is dispursing methane gases on its own anyway. And this is happening naturally, without our help. The gases are impacting global warming tremendously and we can't stop that. My opinion is that the planet is trying to heal itself naturally as it has for millions of years.
Look at it this way, we don't own the planet, we are just renting it. Eventually the landlord will need to clean house and we will get evicted. Will it happen tomorrow or next year of 10 years from now? No! The point is that no one really knows when its going to happen and all we can do is try to enjoy what we have for the time that we have it as best as we can. Of course, by always being responsible and smart about it. There is no need to rush our eviction. Think about it this way, do we really need a 42" plasma tv? Do we really need a V8 SUV? These are the things that ppl are getting just to show off to their freinds and neigbors that they own and their freinds don't. That, is what I call inresponsible. Yet, again, don't put blame on the companies. Simply look in a mirrow and ask yourself, "Do I really need one that big, or do I want one that big? I'm I willing to rush my eviction, or do I need to hold up a bit so my childrens' childrens can alteast enjoy something before its all gone?"

Well, thats my 2 cents worth.

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Just try some common sense conservation
by Filmmaker / January 25, 2008 9:36 PM PST

One terrific program, now showing on the History Channel, is "Life After People". It's a fantastic reality check on just how irrelevant we are to this planet, and it's backed up with solid, reproduceable FACTS throughout. In other words, SCIENCE.

I'm always amazed how many people buy into the Envirofundamentalist wacko religion on blind faith, using "science by consensus" (popular vote by scientific theory vs. real, scientific method) and dismissing people who question their religion and provide scientific facts to dispute their claims as "deniers" (heretics).

It's easy to see how the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials, and other mass hysterias driven by a religious ferver really COULD quickly brainwash masses of people.

Conservation is excellent, and we should all do our best to conserve energy... but strictly from a financial and energy-independence standpoint.

The planet has endured billions of years of "climate chaos" before we as a species even showed up to the party. Ocean-borne bacteria have been regulating the atmosphere since the earth's beginnings. Sorry to burst anyone's bubble, but humans have in irrelevant influence on the climate. We only WISH we could affect climate.

This whole global chaos movement is just yet another way that the baby boomer generation needs to feel self-important. They aren't called the "ME" generation for nothing.

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Think of it as Evolution in Action
by Zarathustra1 / January 26, 2008 6:01 AM PST

Much of what you say has credence, but then you ruin it by verbo-bashing your pet hate groups.

Yes, the climate has gone through many stages of change to get to its present permutation, most of them driven by a change in the gasceous composition of the atmosphere, caused by some event: the impact of a meteor or a massive volcanic event for example. The uncontroled proliferation of the human species is just the latest triggering event.

In nature, when a species multiplies beyond the ability of its ecosystem to support it, a natural mechanism kicks in to re-establish the equilibrium. This is commonly refered to as starvation and death. As you point out, most religions enforce the belief that humanity is somehow not a species and therefore this mechanism does not apply. Sorry but it does.

For four hundred years the carbon footprint of humanity has increased in size and effect at a continuously accelerated rate largely caused by technology. Even several decades of austere energy conservation could not reverse this. Technology created the problem and technology must reverse it.

You speak of the invisible hand of the market where the profit motive will create this new technology out of thin air, with new energy sources created that leave only a ripple in the great scheme of things and our profligate appetite for energy can continue to expand. I see little evidence of the necessary investment to develop this technology, and yet vast profits are awaiting. Whole new industries need to be developed.

All I can see at the moment is a lot of fithy rich fat cats sitting around, marveling at their riches, and lighting a fire to burn some more fossil fuel.

Once upon a time The USA was called "the land of opportunity". Now it really does look more like "the land of lost opportunity".

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filmaker, get an education
by solarcircle / February 3, 2008 8:14 AM PST

You say that mankind doesn't influence the environment. What foolishness. You have to ignore all the science and resort to some sort of flat-earth thinking to believe that. Global warming has been shown conclusively to have risen along with greenhouse gas production to levels MUCH GREATER than those known to have existed over the last 100,000 years. Get educated.

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by bradykp / January 31, 2008 1:44 AM PST

you make some good points, that individuals need to take responsibility, but i disagree that it's not on the companies. companies have the knowledge and power to do something about it, and they should. why should consumers need to demand more efficient technology for companies to offer it? i understand if the cost outweighs the benefit, the company won't be driven to do it for nothing, but sometimes, companies need to use their advancements for less energy and not more power. we could possibly do things to make humans last on this planet. maybe we can't, but you don't know that for certain, so we should be trying.

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Not kidding
by wbowblis / February 3, 2008 10:46 PM PST

Much of the Antarctic ice sheet is above sea level and I've read that it contains enough water to raise sea levels 100 feet. I've also read that it may be unstable enough that given the right conditions, it could slide into the ocean. Just what those conditions are, no one can say, but simulations indicate that it is possible. If this happened, not only would sea levels rise that much in a few days, but it would produce a tsunami of biblical proportions. My sources are scientific journals (Scientific American, for example), not a tabloid or the like. It doesn't mean that this will ever happen, but it is possible. We are conducting an uncontrolled experiment on our planet and have no way to know the outcome for certain. Simulations are based on the best knowledge that we have, and may show results that nature never will, but they may also fail to show results that would spell the end of civilization. It simply isn't wise to take the chance, and cutting our pollution has payoffs that are totally unrelated to climate change. Just take oil, for an example. We may find practical energy substitutes, but can we find economical chemical feedstocks that can replace the oil-based materials that you are probably sitting on and wearing, among other uses. Nature will survive anything we do. We can probably survive a catastrophe of the magnitude that wiped out the dinosaurs, but civilization can't. Maybe nothing bad will happen even if we go on with our present course, but I'd suggest that it might be wise to learn to swim and learn some skills like hunting and making stone tools. We just might need them.

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thick heads....
by jer1041 / February 3, 2008 11:04 PM PST
In reply to: Not kidding

So....I guess man-made global warming did wipe out the dinosaurs. Must have been the SUV's the cavemen were driving aroud in. Wake up!!!! it was really the aliens that did this......

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by wbowblis / February 4, 2008 12:01 AM PST
In reply to: thick heads....

A meteor and it's after effects wiped out the dinosaurs. The aliens, then as now, just hang back and get a good laugh.

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Environmental impact concerns of Consumer Electronics
by johnwoo23 / January 31, 2010 10:02 PM PST

In the United States, an estimated 70% of heavy metals in landfills comes from discarded electronics, while electronic waste represents only 2% of America's trash in landfills. The EPA states that unwanted electronics totaled 2 million tons in 2005. Discarded electronics represented 5 to 6 times as much weight as recycled electronics. The Consumer Electronics Association says that U.S. households spend an average of $1,400 annually on an average of 24 electronic items, leading to speculations of millions of tons of valuable metals sitting in desk drawers. The U.S. National Safety Council estimates that 75% of all personal computers ever sold are now gathering dust as surplus electronics. While some recycle, 7% of cellphone owners still throw away their old cellphones.
Many Comedy Central viewers are early adopters of new electronics, and produce a commensurate amount of waste that can be directed towards recycling efforts. The station is also taking steps to reduce its own environmental impact, in partnership with NativeEnergy, a company that specializes in renewable energy and carbon offsets.
Today the electronic waste recycling business is in all areas of the developed world a large and rapidly consolidating business. The environmental and social benefits of reuse include diminished demand for new products and virgin raw materials (with their own environmental issues); larger quantities of pure water and electricity for associated manufacturing; less packaging per unit; availability of technology to wider swaths of society due to greater affordability of products; and diminished use of landfills.
Consumer Electronics - A list of

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reply to Nature may not be frasgile, but human society is
by deltoncbaker / January 25, 2008 2:24 PM PST

I was watching TV the other day about how they want to put Kites on the ships that bring to crud oil to the US. They say it will provide 50% of the energy needed for a typical voyage. They also said the the number one polluter on the globe of green house gases was those very same ships. I just find that very ironic.
Perhaps we should quit worrying about the small stuff and concentrate alternative sources of energy so we can stop those ships all together.

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Alternative energy sources not a viable alternative!
by mbm30075 / January 26, 2008 11:37 PM PST

To all of those (like the previous poster) who really, REALLY want the US to get on the "alternative" energy bandwagon, consider this:

The US has been subsidizing alternative energies for about 30 years now. Currently, we taxpayers spend billions of dollars a year to continue trying to make these technologies viable. Anyone know how much these sources (i.e. solar and wind) contributed to our total energy consumption in 2007?




Wow. That's a ton! We only have to increase production THREE HUNDRED TIMES OVER!

Meanwhile, all of humanity is contributing how much of the overall greenhouse gas emissions?



Wow, that means that the earth is, ON ITS OWN, producing 97% of the GHG emissions world-wide.

Not the numbers you would expect after hearing Al Bore and the global warming hysteria crowd, is it?

Look, we need to take care of the planet. That's why we should spend our time and money eliminating REAL pollutants (and, no, CO2 is NOT a pollutant, unless you think forests, plants and volcanic eruptions, not to mention the oceans are HUGE polluters).

Let's get rid of acid rain and heavy metals in our water supply. Let's stop strip mining and keep as much of the earth as completely natural as possible, but don't try to cripple innovation and the economy by demonizing energy usage.

The BLESSING of having energy to use provides us with the creature commforts that make the industrialized world the best place to live. It's why we can telecommute, perform complex surgeries, have refrigeration, etc...

Let's remind ourselves of the real problem and not try to fix a "straw man" of a problem.

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mbm, get the facts
by solarcircle / February 3, 2008 8:35 AM PST

You say that alternative energy production can't do much. Here's a fact from Wikipedia:
"Wind power in Denmark provided 18.5 % of the nation's electricity in 2005"
Here's the link:
Denmark is producing much more than that now and that's only one of it's sources of green energy. Did you know that a Greenpeace study showed that we can produce all the power we are forcasted to need by the year 2050 from green sources with technologies we have right now? Where is the leadership from government? Why don't we have electric cars, tidal power, wind and solar power on a massive scale and hydrogen fuel being produced from those sources? The source of the problem is greed and stupidity which in the end will destroy us if we don't get educated and demand change - now.

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by wbowblis / February 4, 2008 12:12 AM PST

I'm curious as to the source of your figures. I don't know what the U.S. energy contribution for wind and solar, but 0.3% could be correct. Nuclear generates many times that, as does hydroelectric. The 3% total also sounds low, but even if it is accurate, that's 3% that wasn't there a century ago and couldn't take into account the recent rises in countries like China. It has to go somewhere. Maybe those vast forests in much of the world will expand and absorb it. Oops... we've been burning them and paving them over. If we cut our emissions to prehistoric levels, CO2 would still rise because we've reduced the areas that consume it.

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Thank you, rbsjrx
by btljooz / January 26, 2008 3:56 AM PST

for putting things into such succint perspective!

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Get the facts not the rhetoric
by eler.james / January 27, 2008 8:11 PM PST

At the present rate it will take more than 1000 years for ocean levels to rise more than a foot and you are aware that this rise has been happening for the last 18,000 years

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