Whether you call yourself green or just a good-old-fashioned miser, saving energy and resources usually means saving some money too. But how does that apply to using computers? In honor of Earth Day, we polled Macworld’s readers to find their favorite tips for green computing. Here are the results.
It’s easy to take advantage of OS X’s built-in support for the PDF file format in small but significant ways. Reader ckasper called out the ever handy Save As PDF feature as a paper saver. For instance, instead of printing receipts for every online purchase, press Command-P and in the Print window that appears, click on the PDF button. Choose Save PDF To Web Receipts Folder and a copy of the receipt—images and all—will be saved to a pre-made folder in youruserfolder/Documents.
If you want to save PDFs in a different folder you can do that too. (For instance, make one for “Donations.”) Create your new folder wherever you’d like. Then, next time you need to save a PDF, press Command-P, click on the PDF button, choose Edit Menu from the menu, and then click on the plus (+) button to add your folder. The folder will appear in the PDF menu from then on.
If you really must print, use both sides of the page, noted reader bradhurley. Most newer printers can do this automatically. (Without requiring you to turn the paper over and put it back in the paper tray.) Press Command-P, click on the menu at the lower-right of the dialog box and choose Layout. If you have the option, you’ll see a Two Sided menu at the bottom of the dialog box. Choose Long Edge Binding or Short Edge Binding.
When you need to check through a large document and can’t bear to do it onscreen, consider cramming more than one page onto a sheet of paper. To do this, go to the same menu, choose Layout, and then choose a number (up to 16) from the Pages Per Sheet pop-up menu. Choose a layout direction to control how the pages stack up.
Still, if you’re backing up your Mac, you’ll want to give it some time to do its thing when you’re not at your keyboard. Go to System Preferences, choose Energy Saver, and click on Schedule. A sheet will appear where you can choose a daily startup and shutdown time for your Mac. You can even determine a separate schedule for the weekdays and weekend by clicking on the Every Day pop-up menus.
Reader technologist noted that many devices—especially all those battery chargers and peripherals—continue to draw power (known as their vampire draw) even when they’re not being used. (See for yourself by plugging one in to a $20 Kill A Watt electricity usage monitor or Belkin’s $30 Conserve Insight energy use monitor.) The only way to truly cut their power use to zero is to unplug them or use a “smart” power strip.
You can get ahead of the game by buying energy efficient equipment at the start. Reader bradhurley pointed out that the ideal computers and monitors are rated EPEAT Gold or Silver. “These computers generally include recycled content, exceed Energy Star standards, and are made to be easy to recycle,” he said. All Apple computers are not only Energy Star qualified, but also meet the EPEAT Gold standard.
4. Reuse old equipment
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 29.9 million desktops and 12 million laptops were discarded in 2007—that’s roughly 115,000 computers out with the trash each day. Similarly, the agency estimates 235 million units of electronic products are in storage—sitting unused in home closets, attics, or basements.
On the flip side of that, others wrote in to say their golden rule was to buy used instead of new. “Don’t grossly overbuy your machine,” added reader bastion. “The difference in power consumption between a high-end mini (peak) and a low-end Mac Pro (idle) is truly staggering. It’s not only green but it keeps money in your wallet, which for many people is far more compelling. My early 2009 mini has paid for itself in the form of lower electric bills compared to the G5 it replaced.”