Nasa / Space

Earth Day 2010: Save the planet, save the world

What is a geek girl to do if she also wants to be green? In honor of Earth Day on April 22, Nicole Bremer Nash says she's working on a few things.

Geeks use a lot of power. From running computers that we rarely turn off to using smartphones, speakers, printers, shredders, multiple monitors -- in fact, though only one monitor is currently on in my house (the one I am using), there are at least two computers on at any given time. Even in sleep mode, computers use energy. Televisions use even more energy to run, so if you watch TV while using the computer, that's sucking up even more power. Really, anything that is plugged into an outlet is using electricity all the time.

But I have to use my computer, and my iPhone needs charging, so what is a geek girl to do if she also wants to be green? It turns out that there is actually a lot that a geek can do to help save the world, and in honor of Earth Day on April 22, I'm working on a few things.

One great option that I am a big fan of is to plug chargers and other electronics that aren't in constant use into power strips that can be fully turned off at the touch of a button. It's sort of like using a Powermat -- you can keep all your charging cables in one place, but it doesn't cost as much. When you grab your smartphone in the morning, simply switch off the entire power strip and save a little power and, thus, a little cash.

I admit that I was very suspicious of switching to compact fluorescent lightbulbs -- the manufacturers claim the bulbs last longer and save you energy and money, but they are expensive to purchase. Also, fluorescent lighting, like that found in most schools and offices, usually gives me migraine headaches, and I wasn't too keen on the idea of introducing pain-inducing lighting into my home. I love the planet, so I gave them a try. (I'm also short and hate having to climb on furniture to frequently change lightbulbs, and I admit that was a factor too.) All in all, the fluorescent lighting is working well throughout my home. And since we switched, I never have to stand on a chair in the dark to change bulbs, which is proof positive that the ideals behind Earth Day are good for us all.

Tech toys often come in lots of packaging. If each geek takes a brief moment to put all that packaging into the recycling bin instead of the trash, we can save a lot of waste from going into landfills. Most plastics and papers, including most cardboard, can be recycled. Using the recycling bin also saves you from having to buy so many garbage bags, so you can save a penny and save the planet. Used electronics can also be recycled. While many stores like Best Buy offer incentives for paying them to take and recycle old electronics, many cities offer truly free ways to be rid of old electronics and keep them out of landfills. If you are recycling an old computer, I suggest that the best way to recycle it is to wipe it clean, load it up with freeware, and donate it to a kid or a teacher.

Composting is also a great way to decrease the amount of garbage you have to lug to the curb every week, and it recycles kitchen waste by making it reusable. Even if you don't garden (although we know many TechRepublic members are gardeners), chances are good that you know somebody who does who would be grateful to have your compost. Simply put a bunch of one centimeter holes in a plastic bin or garbage can (just make sure it has a lid) and put organic matter in it on a regular basis -- fruit and vegetable peelings, rinds, cores, leaves, grass clippings, and weeds that haven't gone to seed are all great compost candidates, but no meat or cheese. (Compost bins are vegan -- they don't like any animal products.) Keep putting all this kind of stuff in the bin and shake up the bin about every five days and, before you know it, you'll have healthy compost to fill a garden or feed the lawn with

Another way to show your green spirit is through your buying decisions. I have to give credit to the makers of Sun Chips and the makers of Method cleaning products: both companies offer compostable products and packaging.

Check out these great Sun and Moon Jars; they use solar power to create lights that can be carried indoors and used in place of electric lighting. You can purchase them from Think Geek, or you can follow these tutorials to make your own. I think making it yourself is fantastic geeky fun.

While the sentiment of Earth Day is lovely, and an annual reminder is necessary, I don't think that we can only worry about the damage we do to our planet on one day each year. Changes that might seem minor, such as switching to compact fluorescent bulbs, add up to big conservation when all the world's people chip in. And remember this Earth Day to have a little fun saving the planet by making Sun Jars or a new compost bin. As for me, I'm trying to figure out how to hook up a small decorative garden windmill to help power landscape lighting. Any suggestions?

So, this Earth Day, will you show your love for the planet by wearing a Star Wars conversation t-shirt, working from home, training users to conserve power, making high-tech art, shopping for a green gadget, or something else entirely? Let us know in the discussion.

TechRepublic resources about green IT

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About

Nicole Bremer Nash is Director of Content and Social Media for HuTerra, where she uses SEO and social media to promote charitable organizations in their community-building and fundraising efforts. She enjoys volunteering, arts and crafts, and conduct...

46 comments
maxwell edison
maxwell edison

..... the biggest scam in the history of mankind. I'm glad more people are beginning to realize it.

bjswm
bjswm

Sorry, too late. We already saved the world with earth hour.

J T CUNNINGHAM
J T CUNNINGHAM

This Earth Day/Global Warming thingy, will go down in history books as the greatest FRAUD ever!

cave_man1
cave_man1

Being vegan actually can help a lot. There are many vegan product nowadays.

bus66vw
bus66vw

Feel good things help but if you want to change things you must work at it every day and take on some big causes. One example is the practice of power companies charging lower rates for high volume users. One organization I worked at lowered their power usage to the point the power company called and told them they would have too raise the cost due to the organization not using enough power to qualify for the lower price rates. It was going to cost the organization more when they did the right thing so they stopped and went back to their old ways. Just one point to think about, to change this price fixing practice would be as hard as making a flat tax. So just keep doing the "feel good things". Hum another Earth Day?

Ron K.
Ron K.

Religion is the biggest scam of all time. Since I'm not at my sharpest this morning I'll place man-caused global warming in the top spot most recently in the news.

Montgomery Gator
Montgomery Gator

It is unnatural to be vegan. People have eaten animals for thousands of years. If we were not meant to eat animals, then why did God made them out of meat and create them to taste so good?

jkameleon
jkameleon

no agriculture (probably the worst pollutant) required, plus, you don't have to kill anything in order to fill your stomach. Not even a vegetable.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Contributing to the problem if you don't.

adornoe
adornoe

Here in Tampa Bay, people have been using less water and mother nature has been abundantly generous in the last few months with its rainfall. So, the demand for water from SWFWMD (Southwest Florida Water Management District) has gone down. Now, SWFWMD wants to raise our monthly water bills to make up for the lost revenue which came as a result of less demand. Why the heck bother to conserve when, if you do it, the utilities and government will get back at you for doing what they wanted you to do in the first place? The people in charge don't know about or don't care about the repercussions of any of their decisions. That's why, when government raises taxes, companies send jobs and production facilities overseas or those companies just lay off people or go out of business altogether, and then government has to turn around and raise taxes again to account for the lost revenue which came as a result of the original tax increases to begin with. Irony and repercussions never enter into the mindless government intrusion into our lives. Government should leave the "Earth days" and the "save the whales" and the "clean the water and clean the air" activities to those that care and to the people in general; government doesn't have to get involved with regulations which in the end just make matters worse and end up costing us much more than if we just let mother earth handle things "naturally".

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Hadn't seen it. 'Self-righteous arrogance'. Yuppers. :^0

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

That would be one of those things that performs functions you have no real need for, costs a lot of money, dies just after warranty expiration, is obsolete before it, used up a tremendous amount or resource to make, and will be occupying landfill soon?

verd
verd

NO I do not feel guilty.. THere is no such thing as global warming It is the BIGGEST LIE of the past 100 years It is a plot to gain power for the elite

lars_honeytoast
lars_honeytoast

The "Green" campaign is a marketing ploy to encourage money flow, not to encourage "gree" habits. I'm for going green, but not this way. This is pure marketing, nothing more, nothing less.

gregeva
gregeva

I immensely like the fact that your main argument for why humans are meant to eat animals, is that we've done so for a really long time. The brilliant parallels that can be drawn here are limitless! Humans have been <blank> for a long time. a) warring and killing people b) raping and pillaging c) drunk driving d) watching reality television e) ingesting food filled with steroids and chemicals f) ... Thusly proving that humans were designed to: murder, rape, burn stuff, eat hazardous waste, and fry our brains!!! :D

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It's a bitch fighting the lions, tigers, and bears for the carcass. And don't even mention the wolverines.

santeewelding
santeewelding

I let someone else grow the beef, but I eat it all by myself, and I don't share it with vegans.

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

I contribute to the problem by using a monster tiller. And a chainsaw. ]:)

jkameleon
jkameleon

Harping on the feeling of guilt is 100% reliable indication of a con job.

Montgomery Gator
Montgomery Gator

I am all in favor of conserving resources and energy, but from an economic perspective. To do so saves money. However, it should not be forced upon us by law or government bureaucracy. Let each person make his or her choice on the matter and let the free market capitalist system work. Efforts to force "Climate Change" efforts only expand the government and socialism, and impinge on our freedom and economic rights. Any changes to the climate are part of the natural cycle, not due to human activity. It was warmer 1000 years ago than it is now, long before the industrial revolution. The current climate is a return to previous warmer times after the cooling period in the late middle ages known as the "Little Ice Age"

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

We are in the interglacial period after the last glacial maximum 20,000 years ago. The average temperature of the world has been increasing since then: global warming. You may be referring to the proposal that such warming was caused by humans. Correlation has been shown between increased human activity and increased temperatures over the past few millennia. Causation, however, is not yet proven. So far, "man-caused global warming" is a combination of an arrogant assumption–that man is so important to nature he not only causes all the problems, but can solve them–and the need of certain people to tell others what to do. edit: then them

jck
jck

I think there are lots of green campaigns that are good. Staples takes cell phones and gets them serviced so military families can have a free phone. Staples and Best Buy help recycle electronics. I recycle my plastics and cardboard. Every little bit helps. You don't have to join a commercial movement. Just do your part.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Usually, the truth makes me cry. But sometimes, it sets me free.

jkameleon
jkameleon

But, you'll have to admit, that carrionism is very interesting concept, philosophically speaking. The purest, the most ethical diet in existance. No life is taken, even poor little helpless vegetables are spared from the horrible fate of being slashed to pieces and cooked alive. There is no excuse for ethically minded vegetarians for not switching to carrionarian diet.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Man has been doing that since he figured out that he could. The primary difference between now and then is the waste today.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

I don't eat it myself, but know people who do. I just don't have a taste for it. I suspect, though, that given a choice between starving to death or eating carrion, I wouldn't hesitate to chow down.

jkameleon
jkameleon

There are no lions, tigers, and wolverines in the most of the civilized world, besides, roadkill is ethically perfectly acceptable. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roadkill_cuisine While not entirely natural death, it's still an accidental death of natural animals.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

when they can't get tofu any more and are faced with the choice to get their protein from meat, or starve. One can only hope they choose properly. ]:)

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

Nothing quite like a good Pee You. ;)

gregeva
gregeva

I've never heard of utilities actually sending free bulbs or giving them away. I think it is most common to provide coupons as a means of sharing the cost of CFLs. This being said, I'm not in the U.S., and thusly am not in the loop with all that is going on over there. Lighting is a pretty large part of electricity use - at least stable and prolonged use. Let's say that a CFL consumes 1/4 the energy of a comparable incandescent, this provides the ability for the utility to get a 75% reduction in lighting load. Depending on the size of the region they serve and generation capacity that they have, this could account for anywhere between 1-100MW of generation that they no longer need. Managing generation is not simple as you don't want to generate more than will be consumed, and you want to be able to be able to bring more power online quickly to handle peaks. The problem with extra generation capacity is that building a new power plant can easily take 10 years and is obviously very expensive (to build, run, maintain). Simply buying light bulbs for their customers is a way of alleviating a very large amount of capacity so that it can be used for other things. This might mean more stable power (no outages), cheaper peak power, being able to avoid building new power plants, or avoiding using older power plants that pollute a lot.

The Flaming Maiden
The Flaming Maiden

Our utility company sends CFLs and coupons for free CFLs from stores to us for free in the mail-- I take it this isn't a very common practice?

The Flaming Maiden
The Flaming Maiden

I wholeheartedly agree that consumers should be made fully aware of exactly what the products we buy are. And not just light bulbs and batteries-- in particular, I think we need to educate people about what is in the manufactured FOOD we eat. Mercury filled light bulbs are bad, but we don't eat light bulbs. http://www.ryanseacrest.com/blog/whats-happening/family-finds-rat-in-chef-boyardee-spaghetti-video/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter The video on that link is gross, but it illustrates the point that when we don't grow our own food, or at the very least prepare our own food from raw ingredients, we never really know what we are ingesting. The bureaucrats aren't concerned because a lot of them own the very companies that are selling poisonous products to consumers. Add to that the fact that our government, on all levels, is increasingly permissive of corporate America in a weak attempt at pacifying companies into creating jobs on our soil and thereby keeping the U.S. economy running. Take for example the Supreme Court opening up political campaign spending to corporations. Now the link between government and corporate is evident- the Supreme Court just opened up a pay-to-play system between the two, and the American people will suffer the consequences as companies gain ever increasing freedoms. I like the ideals behind Earth Day, but as I indicate in the post, one day of "remembrance" seems weak to me. The point in making a cleaner, better place to live (planet) is for ourselves to live cleaner, better lives. The more we make people aware of the toxins we are shelling out hard earned money to bring into our home environments, especially in processed food, the more likely people are to start living "greener" lifestyles simply for the purpose of living longer and feeling better. Imho, George Carlin was right when he said "The planet is fine; the people are (in trouble)."

jfuller05
jfuller05

I always turn the light off when I exit a room in the house, it's a good habit; saves on energy and the utility bill. Some people leave all their lights on all the time and there is really no reason to do that, unless you're scared of the dark. :0

boxfiddler
boxfiddler

much harder on the eyes. Mine, at any rate.

Edward D
Edward D

In support of gregeva's comments, I'd like to offer of few additional points. I like to use compact fluorescent lamps in certain difficult-to-reach places. They do have a place in the mix of lighting products. A major problem, however, is that all fluorescent lamps contain mercury. CFLs are supposed to be recycled, not thrown in the trash. How many people recycle them? How much mercury contamination is spread around through careless disposal or even breakage at home? Be careful if you break any fluorescent lamp, because the mercury is then free. Why do we get sucked into the advertising? When CFLs are marketed, they should be labeled as hazardous waste on the store shelves, as should batteries. Surely, they become hazardous waste as soon as we take them out of the store. Why are the bureaucrats not concerned until after we spend our money? My primary concern (in the spirit of Earth Day) is that consumers should be made aware of the benefits and liabilities of the prodcuts that we purchase and use. We need to be able to make conscious decisions about our actions and their consequences.

gregeva
gregeva

You definitely need to be weary of Green campaigns organized by companies who are trying to sell more by waving the Green flag. Compact flourescent light bulbs are a good example of the marketing machine in action. Who would have thought that people would spend $10 on a light bulb? When people started buying, they became available EVERYWHERE, and new vendors popped up too. Sadly, CFLs suffered (and still do) from the low quality product that isn't all that its hyped up to be. 10,000 hrs that really means "total life", however by 2,000 hrs the light emitted from the bulb is that of a small flashlight and needs to be replaced. So their green, as they consume less energy. Most pros agree that the average person won't see the energy savings promised by replacing light bulbs. The utility company will however, as their demand will be decreased. What about the entire lifecycle of polution? If a CFL comes from China, and is much heavier, doesn't this mean a lot more emissions during transport? What about the ballast inside a CFL? Lots of electronics and metals that were not previously in standard incandescent bulbs. How does this affect the disposal, recycling, and decomposition of such items that make their way into landfills? What about the manufacturing process of such light bulbs? It is much more complex than a simple incandescent, and thusly a lot more energy is consumed even before you buy the light bulb! I'm not against CFLs. I'm just trying to give another perspective. We may want an amazing gadget fix for the problem, but there isn't one. There will always be someone there to sell us a lotion or elixer telling us that it is the magical cure. The trick is to be able to think for oneself and to find a happy balance in the middle. One thing that CFLs have been great for is raising awareness. Become more conscious of wasted energy, turn lights off, and focus on things that are on for many hours (or all the time) as these are where the biggest gains are. For us techies... hibernating or putting systems on standby when not in use is a huge step. Unplug chargers when not in use (they generate heat, as well as consume energy).

lars_honeytoast
lars_honeytoast

I believe in conservation, however, the recent "green" fad, e.g. clothing, purses, general marketing, is not for spreading good habits, but for bringing in money. I have seen people wearing "save the planet" or "go green" shirts litter and/or throw their cigarette buts on the ground; I smell hypocrisy. Seriously, though, instruction on good conservation needs to be instilled into our youth, young adults, o.k., everyone, but just wearing a t-shirt with a recycle logo doesn't accomplish anything, it's just the new trend in fashion. Kind of like John Cena, he's just trendy at the moment. :)

HAL 9000
HAL 9000

And if saving energy saves you money in the long run so much the better as far as I'm concerned. ;) Col