If you are thinking about how to reduce your carbon footprint,
look to your family computer.
For example, it can cut down on time spent driving by helping
you comparison shop, identify sources for locally grown
food and help you figure
out what a carbon footprint actually is.
On the other side of the ledger, computers and other high-tech
gadgets can also create environmental problems. Here are four ways
to minimize the environmental impact created by the technology your
Parents who won't buy toys or sippy cups containing toxic
chemicals should take a hard look at materials used in the
electronics they bring into the house. Unfortunately, the U.S. lags
behind the European Union, which has tough standards limiting the
amount of cadmium, lead and other toxic materials that can go into
computers and other high-tech equipment.
To see how manufacturers measure up on the Electronic Product
Environmental Tool, visit epeat.net. While you're at it, visit the Energystar Web site at to check the energy
efficiency of new computer equipment-as well as cordless phones,
VCRs and other electronic equipment.
Whenever possible, store things on your hard drive and skip the
printing. When you do have to print, use recycled paper and try
these thrifty ideas recommended by the National Renewable Energy
Your parents probably lectured you about turning off lights.
Today, parents need to teach kids the same lesson about electronic
gadgets. Unfortunately, it's not always as easy as pressing the off
button. Many gadgets stay in stand-by mode, consuming "phantom"
power. Experts estimate that the average American home burns about
50 kilowatts of standby power an hour. Globally it accounts for
about 1 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.
Enlist your kids in conserving some of this wasted power. To
make a game of it, gather everyone around and study your electric
bill. Look for the number of kilowatts per hour (KWH) used each
month. Figure out how much carbon dioxide your family produces by
plugging that number into the carbon emissions calculator at carbonify.com.
Challenge your family to reduce that number. Start by going on
an after-dark prowl around the house. Look for everything that's
blinking and beaming. Don't forget to check the AC adapters for
cell phones and other devices. If they are warm, they are drawing
current and need to be unplugged.
At the end of the month, open the next electric bill together
and see how well you've done.
Experts estimate that electronic gear makes up 70 percent of all
hazardous waste. To minimize e-waste, think carefully about whether
you can upgrade instead of replacing old equipment. When a device
really has to go, try to find a new home for it on
If nobody wants your old equipment, to find a responsible
e-cycler, visit Digital Tips or the Basel Action Network.
As Kermit the Frog said, "It's not easy being green." Still,
more families are taking up the challenge. Maybe that's because
parents realize it's a lot easier to make earth-friendly changes
today than asking our children to adjust to the ravages of climate
change and other ecological imbalances in the future.
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