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What is Green Computing?

By Jacob Queen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Green computing is a movement to apply higher environmental standards to the manufacture, use, and disposal of computer technology. Examples include computers with advanced power management systems, computers made to run on alternative energy sources, and computers made without any environmentally-dangerous materials. Green computing is also a way of using computers that takes their energy consumption into account, and it can involve placing some of the responsibility for the carbon emissions of a computer on the consumer.

In some cases, green computing can apply strictly to the manufacturing process used to create a computer. Some companies take special measures to ensure that their manufacturing process doesn’t pollute the environment. Other companies find ways to offset any future energy use involving their computer components. There are special companies that allow individuals and other corporations to pay carbon offset fees, and then they generally put that money towards environmentally-friendly activities to make up for the carbon emissions. Some green computing companies take advantage of these services, and they may even use their green status as part of an advertising campaign.

One of the main ways that companies apply concepts of green computing is in the area of power efficiency. Many computer systems are designed so that components will shut themselves down to reduce energy consumption when they aren't being used. Another approach is to simply design components that get the same job done while using less power.

As a general rule, smaller computers require less energy to run, and this has been one of the reasons some consumers have adopted smaller hardware. For example, a desktop computer will generally require more power over the course of its lifetime than a laptop or notebook. The smaller computers are often weaker in terms of computing power, but this difference can be relatively insignificant for the purposes of most basic computer activity. In some cases, a consumer can apply the ideas of green computing by simply choosing to use a notebook or laptop as a primary system.

In the business world, some corporate leaders are embracing the idea of green computing purely for financial reasons. This is generally focused on reducing the company’s energy bills, and there may not be any environmentally-conscious thinking involved in the decision. These companies often have strict requirements about the activities of employees, asking them to reduce their power consumption while on the job through turning devices off at certain times and other measures.

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Discussion Comments
By MrMoody — On Sep 08, 2011

@everetra - I totally agree. To me, green computing should mean environmentally safe, computer recyclable parts, power down features, and low carbon emissions – even during regular usage.

Anything less than this is simply marketing. Considering how prevalent computers are, I think it’s something we need to make mandatory across the board.

By everetra — On Sep 07, 2011

@nony - Personally, I think green computing concepts have become more of a marketing campaign than anything else.

I read an article once that said companies everywhere were jumping on the “green” bandwagon because it was good marketing and it would give them an edge in selling to environmentally conscious consumers.

The problem is, there is a very low threshold to define what is and is not truly green. The company may use some recyclable material here and there in their product, and therefore dub the whole thing “green.”

It’s too easy to slap the label on the product and no one is really regulating what the word means or what requirements you need to meet to call it green.

In my opinion we need precise regulations that manufacturers have to meet before claiming that their product is green; otherwise the word will lose all its meaning and we won’t get any nearer towards creating an environmentally safe planet.

By nony — On Sep 06, 2011

@miriam98 - I think most computers nowadays are meeting the goals of green technology even if they don’t carry the label in their marketing campaign.

Many computers have recyclable components; in our area, there is a company that does old computer recycling in addition to other electronic components. I’m sure they have an environmentally safe way of doing so.

Further, the power down feature that computers have is very energy efficient. It’s called sleep mode and it draws very little power to keep the computer going. I leave my computer on almost all the time and it adds very little to the electric bill.

By miriam98 — On Sep 06, 2011

To me the idea of buying green offset credits just doesn’t make sense. If you’re really concerned about the environment why pay any fees whatsoever?

Those fees will not compensate for any increased carbon emissions from your computer, even if the money goes to other “green” activities. There are no studies indicating that the two will balance each other out; it’s just a way to make money in my opinion.

I would dispense with the fee system altogether and simply insist, through regulations, that all computer manufacturers adopt a policy towards implementing green computer technology.

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