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Posts Tagged ‘electronics’

Rechargeable BatteriesThinking of making the switch to rechargeable batteries? Like other energy efficiency tweaks, rechargeable batteries have an upfront cost, but the long-term benefits are very worth the investment and pay for themselves in just two years. One set of rechargeables can replace hundreds of single-use (disposable) batteries, billions of which are used each year in the US alone. Most of these disposable batteries are not recycled and there is no way to reuse them, making batteries quite the climate mess!

The good news is that rechargeable batteries work great, outperforming regular batteries in most situations (except when used in cameras). Rechargeables also consume up to 23 times fewer natural resources than disposable batteries. Upgrades in technology have allowed rechargeables to become slightly more affordable and better functioning over the years, too. There are now batteries that can be charged using a USB port, eliminating the need for a separate battery recharging station.

Here are some tips to make the switch to rechargeables:

  • Choose high quality batteries to power your life: Here’s a list of the best rechargeable batteries for 2015. Many of the same battery brands you are accustomed to using also offer rechargeables, and there are lots of new companies making great options. Stock up on a few sets, get a charger, and get started with the savings!
  • Don’t forget to charge ‘em up: One of the hassles with rechargeable batteries is that they need to charge, sometimes for a few hours each. Having backup batteries charged and ready to go can help alleviate the stress of an important toy or game that suddenly stops working (doubly important if you have kids who want to play NOW). Many rechargeables also come pre-charged for last-minute needs.
  • Be aware of the power slide: As batteries age, they may not store energy for as long as newer batteries. Rechargables also tend to lose juice as they sit, so charge a batch of batteries every few weeks if you find that you’re running out of power often. If you use a lot of batteries, perhaps keep a few regular batteries around as you get accustomed to regularly charging up your rechargeable stash.

Want to learn more about rechargeable batteries? Check out these great resources:

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battery image from America’s Best Organics

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energy-star-logoEnergy efficiency for electronics is a big action that can make a big difference. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says that the average house has about 25 different electronic gadgets, including televisions, phones, video game consoles, cable boxes, computers, and probably many more if you have little kids! All these gadgets and electronic items consume lots of energy throughout their short lifetimes — including when they are powered off, leading to several billions of dollars of wasted energy yearly.

Here are some actionable tips to help you make your gadgets as efficient as possible:

    • Do your research: Energy Star is a starting place for more efficient gadgets, but it can also be helpful to do some research to find which item is truly the best for your needs.
    • Choose second-hand carefully: Electronic technology evolves so quickly that an item only a few years old could be light-years behind technologically. Compare the energy needs of secondhand televisions, blenders, toys or other gadgets with their newer versions before making the purchase.
    • Be vigilant with the vampires: Even efficient and Energy Star electronics will use juice when they are turned off, so squash the vampire power by using a power strip, a smart strip or simply unplugging all your electronic items when not in use. 
    • Check the charge: Use a watt meter to determine how much energy your item is using, then make adjustments to reduce the flow. Learn about stand-by modes for gaming consoles and other gadgets. Some gadgets (like cell phones) will have built-in energy meters so you can see what’s using the most power. Take advantage of the energy-saving settings, and find hacks to continually reduce your usage.
    • Don’t forget to recycle the goods: At the end of their useful life, gadgets can give back by being recycled. Check out the EPA guidelines for e-waste recycling and read more about why electronics recycling is so important in our blog post.

Here are some more great resources for getting the best bang for your electronics buck:

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gaming consoles are tarnishing your green lifestyleSo the holidays have come and gone, and with them a flurry of new games and consoles for the good gamers on your lists. While the diversion is delightful, it turns out that gaming consoles have a bit of a dark side too. These amazing devices are using more power than ever, which means they are costing extra money and energy each time we sit down to play. Zelda would not approve.

The New York Times reported that current gaming consoles are using about 60-80% more energy than previous models. What accounts for that ridiculous increase when almost every other home appliance and tool has become MORE energy efficient in recent years?

Turns out that the devices have increased in electricity usage because of changes to memory, larger hard drives and better graphics. The cost of running them alone is not huge (about $5-10 each year based on average 6.4 weekly hours, according to the NYT article), but most of the energy used for the console is when the device is off! According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the majority of the energy expended for gaming is from when the console is on standby mode, as the system is waiting for voice commands and keeping USB ports ready — all day (or all night) long! Simply turning off the console will reduce the energy usage by a significant amount of this vampire power. You might need to spend a few minutes setting up the console, but the trade off is immense:

“[Nearly] half of the Xbox One’s annual energy is consumed in connected standby, when the console continuously draws more than 15 watts while waiting for the user to say ‘Xbox on,’ even in the middle of the night or during the workday when no one is home. If left unchanged, this one feature will be responsible for $400 million in annual electricity bills and the equivalent annual output of a large, 750-megawatt power plant.”

In addition to the live and vampire energy use of the consoles, the whole entertainment package needs to be taken into consideration, too. Those larger-than-life TVs, wireless internet and other accessories integral to the function of the consoles mean that gaming can be a huge energy suck in the home. A large plasma screen TV can consume 250 kilowatt hours a year, about half of what it takes to power a refrigerator!

power use gaming consoles graph[image: screen capture NRDC)

This doesn’t mean you have to give up gaming or TV; it just means you need to take some smart steps in the home to eliminate these vampires of energy consumption:

  • Use consoles for gaming only: the PS4 and Xbox One use 30 to 45 times more power to stream a movie than a dedicated device, like Apple TV or Google Chromecast.
  • Let your superheros, villains and zombies sleep: Unplug the TV, internet, gaming console and all components at night and when you’re gone for the day; the gaming consoles use a lot of energy when  in standby mode, as do most other electronics.
  • Choose a device with less energy consumption. In reviews, the Nintendo Wii proved to use significantly less energy than Xbox or Play Station, using almost no power when on standby and using less during play, too.
  • Tell the company! Make your voice heard by the companies that make products you love! Share your passion for gaming AND for a cleaner climate with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, and encourage them to improve the efficiency of gaming consoles to save consumers money and be a better business for the planet!

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andrea head shot circleAbout the Author: Andrea Bertoli helps to spread awareness of personal climate impacts via social media, blogging, advertising and community outreach for Oroeco.

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Electronics-Recycling

Finding a good home for your e-waste can have profound effects on people and the planet.

As summer breezes make way for fall’s bright colors, and students trickle back into classrooms, many will be looking to purchase that new laptop or tablet that nowadays is essential for school, work and pleasure. But how sustainable is your computer? What should you look for when choosing a new one, and where will your old laptop go?

Electronic waste, or e-waste, is one of the fastest growing types of waste globally, growing 8.9% annually according to BCC Research. In 2012 alone, consumers around the world bought over 440 million computers and tablets! Since most of us toss our electronics within their average lifespan of 1-3 years, knowing how to deal with e-waste recycling can make a huge difference in your carbon and waste footprints.

In general, laptop computers use much less energy than desktops, but beneath each sleek design most computers are exactly the same, containing a slew of metals and chemicals like lead, arsenic, and mercury that can leach into soil and water resources, endangering the ecosystems we all depend on.

Computers also contain many precious metals, plastics and glass that, when recycled properly, can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lessening the demand to manufacture and mine for new materials. Saving your old computer or cellphone from the fate of the landfill can make a huge impact — the EPA states that recycling 1 million computers is equal to the electricity costs of 3,657 homes in the United States! With each household owning an average of 24 electronics, and over 3 million people in the US, each one makes a difference.

So, what is the best way to keep your electronics out of landfills? Extend their lives as long as possible. Use your products until the very end, or, if you need the newest gadget, give your electronics a second life by donating them to someone else. When buying a new product, look for minimal packaging and products designed for easy upgrade and disassembly. Ethicalconsumer.org provides a wonderful guide to compare companies and products, and organizations like the Electronics Take Back Coalition and e-stewards.org have a state-by-state directory of certified recycling companies that promise to recycle and refurbish your e-waste in the US.

Before you make a rush for the latest toy, know where your electronics go and come from. By ensuring the safe disposal of electronics and supporting eco-conscious companies you can help to slash the negative impacts of e-waste! To learn more about the social issues of e-waste check out these documentaries, Exporting Harm: The High Tech Trashing of Asia, and Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground.

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Rachel GoldbergAbout the Author: Rachel is a recent graduate of the University of Hawai’i at Mānoa, and is the RISE Intern for Oroeco. She is excited to pursue a career in environmental sustainability, and is thrilled to promote Oroeco’s vision of saving money and the planet simultaneously!

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