Enjoy tech the eco way

Be a techie and still save the earth; THAM YUEN-C gets tips from two greenies
Straits Times Digital Life 20 Aug 08;

November Tan (right), 27
Master's student in Geography at the National University of Singapore and a nature blogger

"My tech list is quite long. I have a DSLR, compact camera, laptop and PC. I maximise my tech resources though.

I spend time on the computer but a lot of my activities online are dedicated to spreading the environmental message.

The whole idea is that you're not using technology for only fun things but for advocating environmentalism and conservation.

We can't reach out to many people with flyers, and flyers leave a big carbon footprint too. By using the computer and the Internet to spread our message, we increase awareness more easily, so you can see it as justifying use of technology in a way.

With Wi-Fi available in some of our parks, we can instantly blog or Twitter about what we see. The other day, I saw seven otters at Pulau Ubin and I sent a message to Twitter. My friends who saw it passed on the message.

Also, I try to turn everything off at the main supply at the end of the day instead of leaving gadgets on standby mode."

Tan Hang Chong (above), 35
Management consultant and member of Nature Society Singapore

"Tech gadgets can lead to waste and add to power consumption but, in some cases, they can also make you greener.

When I first got a pager, I stopped buying watches as my pager could tell time. Now that I have a mobile phone, I don't buy alarm clocks. I also don't need an organiser, because my phone tracks my appointments.

I think integration of a few devices into one has helped people become more green. When gadgets become multifunctional, you can replace a few gadgets with just one. That's one of the advantages of technology.

If I buy a gadget next, I'll get a phone with a PDA and also GPS, so I won't need a separate GPS device for my nature treks.

Also, get things second hand; it saves you money.

When my PC monitor died, I got the next one through freecycle. It's a forum where people offer their old gadgets or anything else they don't want, instead of throwing them away.

You should just buy what you need, rather than buy what you want.

That's a green way to live a tech life."

The green light to save earth
Individuals and companies are showing a bigger eco conscience. TAN CHONG YAW and THAM YUEN-C look at the growing trend
Straits Times Digital Life 20 Aug 08;

RIA Tan, 47, buys gadgets only when she needs them.

She held onto her last mobile phone for seven years before junking it for a new one and then only because she could no longer find a replacement battery for the old geezer.

Ria is no luddite when it comes to technology though.

The director of corporate affairs in a public-sector agency, who also runs a nature website, WildSingapore, owns digital cameras and computers.

'I'm not such a hairy back greenie that I think we all have to live in caves,' she quipped. 'But you should buy a gadget because it's a tool, and not because it's a toy.

'Most importantly, it has to be energy efficient.'

It appears that the big boys of IT have a green conscience too.

In Springboard Research's August 2007 report, Green IT takes Centre Stage, the IT market research firm observed that 'large IT vendors have recently begun to introduce green IT products and solutions'.

The making of tech products add huge doses of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the report noted. For example, an average-sized server emits the same amount of carbon dioxide and other harmful gases as a sports utility vehicle.

Recognising this, the report added that big IT players are trying to stop using toxic ingredients in the making of gizmos from PCs to monitors, and designing them for reuse and recycling, among other things.

Saving costs

If accounts from the big boys that Digital Life interviewed are anything to go by, there is merit in that study.

This month, PC maker Dell trumpeted to the media that it had gone carbon neutral - five months ahead of schedule.

Since setting this goal in September last year, the Texas-based giant had aggressively pushed a global energy-efficiency campaign and upped its purchases of green power like wind and hydroelectricity.

So, Dell now takes out as much carbon dioxide as it emits into the atmosphere.

Dell also provides free recycling of its products in more than 40 countries. Fill up a form at www.dell.com.sg/recycle and a Dell agent will pick up your product at your doorstep. HP, which is easily a leader in eco efforts with its own strategies in as early as 1987, has a recycling programme for its commercial and enterprise customers in over 50 countries.

Last year, chipmaker Intel reused or recycled 87 per cent of its chemical waste and 80 per cent of its solid waste which ranges from latex gloves to wood waste.

But is all the green talk a whitewash? After all, IT firms were notorious for their 'ungreen' ways.

Springboard Research's top prediction was that cost savings will drive green IT investments.

'It's just good business,' said Tod Arbogast, Dell's sustainable business director, told Digital Life.

Besides upping its green cred, Dell has saved more than US$3 million (S$4.2 million) annually.

Intel has saved more than 500 million kWh of electricity since 2001 - enough power for 80,000 Singapore homes for more than a year.

Gaining traction

Green IT covers eco-friendly processes for the whole life cycle of IT products. An early instance of it was the Energy Star programme, begun in 1992 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

The Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS), which took effect on July 1, 2006, created a greater momentum. The European Union made it law for companies to restrict the use of six hazardous materials in the making of electrical and electronic goods. Materials like lead, mercury and cadmium are out.

The message: comply or send your goods elsewhere.

Now, even China, in an attempt to change its ungreen reputation, is singing the RoHS tune. Its version of RoHS passed on March 1, 2007, goes beyond substance restrictions to include labelling: Product labels must say that they do not contain the banned substances, matching those of the EU RoHS.

No screen savers allowed

On an individual level, companies like KPMG have their own green schemes in place.

Sharad Somani, its director of global infrastructure and projects group, said that monitors at the company's office at Hong Leong Building are programmed to go into the standby mode or power down when not in use. Screen savers, which serve no purpose, are banned.

Single-sided printers have been phased out too. New printers bought all use low energy and, by default, print double-sided pages.

At Republic Polytechnic, wireless projectors save on the metals and plastics that would go into the VGA cables used to connect notebook PCs to the projectors.

Presentations are uploaded to a server which links to the desired projector. That way, there's no need to power a notebook to run the presentation, saving energy.

The polytechnic also adheres to a paperless office regime. For example, contract documents are signed not with pen and paper but digitally on tablet PCs.

Corporate branding plays a part in green IT. 'It's a statement on technology leadership,' Nick Jacobs, Intel Asia Pacific's regional PR group manager told Digital Life.

Consumers benefit. Tod said: 'When we optimise our logistics infrastructure - we reduce our costs and our customers get their products faster.'

Be a jolly green giant
Straits Times Digital Life 20 Aug 08;

BEING a green geek is not hard. Here are steps you can take to cut down on your tech-related power consumption, carbon footprint and environmental guilt.

Buy energy efficient products

A computer alone, turned on for about four hours a day, consumes some 35kWh worth of electricity a month. That's $9 to the monthly electricity bills, and 0.03 metric tons of greenhouse gases to the environment. The same amount released from burning 11 litres of petrol.

Buy energy-efficient gadgets - computers, printers, DVD players, LCD TVs and many other gizmos affixed with the Energy Star label. They use 20 per cent to 30 per cent less power than regular devices. More savings for you and kinder to the Earth.

Turn off at source

To keep their gizmos ready to go with one click of the remote control or button, gadgets remain on standby mode, even when turned off.

So they're really sucking power from your sockets.

Standby power accounts for up to 10 per cent of home electricity use here.

Switch off all gadgets at source - the wall switch.

Watch what you use

No one really thinks about the power sucked up by the mobile phone charger dangling from the wall socket all day, or the printer and scanner that are plugged in but has not been used for years.

It's easy to ignore power wastage, when it doesn't really show.

So, track your power consumption and see how much you're really wasting.

ETrack (www.etrack.com.sg), a little tracking device developed here, measures your home's total power usage and also that of individual items.

Keep gadgets out of landfills

A new computer every three to four years and a new mobile phone in an even shorter time. That is what consumers here are used to, said research firm IDC's Bryan Ma.

Thousands of these items could end up in rubbish bins or landfills every month.

Donate to people who need them through charity organisations. Or, give them away for free to other greenies who don't mind old items.

Go to the website Freecycle (www.freecycle.org/group/Singapore/Singapore/Singapore).

Also, return to sender: Dell takes back old Dell stuff, while HP takes back products from its business customers.

Making changes for the future
Companies are going green in a big way and improving the ways they do business to save the earth. TAN CHONG YAW finds out
Straits Times Digital Life 20 Aug 08;

Packaging

THEN

# Packing materials - like styrofoam inserts - keep gadgets safe in transit from the factory to your house. They are made from petroleum, which can persist in landfills for centuries.

# Polystyrene, polyethylene and polyurethane are the usual suspects for packing materials. They are light, strong, water-resistant and cheap. They are molded into shapes or made into loose fill like packing peanuts. One brief use and straight to the landfill they go as lasting reminders of our retail exuberance.

NOW

# Through design - like getting rid of unnecessary outer shells or consolidating multiple orders into one pack - packaging materials can be reduced. So less space is needed and less fuel used in transportation and less waste sent to the landfill.

# Old newspapers and plants - like plant fibre from palm plantations can be molded to fit a product's exact shape. Fairly soft and flexible, molded paper pulp products (above) are light and absorb impact just as well.

Toxic substances

THEN

# Plenty of hazardous materials in PCs - like lead and mercury, both potent neurotoxins. Brominated fire retardants - common chemicals used in plastics - and cadmium are carcinogens.

# Cathode-ray tube (CRT) monitors give better colour precision. However, they are three times heavier, consume three times more power than LCDs and worst of all, have loads of hazardous stuff, like lead (more than 1kg), mercury and barium.

NOW

# Manufacturers have reduced or avoided the use of these chemicals. Partly to comply with legislation and partly for cred as technology leaders.

# A liquid crystal display monitor takes up much less space than a CRT one, produces less heat, is less of a power guzzler and lasts longer. It emits no electromagnetic radiation. Contains only traces of mercury.

Energy usage

THEN

# Energy is a must in the manufacturing process. Most energy is derived from the burning of fossil fuels - depleting a non-renewable resource and spewing tonnes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

NOW

# Companies reduce energy usage, use green energy - like wind, solar and hydroelectricity - and plant trees to offset their emissions.

Logistics

THEN

# PCs, LCD monitors and HDTVs packed into containers sit in warehouses or are handled many times before arriving at their final destination.

# Counting on an efficient transportation system, the locations of factories doesn't rank high in decision-making.

NOW

# To reduce emissions and fuel use, companies site hubs close to their factories and air and sea ports. Ocean freight - the most eco-friendly - are preferred. Air transportation used only for speed.

# Shipping routes are redesigned to minimise air freight and consolidate shipments.

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