Make Technology Go Green

Workshop offers tips on how to 'be green and save green'

There are plenty of ways to go 'green' when using technology.
There are plenty of ways to go 'green' when using technology.

With about 20,000 personal computers, 5,300 servers and 5,100 printers and mobile devices used by Duke community members, there's great potential to suck up energy. Last year, 72 percent of Duke's greenhouse gas emissions came from energy consumption like lighting buildings or powering electronics.

But it doesn't have to be that way. 

"When we come into our offices in the morning and turn on our lights and computers, we often don't think about how much energy is being used and where it's coming from," said Casey Roe, outreach coordinator for Sustainable Duke. "Creating change is very much an individual behavior."

At a recent "Learn IT @ Lunch" session sponsored by the Office of Information Technology, Roe offered suggestions to employees as part of the workshop, "Using Technology to Be Green and Save Green." Use these tech tips to help make your computer and workstation more sustainable:

Follow strict energy settings

By changing computer settings for "hibernate" or "sleep" modes, users are able to reduce overall energy use of a typical workstation by up to 88 percent. Roe suggested setting a computer to hibernate fairly quickly without inactivity - about five minutes - and to go to "sleep" a few minutes after that. "All you have to do to turn it back on is hit a button and you've saved energy in the process," said Roe, noting that as much as $330,000 per year can be saved if Duke employees followed strict energy settings.

Cut off "phantom power"

Believe it or not, screen savers don't really save electricity. Even when turned off, electronic devices like printers or computers can still use small amounts of power if they're plugged in. Roe suggested using "smart" powerstrips that shut off all electricity flow if a computer is shut down.

Be a smart shopper

To make it easy to find environmentally-friendly office items, Sustainable Duke has helped establish a green purchasing program with Procurement that can be accessed by Duke's office managers on the Staples Advantage website. The list features an "eco-conscious" list of sustainable products, from computer cleaners to monitors. Duke encourages the purchase of items that are Energy Star certified, meaning the electronics or appliances cut energy use by 20 to 30 percent.

"I found it really interesting that Duke has an Energy Star Policy," said Sarafina Robinson, an administrative assistant in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program. She attended the green technology workshop. "It's especially helpful to know that Duke already has lists of sustainable products available so you don't have to navigate through lots of outside groups in order to find them."

Reduce and recycle

About 1,500 Duke computers were donated to Duke Procurement's surplus and storage programs last year. All computers and electronic equipment purchased by Duke that is no longer useful for a department should be given to the Duke Surplus program, which is managed by Procurement Services. This will ensure the devices are disposed of in a sustainable way or donated to a local organization.

Learn more

While the "Using Technology to Be Green and Save Green" workshop offered an outlook of sustainable computing at Duke, faculty and staff can get an in-depth look at creating a sustainable workplace with the "Leading for Environmental Sustainability" workshop, which is held quarterly through Learning and Organization Development. Space is still available for June 19 and Aug. 16 sessions.

For more information about "greening" your workplace, visit the Sustainable Duke website.