Thursday, April 17, 2008

Going green doesn't have to mean spending thousands on a hybrid car or recycled-glass countertops. Here are three simple tricks to help save the plane

Look around your house at night. Do you see twinkling blue and orange LED lights? They reveal all the energy vampires in your house. If an electronic device has an indicator light or a digital clock (your DVD player, your microwave), it’s sucking power even when it’s not in use. If it charges batteries or converts current (your cell phone charger, anything with a power adapter attached to the plug), it’s sucking power.

The U.S. Department of Energy has estimated that by 2010, appliances in standby mode will be responsible for 20% of an average household utility bill. Yikes. Want to see big savings on your power bill? Unplug. To make it easy, plug devices into a power strip and flip the switch when you’re not using them. My rechargeable Dirt Devil Kone vacuum stays charged for weeks after I unplug it. The Nokia N810 Internet Tablet even reminds its owner to unplug the adapter after charging.

Your computer is the worst offender—when it’s idle it may still be drawing as much power as when you’re using it. Check your power management settings. You can save up to $75 or more per computer each year by activating system standby or hibernate features, according to the Department of Energy.

Quit buying batteries
Thunk. Thunk. Thunk. That’s the sound of dead batteries getting tossed in the trash. You probably hear it a lot more than you used to; modern electronics like digital cameras and hand held video game systems rapidly devour batteries.

You can get a basic Duracell charger with four included AA batteries for $24.99. Each battery can be recharged up to a thousand times. Buying a thousand 4-packs of disposable Duracell AAs will set you back about $5,000.

Sanyo Eneloop rechargeables come already charged and have a long shelf life, so you can charge them and use them later. Energizer's rechargeable e2 batteries last up to four times longer in digital cameras than ordinary alkaline AAs.

Don’t ditch old electronics
You may not want your outdated TV or cell phone, but don’t throw it in the trash. CRT (tube) televisions and computer monitors typically contain 4 to 8 pounds of lead, while cell phone batteries and circuit boards contain toxic metals. Avoid polluting the soil and water with these toxic substances—recycle!

Donate working items to a thrift store. Recycle cell phones and rechargeable batteries at your local Circuit City store. And visit www.mygreenelectronics.com to find places near you that recycle other electronics.

Best of all, trading in your older electronics can help you get new gear. With EZ tardein, it’s simple to exchange your old iPods, computers, cameras and more for Circuit City gift cards.
—Melissa Barber

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