Cheat Sheet

Green Gadgets For Dummies

From Green Gadgets For Dummies by Joe Hutsko, Tom Zeller, Jr. (Foreword by)

TVs, cell phones, printers, and other electronic devices take a big toll on the planet. A green gadget is one that's more ecofriendly than other products. You might already know about the three Rs of green living — reduce, reuse, recycle — but here's a fourth R: rethink. Many websites can help you consider the environment as you purchase new electronics, and a few simple tips can make your home greener — and save you some bucks.

12 Ways to Save Money while Going Green with Home Electronics

Small steps can go far to reduce your energy use and make your home more ecofriendly. Try these 12 tips, which are not only good for the planet, they'll save you some money.

  • Replace single-use disposable batteries in your gadgets with rechargeable ones, and then dispose of the dead ones at a nearby grocery, hardware, office-supply store; or your municipal recycling center.

  • Turn down your TV's brightness and contrast settings to the lowest comfortable level.

  • Unplug the charger on your mobile phone, MP3 player, or other gadget after its battery is charged, or plug all chargers into a power strip so that you can instantly turn them off all at one time.

  • Disable your computer's screen saver and adjust its power-saving settings to turn off the display when you're not using it, as well as have it automatically switch to Standby or Hibernate mode after you're away for more than 15 minutes.

  • Turn off any energy-wasting features you aren't using on mobile phones, computers, and other gadgets, including wireless (WiFi) networking, Bluetooth, and GPS.

  • On portable gadgets with backlit screens, reduce brightness to the lowest comfortable level; and turn on autolock, screen dimming, and shutoff options if available.

  • Read and review documents on the screen rather than print them on paper.

  • If you must print, reduce your printer's quality setting to 200 dots per inch (dpi), print on both sides of the page, and refill inkjet and toner cartridges rather than buy new ones.

  • Reduce fuel consumption and auto emissions by shopping and banking online and by renting or buying downloadable and streaming movies and TV programs rather than rent DVDs at your local video store or kiosk, or by mail.

  • If your home's thermostat isn't programmable, buy one and set it to heat and cool only when you're at home.

  • When purchasing new gadgets, research the most energy-efficient models by visiting Mygreenelectronics.org or EnergyStar.gov.

  • Consider selling unwanted gadgets locally on Craigslist or trading them in for cash or credit toward a new product (Best Buy offers programs to recycle or trade in your old gadgets, as do other retailers).

7 of the Best Green Gadget Websites

The Internet is loaded with websites and articles dedicated to green living and green technology. What follows are a few of the most established sites about green electronics and gadgets, and green living.

The Four Rs of Greener Electronics

Most people are probably familiar with the eco-aware mantra known as the three Rs of green gadgets: Reduce, reuse, recycle. But here's what the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) refers to as the fourth R — rethink — to help you make green gadget purchases.

Here is a rundown of the four Rs of green gadgets:

  • Reduce: Less is more. Using less energy by turning off gadgets and devices when you aren't using them, as well as adjusting their power settings to run more efficiently when they're on, can provide more savings in both kilowatts and in the amount of money you pay for them.

  • Reuse: If it ain't broke, don't nix it. Refilling your printer's inkjet or laser toner cartridges, donating to charity an older but still usable mobile phone, or upgrading an older PC with faster components rather than buying a new computer are all examples of applying the second R to the gadgets in your life.

  • Recycle: This R can make more of a difference to the planet than any of the others. Every year, hundreds of thousands of old or broken computers and cellphones wind up in landfills or incinerators. Tossing unwanted or broken electronics into town or city municipal trash collection streams is ignorant, irresponsible, lazy, and offensive. It can even be potentially life threatening if the discarded digital items wind up in an incinerator, where they eventually reach the air we breathe, or in a landfill, where they break down and seep into the ground and contaminate the water we drink.

    Adding to the problem are the thousands more discarded electronics that wind up as electronic waste, or e-waste, that are often illegally exported to Asia from the U.S. and other industrialized countries. The e-waste wind up in scrap yards that expose workers — including children — to toxic chemicals and poisons.

  • Rethink: To help minimize the disastrous long-term effects of e-waste, picture the life cycles of future purchases all the way to the recycling bin. Consider this: In a 2008 survey conducted by the CEA, nearly 90 percent of consumers said energy efficiency will be a determining factor in choosing and purchasing their next televisions. Yet less than half of the people polled said that they understand the ecofriendlier attributes associated with consumer electronics and gadgets.

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