Green Tips: Improving Energy Efficiency at Home and on the Road

Improving energy efficiency is a doubly-positive proposition for any web worker: It saves money and lowers environmental impact. Whether you are plugging into your home’s outlet or  working at your local hangout, options abound for saving electricity. Here are some Green Tips for reducing your electricity consumption and boosting your energy efficiency in the home or mobile office.

The Home Office

Reduce power usage in your home office using some simple common-sense remedies for typical energy drains. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy’s EnergyStar program has some good tips for eliminating wasteful energy use around the house. First, turn off your computer, monitor and printer (or at least have them go into standby mode) when they aren’t in use. Monitors should power down rather than run a screen saver.

When office equipment will be switched off for longer periods, use a power strip, or energy UFO, to avoid vampire appliances slowly draining electricity. Belkin makes a series of devices that prevent wasted power. Disconnect chargers for mobile devices when they are not being used; except for smart chargers, they all suck energy when plugged in. Replace lights with energy saving models; LEDs or CFLs.

A multifunction device that combines a printer, scanner and fax is more efficient than separate machines for each function and takes fewer resources to manufacture. (Think twice about sending or receiving paper faxes, too.)  If you are considering making new hardware purchases, invest in the most efficient computer available. More efficient computers generate less heat (and so lessen A/C usage) and use less electricity over their lifetimes. Collectively, more energy-efficient computing can add up to big savings.

Follow standard practices for keeping your environment temperature-controlled, like preventing drafts and using window shades; heating and cooling make up the largest portion of home energy consumption. Setting your thermostat a few degrees higher or lower, and using a programmable model that can automatically turn off while the house is unoccupied, can make a big difference in your energy consumption. You can also use your iPhone or iPad to control and monitor home power usage and smart thermostats while you’re out.

The Mobile Office

Working over the web on mobile devices actually offers a few advantages for energy efficiency. For one, working in a shared space, be it a café or communal office, saves on the total energy that goes into heating and cooling buildings. Charging up your portables at home and using them out of the house offers the choice to use renewable energy offerings from your power utility. You can also choose to use more efficient (and cheaper) off-peak electricity, reducing, however modestly, the peak load on the grid and, more significantly, the load on your electric bill.

Use power management settings on your laptop that save battery power and extend your battery’s life by reducing the power draw on it. Many of the same tips, such as dimming screens, can be applied to other mobile devices, too. Using less energy on the go means using less electricity for charging later.

There are several options for portable charging for your mobile device or iPhone using renewable energy like the Solio and Freeloader solar chargers or the HYmini wind generator. If you want to combine your free energy from the sun with some style and functionality, check out the solar powered bags from Reware or Noon Solar.

Your cell phone itself is another area where you can save electricity by making smart choices. Start saving electricity and resources by going for a green cell phone, like Samsung’s Reclaim. If you are going to be occupied for long chunks of time turn your cell phone entirely off – just remember to turn it back on when you’re done.

Lastly, as much as we all like staying connected 140 characters at a time, tweet less to save energy.

Share your tips for becoming more energy efficient in the comments.

Trenton DuVal has managed the online communications efforts of nonprofits focused on creating a more sustainable, just and equitable world since 2005. His varied experiences living and working on five continents have included professional gold farming, crossing the Atlantic by sailboat, a few meals with Nobel Laureates and a tragic run-in with a three-toed sloth.

Related GigaOM Pro content (sub. req.): The Smart Energy Home

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