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20 Simple Ways to Help the Environment by Using Your Computer

This article is a part of Blog Action Day, an initiative where over 14000 bloggers will write something about the environment on the same day.

When I’d signed up for Blog Action Day I did a little brainstorming to generate some good ideas. After half an hour I came up with this one and decided to stick with it.

I liked it because of its simplicity. And because one thing I and I think many of my readers use for several hours each day is a computer. Plus, many of the tips can – over time – save you quite a bit of money.

These are just 20 ideas on what you can do reduce the wear and tear on the environment. Some may contradict each other a bit. How far you want to take them is up to you.


Image by jimmyroq.

  1. Pay your bills online. Instead of using paper to pay your bills pay them over the internet instead. At least for me this has been a cheaper option too, since my bank has a lower fee for paying online compared to using the mail.
  2. Shop online. Instead of taking the car to, for instance, buy a couple of books buy them online. You’ll cut down on your polluting. And save money on both gas and the books since they are often cheaper online than in the store.
  3. Throw out your TV. Your TV draws electricity by just being plugged in. If you don´t use your TV that much consider getting rid of it. Or putting it in the closet/unplugging it while you wait for the Olympics or something you really want to see. You can watch TV-shows via DVD, Itunes or the websites of various broadcast companies instead. You’ll waste less electricity and time watching shows you don’t care for that much anyway.
  4. Throw out your stereo. Just like with the TV, your stereo uses electricity by being plugged in. And these days I don’t really use the stereo that much anyway. Watching TV, movies and listening to music has been simplified by using my computer for all three purposes. It doesn’t just save electricity, it also makes you more focused on using your time for experiencing what you choose. Rather than what’s just on.
  5. Find recipes and other useful tips online. You won’t waste as much paper and clutter up your bookcase as when you buy tip/recipe-filled books and magazines. And you’ll save money.
  6. Read your morning paper online. A lot of people want their morning paper in paper-form. Frankly, I have found it easier and quicker to just scan through it online. Plus, it saves a tree or two.
  7. Click ads and donate money. There is a whole bunch of sites with ads where the money goes to the helping the environment. If you for instance click an ad at The Rainforest Site a small amount of money goes to protecting a piece of rainforest. Another such site is The Ecology Fund. You may also want to check out Charity Navigator. It evaluates different charities and is, as the slogan says, a “…guide to intelligent giving”.
  8. Look for shopping discounts and offers online. At least here in Sweden, you can often find what’s on sale for the week at the website of your local grocery store. So I’ve put up a small note on my mailbox that tells the postman that I don’t want any direct mail, junk mail or similar kinds of mail.
  9. Throw out the phonebook. Instead of flicking through your phonebook do a simple search for the number online. I guess it may vary from country to country how well this works, but over here it has worked out really well.
  10. Find the quickest route. To avoid getting lost and to not use more gas than necessary look up where you are going before you leave. A few websites that offer this service are Google Maps and MapQuest.
  11. Look up bus- and train-schedules online. Instead of flicking through those small books with the schedule try to look it up online when you can.
  12. Download programs and games. Valve sells downloadable games online. Many other companies sell games and programs the same way. This reduces packaging, gas use if you normally take the car or bus to the store and the time until you can start playing (if you have a fast connection).
  13. Download books. You can skip CDs and download audio books directly from services like Amazon and Audible.
  14. If you journal, use your computer instead of a notepad. It makes it easier to edit your entries and keep them organized. Just don’t forget to backup once in a while. One good program for journaling is The Journal by David RM. It comes with a 45 days trial. Or you can just create your own blog. It´s free.
  15. Email what you can. Ridiculously obvious advice, but you can a save a lot of paper by emailing whenever it’s possible at home, at work and in school.
  16. When you print, print double-sided. If your printer has the option, print double-sided to make the most of every sheet of paper.
  17. Work from your home. If you can, try to work from home. It might be just one day a week but that can save you and the environment a whole lot of gas, pollution and stress. Tim Ferriss has some good tips on how to handle it practically with your computer and how to convince your boss to let you work from your home. Read The 4-Hour Workweek for the whole plan.
  18. Shut off the lights in the room. I’ve found that at night I don’t have to have a lot of lights on when I’m using my computer. I can rely on the light from the computer screen instead. Just don’t forget about the energy-conserving options in the next tip for when you’re not using the computer.
  19. Put it to sleep when you’re not using it. There are energy-conserving options for every computer. You can for instance set the computer to go into a low-energy usage mode if you haven’t used it for 10 minutes. It’s useful to check to check these settings after you have bought a new computer. On the laptop I’m using to type this, the screen was set to power down after 15 minutes of not being used. I’ve changed that to 5 minutes.
  20. Shut if off. When you know you aren’t going to use the computer for some time or you are going to go to sleep shut off the computer to not waste electricity.

Now, what more can you do with your computer to reduce the wear and tear on the environment?

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bryan Migliorisi June 30, 2008, 5:21 am

    Another great way to use your computer is by using The Staga Network at http://www.staga.net – it lets you connect with people who live near you and give things away to them. The end result is less trash and the ability to re-use things that are probably not trash anyway. Plus, you get the satisfaction if knowing that the things you spent money on are not ending up in some landfill.

  • rawr October 23, 2008, 3:02 am

    um do you have any other helpful ways you can use your computer to help the earth

  • Julia November 15, 2008, 8:23 pm

    Yesterday in church we talked about a comparison between ancient Rome and developed countries like America today. Just because we are on top of the world at the moment doesn’t mean we have the right to do whatever we want. You will most likely not go to heaven if you’re as careless and selfcentered enough that simply turning off a switch is too bothersome. “Leave it to the later generations…” There will be no later generation if we continue to be as wasteful and conceited. Just because you are trapped in your own comfort bubble without a care about the rest of the world doesn’t mean the rest of the world shouldn’t deserve the right to live.If one day were to switch lives with those we are effecting now by “living in comfort”, what would you say then? It’s not about living in comfort for 95% of the world. For most it’s about life and death.Just because we are on top of the world does not mean we shouldn’t care for the rest of it. Great article! Very helpful non fuss ways to help the enviroment.

  • Jes extender December 25, 2009, 11:43 am

    Nice tips, more people should read this

  • mitch k booth July 27, 2010, 11:48 pm

    You mentioned throwing out several usable items; I would say give away or recycle, not everyone is on line these days. Just a thought.

  • Jen July 28, 2010, 3:01 pm

    Sending usable items (especially electronics) to the landfill DOES NOT help the environment. Sell them or donate them instead. Look into Freecycling too. If they are no longer usable, recycle them. Electronics are full of heavy metals that are toxic. They should never just be “thrown out”.

    Using a computer without any lights on is indeed harmful to your vision. And shopping online might save you time and money, but the net effect on the environment is probably no better, and maybe worse. Think about how that product has to get to your door. How many airplanes and trucks are involved? It’s much better to search for products that are produced locally – that have less distance to travel to get to you. Buy food that is grown on farms near your town, or if you have room, grow your own. Buy clothing, jewelery and home décor items from local craftspeople. Or shop at second-hand stores. Many stores are run by charitable organizations, so not only do you get a good deal, but you help your community too.