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  • Writer's pictureArielle Kouyoumdjian

Climate Stories From Around The Globe: Featuring James Sutherlin

In this engaging, surprising article, James (age 17, Loveland, CO) delves into an unexpected culprit of energy consumption...

When I was young I rarely had any chances to go outside, even when I did it rarely ever went well due to how sickly I was. I ended up spending large amounts of time using electronic devices. However, until a couple years ago I took care of them poorly. The worst example of this was how I would often leave my computer on overnight, which bricked my hard drive. I still haven't recovered from those actions as the current hard drive I use was an old hand-me-down. And that wasn’t even the worst thing that resulted from me never turning off my computer. How long do you spend on your computer?

An average computer left on for 24 hours straight can dump around 1,500 pounds of CO2 into the atmosphere in a year! Of course not everyone is going to spend that long on their PC, the average person only spends around 3 - 5 hours a day on a home computer. That’s still around 187 - 313 pounds of CO2 you put into the atmosphere a year. Most large trees can only process 30 - 50 pounds of CO2 in a year. We all know that we can't just stop using computers. And while we wait for the big scientists and engineers to develop nuclear fusion reactors we gotta at least control how much energy we use.

Do you use a laptop? Most modern laptops use about ¼ the power of their desk contemporaries as they just usually have less hardware. But hey maybe you need a desktop, maybe you have a job or hobby that’s reliant on larger machines. Well there's two main things that you need to take into account when buying desktops. First: buy flat screen monitors. Flat screens take about ⅓ the power of other monitors. And second: Have an eco-friendly cooling system in your home. When it comes to large computing operations, around 60% - 90% of the total energy used is thanks to the air conditioning required to handle how hot computers can get. Also, most PCs have an option in their settings to turn on an “energy saver” mode. Doing this might make your computer function a bit slower than what you're used to but it mostly just shuts off the more redundant functions in most operating systems.

You still want to do more? Well, I’m sorry, but unless you're planning on getting into computer science and engineering, there’s not much you can do on a personal level. But hey-- if you are thinking about doing exactly that you should know that people are already working on these issues! For example: Google already has 5 data centers where 90% or more of their power comes from eco-friendly sources. Also, one of the primary goals of computer part manufacturers is to make them smaller and more efficient. But if you don’t want to spend much of your life in this field, you can at least make your own time online more efficient.

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