By Michelle Ricker April 15, 2021
Summary: Did you know you can use technology to become more sustainable? Whether it’s turning off unused electronics, opting for smart appliances when it’s time to upgrade, recycling your old gadgets, or going paperless, small changes can make a big difference.
We’re all trying to be more environmentally friendly, and while there are the tried-and-true methods like recycling and choosing a reusable water bottle, did you know technology can help you be eco-friendly, too?
It’s easier than you think, and little changes can have a big impact. Ready to get started?
You probably already know that properly insulating your windows and home can have a dramatic impact on your heating and cooling costs. But did you know you can perform a household energy audit on your electronics? Let’s start at the beginning by simply turning things off when you aren’t using them.
Do you tend to keep your laptop on and plugged in 24/7? There are a few reasons why you should get in the habit of unplugging and powering down any devices you’re not actively using. For one, you can save an average of $100 on your electric bill annually (and more if you have a lot of devices!). You’ll also avoid what’s called a phantom load — where devices that are “turned off” are still sucking up energy. Standby mode still requires power, so you’re still pulling electricity from the grid (and increasing your bill).
Entertainment systems, such as video game consoles and TVs, are usually the worst offenders. If you’ve got your home entertainment plugged into a power strip, you can simply turn the power strip off (or better yet, unplug it) instead of disconnecting every individual device.
You’ll also potentially experience a better internet connection. Devices that aren’t in use but are still connected to the internet (such as digital voice assistants, gaming systems, or printers) may be using a little bit of bandwidth. If you’re having problems staying connected to your high-speed internet, try lightening the load on your network.
If you haven’t made the switch to smart home appliances, now might be the time. Smart thermostats can adjust your home’s temperature when you’re away and can automatically turn down heating or cooling when you don’t need it. You can also opt for smart light fixtures and bulbs. Smart bulbs use up to 90% less energy than traditional bulb, and they can pitch in when you forget to turn off the lights when leaving a room. Bonus: smart bulbs also last 15 times longer than incandescent bulbs.
Not only is a smart home convenient, you can manage almost everything through your phone, allowing you to be eco-friendly even while on the move.
While most curbside services won’t take hard-to-recycle items like electronics, many tech companies — and maybe even your internet service provider — will. A quick online search will usually give you multiple options for where to drop off your electronics recycling including TVs and laptops. You can also keep an eye out for trade-in deals. Phone manufacturers like Samsung and Apple typically allow you to trade in an older device when you purchase a new one — and sometimes even give you a discount. If you don’t need your old device anymore, it’s a great way to save money and lighten your load.
Ditch mailed bills and choose email statements. Most services have a paperless billing option. (Some companies even provide a discount when you go paperless.) Not only are you saving trees and reducing the use of paper and ink, but you also won’t have to keep your monthly utility bills organized. Instead, you can access your billing history online from anywhere.
When you do pay bills online, just make sure you’re using a secure high-speed internet connection. When entering bank or credit card information, opt for a password-protected and encrypted network and store your login credentials in a safe place.
Bonus points if you choose digital options for things like your newspaper or magazines, too. Rather than reading the daily paper once and tossing it into the recycling bin, why not get your news online?
We love that old book smell as much as anyone, but there’s something to be said for the ease of eBooks. While you’ll need some sort of device, you can read most eBooks on your laptop, tablet, or phone, in addition to the dedicated devices like Nook and Kindle. eBooks are eco-friendly in a few ways. First and most obvious, they don’t require ink and paper to print because you can download your eBooks rather than driving to pick them up.
Worried about the environmental impact of buying a new device to read your eBooks? You’ll likely get much more than a single use out of it. Whether you use a local library to borrow books or purchase them from a bookseller, your new read is in your hands right away — saving shipping costs and energy, too.
If you’re more of a multitasker, audiobooks offer the same benefits and are also available at most local libraries. eBooks and audiobooks also reduce the need for bookshelves that interfere with your high-speed internet connection. (Really.)
Fiber internet isn’t available everywhere yet, but if it’s an option for you, you could actually be making an environmentally-sound decision by switching. It might sound counterintuitive: so many sustainable options focus on using what you already have. Fiber internet is a more sustainable choice than other existing internet options for a few reasons.
First, fiber is more efficient at transmitting data and offers far higher speeds. That means you can accomplish what you need to online more quickly, and spend less time and energy waiting on pages to load or files to successfully share. But fiber internet is also less susceptible to decay and bad weather compared to cable — than even satellite internet. And, when the lines for fiber internet eventually need to be replaced, no new material has to be buried (or flowers in your front lawn dug up). Instead, the end pieces can be swapped out while the original glass fiber lines remain in the ground.
Using a high-speed fiber internet connection can save you time and money while also reducing the need to replace and repair existing lines. That’s what we call a win-win.
You can make small adjustments to your everyday technology habits to help the environment in a big way. As an added bonus, you’ll usually be saving yourself money, too. Whether you perform a home energy audit, reduce paper consumption, or upgrade your internet connection, we’re sure you’ll quickly reap the benefits.
Michelle Ricker is a Copywriter for EarthLink. She recently graduated from the University of Cincinnati with an M.A. in Communication and has more than 5 years of writing experience. She thrives on storytelling and well-placed punctuation. She currently lives and works in Atlanta.
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