A Big Turn Off

The carbon cost of spam may be suspect, but power down your PC and you'll save money and reduce CO2

McAfee, makers of anti-spam software, recently released a study on the carbon footprint of spam email. According to them, it's HUGE. The study calculated the annual energy used to transmit, process and filter spam at 33 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), or 33 terawatt hours (TWh), equivalent to the electricity used to power 2.4 million homes, and equal in greenhouse gas emissions to 3.1 million passenger cars using more than 2 million gallons of gas. They're big and impressive numbers. You can access the entire 12 page report here, but you'll have to register to do it. The McAfee study was a marketing ploy to get people to buy their antispam software. What they neglected to mention: it's not the spam that's causing the GHGs, but the extra time that people leave their computers on when they're not using them.

According to the 1E Energy Awareness Campaign, the information and telecommunications technology industry generates 2% of the world’s carbon emissions—the same as a year’s worth of air traffic. PCs and monitors account for 39% of these emissions11, which is equal to a full year of CO2 emissions from approximately 43.9 million cars. That study quotes Gartner Research, which says there are more than 1 billion PCs in use worldwide, and that number will double by 2014.

PCs left running overnight cost about $2.8 billion in excess energy EACH YEAR in the U.S. ONLY. That's 20 million tons of carbon dioxide. By leaving your PC on every night when you're not using it, you're helping to put about 4 million virtual cars on the road according to 1E (scroll to PC Energy Report US). A single PC burns an average of $28 electricity per year. Multiply that if you're a business owner, and cha ching.

But even if you're a single computer home, turn off your computer, as well as your printer, modem, fax, external drives and all the other things in your office that hum, and you can start to tally up the dollars you're saving while reducing your impact. As electricity cost climb (they're predicted to rise 35% by 2030), you may be paying for your next pack or boots with the savings.

Anyone noticed a drop in your electric bill from turning off your electronics?

--Berne Broudy