10 Ways To Reduce Your Blogging Carbon Footprint

The new year has come, and among some bloggers' resolutions include being more environment-friendly. Sure, oil prices have plummeted, partly because of the worldwide economic crunch. But this doesn't mean you shouldn't start being more efficient in your energy use. TIME Magazine's latest feature tells us that there is a renewable-energy resource that is perfectly clean, remarkably cheap, surprisingly abundant and immediately available, and it is not some new-technology power plant or biofuel, or whatnot. It's simple: energy efficiency. I've actually tried to start a blog about becoming more green, but the idea of becoming more eco-friendly seemed a bit trivial to someone like me who spends almost all day in front of the computer (and so the blog has not had much activity for some time now). But then it hit me--being environmentally friendly should start at home, or better yet for a blogger, right at your fingertips. And so I've thought of a few ways to reduce one's carbon footprint, specifically from blogging. First and foremost, we define carbon footprint as the greenhouse gas emissions caused by your activities, whether directly or indirectly. So with blogging, this is mostly related to your use of energy or electricity. You can either reduce consumption altogether. For instance, you can limit yourself to just a couple of hours of online activity every day. But that would only result in conservation and not efficiency. That's doing less with less. What we want is to be able to do more with the same amount of energy, or even less.

1. Unplug, unplug, unplug. Or at least turn off the main switch. I must admit I'm guilty of this environmental sin. Most of our electronic gadgetry these days come with a soft power button. That is, you press a toggle button and your TV, monitor, component, or whatever gadget turns on and off in an instant. But turning it off this way does not actually cut off the power supply from the device. Chances are, leaving something on standby will consume about 5% to 30% of its powered-on use.

Standy power accounts for about 5% to 8% of household electricity use (sources: 1 (PDF), 2, 3 (PDF)), and results in about $3 billion in wasted electricity annually in the US alone.

One good solution is to plug your devices in a power strip (or AVR), which you can simply turn off after use.

2. Use a laptop computer. In the old days, I used to do online work on an ancient Pentium-IV desktop computer with a CRT monitor. Not only was it noisy, hot and slow, it was very power hungry, too.

Desktop computers typically consume 350 Watts, while laptop computers would usually draw just 45 Watts or so. You can check your power supply to see how much maximum power draw your gadget takes when plugged in. For instance, my Compaq Presario laptop uses a maximum of 65 Watts, while my Asus EeePC takes in about 36 Watts maximum.

If you'd rather stick with a desktop, you can use alternatives like nettop computers or smaller, energy efficient models. I hear Macs are more energy-efficient than their PC counterparts! I've gotten rid of my old desktop, and now I use an Apple Mac Mini (G4), which consumes the same amount of electricity as most laptops (plus the monitor, of course).

3. Switch to LCD. If you still haven't done so, then this is the right time. LCDs are getting cheaper and cheaper by the moment. These days, CRTs are usually only appreciated by hardcore gamers who need really fast refresh rates, and some graphic designers (who for some reason are able to calibrate their CRTs better than LCDs). But for writing, emailing, blog reading, and the occasional online video, LCDs are appropriate. They're easier on the eyes, lighter on the desk, and they consume less power, too. A typical LCD would consume less than half the consumption of its similar-sized CRT counterpart.

And while we're at it, you can reduce your monitor's brightness to a comfortable, but not too bright, level.

4. Set your computer to sleep/standby or hibernate. Most laptops would have this setting by default, but not everyone is aware how to change or activate this on a laptop or desktop. In my case, whenever I need to take a short break, I just close my laptop's lid and it goes to sleep. That way, the computer's screen and keyboard are protected, and I save a bit on consumption. Or in case I forget, my computers are set to sleep after 20 minutes of inactivity (and my desktop hibernates and turns itself off altogether after a couple of hours).

This is especially important on desktop computers. Screensavers don't give any savings at all, but the difference between sleep mode and powered-on is dramatic (see tip #1). Of course, it's still best to turn off and unplug when not in use, but for brief bathroom, stretching or coffee breaks, sleep mode does wonders to the environment.

With both Mac and Windows machines, this is fairly straightforward.

5. Minimize the use of the A/C or heater. In cool weather, I no longer turn on the air conditioner at my home office. Or when it's really warm or hot, I share A/C use with the wife and kids (either the kids play at my office room, or I work at the bedroom). Sure, we need quiet time to concentrate on writing. But isn't it fun to share the warmth (or cool) with someone you love? You get to save on the electricity bill, too!

Case in point: Our electricity bill for December was just 50% of our usual bill during warmer months. This should also apply to folks in cold countries, although it would be the other way around.

6. Use energy-efficient lighting. If you blog from home, then you should switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, like compact fluorescent. Incandescent bulbs burn up more than 96% of the energy it uses as heat. So a 15 Watt CFL bulb is usually as bright as a 400 Watt incandescent bulb.

If it's daytime, then open those blinds or curtains. Let the sun shine in!

7. Brewing coffee? Why not brew enough for two or more cups? I normally only get to consume one cup per sitting, but on those all-nighters, I brew myself an extra cup just to be sure. Brewed coffee will go stale if you leave it warming on the hot plate for more than 20 minutes (that is, if you're using a drip-brewer). But if you're consuming more than one cup anyway, it would be a waste of electricity, water, soap and even coffee grinds if you were to brew twice or more. Why not brew enough to last your blogging run? You can actually keep coffee in a thermal carafe or thermos for about five hours, and it will still taste as good.

If you prefer getting your caffeine fix at the neighborhood cafe, then you could try walking or biking if it's not too far. Or if you have to use the car, then perhaps you can plan your trip. Why not bring some family members along if they're running some errands?

8. Consolidate your blog hosting. Unless you run blogs purely for SEO, or unless your blog gets DUGG every day, why not host your blogs under a single hosting account? Most hosting accounts these days offer more than enough bandwidth and space for one single blog. If you run your blog from a hosted service like WordPress.com or Blogger, this shouldn't be an issue. But if you run a self-hosted blog, or perhaps you run your own hosted blogging service, then this could make a difference. Not only do you save on hosting fees, you help save the environment, too!

9. Work more efficiently. I guess this is subjective, but you definitely reduce your carbon footprint if you do more with less time or with less resources. So rather than spending hours upon hours pointlessly sifting through your feed reader trying to find something interesting, why not get your thoughts more organized? Why not plan ahead, noting down topics you'd like to write about, and clipping quotes and URLs in a handy notebook, so when you're ready to write, information would be easier to access?

Or how about reducing your workspace clutter? At any given time, I have dozens of tabs open in several browser windows. Not only does this clutter my current window, it also clutters my taskbar and on-screen real-estate. Every once in a while, I shut down my browser altogether and open only the tabs I really need, like my Gmail, feed reader, and Twitter window, among others. This way, I get to focus, and I'm able to produce better output.

Working smarter beats working harder. You get more things done with less effort! You help save the world, too.

10. Write shorter posts. I'm not a fan of one-liners, but posts that are too long tend to tire me and cause me to spend a little more time than I want to. At the very least, split your post into headings, bullet points or lists, to make reading (or scanning) easier.

And I think this should be the last tip, because I've just violated it with my post going past the 1,000 word mark!

Contributing to the increasingly popular concept of carbon footprint-reduction does not necessarily entail drastic lifestyle changes. Even a few adjustments here and there can make a difference. And even if these savings result in just a small reduction, the sum can add up to something big, if we all do our part.

6 thoughts on “10 Ways To Reduce Your Blogging Carbon Footprint

  1. Great tips. Thanks.

    I’m trying an “idled” on my Linux laptop which will shut it off when not in use (by human or program) for more than 7 minutes and I’m making switching off easier by using intelliplugs. I’ll write about both of those in the “News” section of my site in the next few days (RSS subscription available).

    (I hate the CAPTCHA on this site. Probably won’t come back soon.)

  2. I think it’s important to be economical and environmentally aware in all aspects of our lives, and computers are no exception. Having said that I feel that commonsense should prevail, we don’t need to be so ‘green’ that we make ourselves miserable. Moderation in all things.

    Just as a matter of interest, I’m scared of flying and have never been on a plane and don’t intend to fly in the future. Therefore I feel my carbon footprint might be quite small compared to others because of that fear. Or am I deluding myself?

  3. I do a lot of those (though certainly not number 9). We don’t leave anything plugged in at night anymore (except for the fridge, of course).

    I believe I read that Hostgator uses renewable energy, and I host all of my sites with them.

  4. It is so funny, if we think about it we can help reduce our footprint in so many ways it is ridiculous. Great ideas and very easily implementable. If we did this with every aspect of our lives, we could make a huge difference.

  5. Yes, my desktop is a bit of a monster. But ever since I got it, its so hard for me to stomach working on a laptop. That being said, here are ways that I save:

    1. Turn off additional monitors when they are not needed.
    2. Use a black desktop.
    3. Rarely use speakers, I often opt for my headphones.
    4. Disabled the really cool surround lights on my CPU. (This baby has lights on all sides that you can set to any color. Pretty sweet.)
    5. Limited the number of programs run at once.

    … You know what, we bloggers are already pretty green. Those of us that do it full time or work from home help the environment by not commuting on a daily basis.

  6. To add to number 8, you can also opt to go with an eco friendly blog host. There are webhosts who are carbon neutral, who use wind powered servers, etc.

    Some notables include: Dreamhost and Thinkhost.

    Great article and for 2009, let’s all do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint, while we blog away.

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