Dual-core Intel CPU, 17 in. display

When To Upgrade

Before you retire your old computer prematurely, consider all of the energy, chemicals, and waste that goes into manufacturing a new computer and disposing of the old one. Then, implement energy-saving measures until a new computer is absolutely necessary. However, when it comes to monitors, replacing your old CRT monitor with a new LCD one is almost always a good idea—an old-style CRT can easily draw more than 100 watts, while a newer LCD monitor of the same size can draw less than 30 W.

If a new computer is a necessity, then you should approach the selection process with a skeptical eye for details. Start by examining the Gold-rated products in the EPEAT database. Once you've selected some likely candidates, cross-check them in the Energy Star database and choose from the models with the lowest idle power. In general, laptops consume considerably less power and use fewer materials than desktops—but whether they're greener is open to debate. Because of the added need for compactness, they are often not as robust as desktop models, nor can they as easily dissipate component-harming heat, so they tend to have shorter life spans.

EPEAT and Energy Star certifications are a good starting point, but you should read about the computer manufacturers and follow their names in the news. Only by understanding their practices and keeping tabs on their environmental record will you feel confident about buying their products. Through an informed purchase, you have the power to shape the marketplace.


Mike Chin ([email protected]) is a Canadian tech journalist and founder of Silent PC Review (, a resource center for quiet computers. He also runs Eco PC Review (, a Web site dedicated to greener computing.

Green Electronics Council's EPEAT •

Energy Star •

IT & Environment Initiative •

Computers and the Environment: Understanding and Managing their Impacts, edited by R. Kuehr and E. Williams, 2007, Springer, 300 pages, softcover, ISBN 978-1-4020-1680-6

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