We often get questions about how people can buy, use, and get rid of their computers in the most environmentally friendly ways possible. In the next few sections we will discuss each of those topics in depth.
To buy an environmentally friendly computer may sound complicated, but if you just keep a few basic facts in mind, it is actually rather simple. First you must pick between a laptop and a desktop. Be aware that, on average, laptops draw about five times less power than desktops. However, if you must get a desktop make sure you get one that has an Energy Star label. Any computer you buy will have a power supply rating in watts (500 watts is a common power supply). Note, however, that this number only tells you how much power the power supply provides to the computer, not how much it pulls from the wall. Every computer power supply has a different efficiency rating, which is how effectively it converts the electricity coming out of your wall into power the computer can use. A 500 watt power supply that is only 50% efficient will draw 1,000 watts of power from your wall. If you get an Energy Star rated power supply, though, it means your power supply is at minimum 80% efficient. Non-Energy Star power supplies are not required to report efficiency ratings, so buyer beware: your 500 watt power supply could be anywhere between 25-75% efficient.
Second to the machine itself, your choice of monitor also makes a big difference. Although LCDs are much more efficient than the CRTs of yesteryear, it is still worth it to get an Energy Star rated LCD as well. They generally cost roughly the same, yet they use 25-60% less energy than non-Energy Star panels.