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On Stand-By for Climate Change

Climate change has quickly become the number one global environmental issue with businesses, governments and citizens world-wide pledging to take action to curb it. Yet, how many of these people, myself included, are really just on "standby"? What do I mean by this? Take a look around your home or office, as I have just done, and count up the number of electronic devices that are typically left in "standby" mode. Now consider how much power they're drawing. Not much, you think. Ha, that's what I also thought. But not any more. "Standby power can range between 10 anf 15 watts, and occasionally beyond," according to Chris Long, a writer for the BBC News. "On its own, this is not much. But if you get half a dozen devices on standby, it is the equivalent of a 60 watt bulb." He goes on to argue that, on an annual basis, within a typical UK home, stereos produce 1.6 million tonnes of CO2, VCRs and DVD players generate 1.06 million tonnes of CO2 and TVs produce 480,000 tonnes of CO2 when left in standby modes. Personal computers are even worse. They can draw anywhere between 5 and 60 watts. "By the end of 2004," writes Long, "there were 820 million PCs in use around the world, and by 2007 that will top a billion." Now, do the math. The resulting carbon emissions are staggering. My road to enlightenment in this regard began with a passing comment by a friend who peeked into my home office one night and remarked that it looked like the flight deck of a jumbo jet. Red, blue and green lights from various pieces of electronic equipment certainly gave that impression. A day or so later, I completed an on-line survey provided by my power utility to determine how much energy our home used and was surprised to see how much power my computer and printer consumed when left in standby mode. Immediately I began to change my habits to include shutting all equipment off at night or for extended periods when out of the office. I'm not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. I still catch myself having left the printer or speakers on overnight or worse, over a weekend. But as I become more informed, I become more aware, resulting in greater determination to reduce my ecological footprint. Now excuse me while I go hunt down any other devices left in standby. References: Long, Chris. "Energy cost of PCs on standby" BBC News. Published Apr. 21, 2006. Retreived on Oct. 23, 2006 from "UK 'tops energy wasters league'" BBC News. Published Oct. 23, 2006. Retrieved Oct. 23, 2006 from


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