Put down the drumsticks, Rock Band celebrities, and look up from the controller, Halo warriors. The Natural Resources Defense Council today released a report detailing the impact of your video game habits on the planet, and it's pretty obvious that the 17.5 million game consoles sold in 2007 alone comprise a pretty huge power drain. According to the report, more than 40 percent of households have at least one game console, and many users leave their consoles on 24/7. Because of this, the Xboxes, Wiis and PlayStations in homes all over America consume about 16 billion kilowatt hours per year, which is roughly the same as the annual impact of the entire city of San Diego.
Some consoles are worse than others. Comparing the Xbox, PlayStation and Wii, the latter was found to be the most energy efficient. The Wii uses about 16 watts when active, and if powered down after each use, only $3 of your annual electricity bill will have come from the device. PlayStations and Xboxes, however, can cost up to $160 in electricity per year when left on. The guide's primary advice is to always power down your console after each use, or putting them in power-saving mode (here are instructions for PlayStation and Xbox users).
Even though gamers use a lot of power, Eco Geek maintains that video games can still be very green. The argument that "gaming keeps you out of the environment, and thus protects it," is kind of silly, though, because sending your kids outside to play instead of staring at a screen is certainly not an environmentally harmful thing to do.
The good news is that each incarnation of consoles is getting greener. NRDC would like them to take it a step further and add an automatic power-down feature after a period of inactivity. This feature would be able to reduce wasted energy for one console by more than a thousand kilowatt-hours yearly, and could bring a yearly savings of nearly $140 to many gamers. Until those features are implemented, power down the PlayStation after your game of Guitar Hero, and you could put the money you save towards new games.