Simple Green Step: Shut Down Your Computer Every Night

If every office worker in America turned off his or her computer every evening, the energy savings would be significant.

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As many as half of all office workers in America who use a PC don't shut it down at the end of the day - wasting $2.8 billion and 20 tons of CO2 per year, according to a recent study by 1E and the Alliance to Save Energy. According to the survey, there's a litany of excuses not to: they forget, it takes too long, they allow their computer to automatically go to sleep, or it's company policy to leave it on. Here are five good reasons to turn your PC off each night:

  1. It's good for your computer. Harvard University advises students to shut down every night to preserve the health of their computers, because leaving them powered up can result in heat stress and mechanical wear.
  2. Shutting the computer down and powering it back up doesn't waste additional energy. Any energy used to shut down and start is more than offset by the period of time that the PC spends totally switched off.
  3. Turning the computer off can save your company money. According to the study, a U.S. company with 10,000 PCs will waste $260,000 in energy throughout the year due to computers that are powered up when no one is using them.
  4. It's one of the easiest things you can do to save energy. It only takes a few seconds each day, and if more people did it, the savings would be massive. The power required to run all one billion of the world's PCs for just one night is enough to power the Empire State Building inside and out for 30 years.
  5.  PCs waste more than you'd think, especially for the many Americans who do not have an Energy Star computer. The IT industry generates two percent of the world's carbon emissions each year, and about 40 percent of that comes from PCs. The total annual waste is equivalent to that of nearly 44 million cars.
  6. While some employees leave their computers on because they access their desktop remotely from home, or they share a computer with another employee, a full 27 percent of employees either forget, or decide against shutting it down because it takes too long. If you're one of these people:

    • Low-tech, obvious option: leave a post-it on your monitor that says "Shut me down" as a reminder. 
    • Play with your energy-saving settings. Configure your computer to hibernate, rather than just go to sleep.
    • If you access your desktop remotely, turn off your monitor before you leave. You can also install Wake-on-LAN, which enables you to revive a computer remotely.
    • Turn off your peripheral devices, such as speakers and printers, when they're not in use.
    • Don't use a screen saver - they are energy wasters, and for new LCD screens, they're obsolete. Instead, configure your energy settings so that your computer goes to sleep after periods of inactivity.