Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Going Green, part 9: Technology

Technology can be a great aid in our efforts to reduce waste, recycle certain products, and reuse others. It can also be a great drain on resources, particularly power sources and the needless printing of documents just to read the latest version. Here are some things to consider as you try to practice the 3R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) with your technology use.

1. The Internet v. Regular Mailings: What a great tool to help us reduce our paper consumption and clutter! Use cyberspace wisely (especially as regards identity theft issues), but feel free to use it! Often a free service, you can have your bills and statements emailed to you or view them online at any given institution's website. I subscribe to very few magazines anymore because most of what I wanted is now available at the magazines' websites for free or for a reasonable subscription.

2. Digital File Storage: This can be on a website somewhere, your hard drive, or CD-Rom's. We've begun scanning in old financial statements/bills, converting them to PDF files, and then copying them to CD's. One CD can hold the same amount of information in so much less space than the paper versions. Now, we get our statements emailed to us and we can simply copy them over.

3. Digital Photo Storage: Many photo processing websites will also let you store photos for free on their website. We have ours stored on our hard drive and backed up on CD. We also have a number stored at our favorite processing site, where we've created photo books and calendars instead of having individual photos mailed to us for the "old-fashioned" albums. The books look great (and we've had hard copies of the books mailed to us)!

4. Media Storage: Wow! All our CD's are now on our computer thanks to my genius of a husband (who's an electrical engineer...). The CD's themselves are in the basement (we don't want to get rid of them because we feel like we're violating copyright laws). New music we've acquired through Mp3 format is also on our computer. Movies--same thing. In fact, through programs like Netflix, you can stream a number of movies and TV shows right to your PC.

5. Media "Hardcopy": CD's and DVD's can be resold much more easily than cassettes and VHS because they are more durable. When you're through with something, resell it or donate it so someone else can enjoy it!

6. Electronic Books: As a confirmed bibliophile (in one room alone of our house, we have 500 volumes...), I will never, ever want to have only e-books as an option. That being said, audiobooks can be acquired in Mp3 format; of that I heartily approve.

7. Libraries: Use them! You don't need to own every book (believe it or not, we do use discretion in which books we buy....).

8. Time Wasted...: I'm one to talk now that I have a few blogs going, but I do try to limit my computer time. When my husband has to work late and the kids are in bed, I'll "whip up" a couple of future posts and schedule them all. Sometimes, I'm not on the computer again for several days even though different posts will appear on schedule. Use all the latest technology well, but don't let it consume all your spare time. We must be stewards of our time as well as this earth.

9. Power Consumption: It's true. Even when they're in "standby" mode, our TV's, computers, DVD players, etc. all consume power. Anything with a clock in it and/or a remote control will be using power all the time simply to maintain those features. We've begun turning our computer off at night; my mathematically oriented husband has estimated this could save us as much as $30/month!

10. Resources: The Internet is full of wonderful resources to help you practice the 3R's--solutions for everything from homemade cleaning products, gardening help, facts and statistics on power usage, schedules for public transportation, homemade food products (instead of buying pre-packaged stuff all the time), electronic bill pay and magazine subscriptions as mentioned above, the yellow pages, stores from which to order things--or even simply the ability to look at a given store's inventory ahead of time (instead of driving all over town looking for one item), ...the list could go on and on. Make use of this resource if you have internet capability at your home. It can save you time and money as well as helping us conserve petroleum and other eco-friendly practices.

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