What is the first, really easy thing you can do to make a difference and reduce your environmental impact (and save money, while you are at it)? It is the little step of putting your computer to sleep when you are done with it – it starts back up in two seconds and will reduce computer energy waste by about 90%.  This is a great example of the sustainable Triple Bottom Line: balancing people, planet, and profit.

Now, the better thing to do would be to turn the computer off… and the best thing would be to turn it off using a surge protector that blocks the vampire loads that so many electronics draw, even when they are off.  But, I don’t know about you, but for years I resisted turning my work computer off because it was old and took forever to turn back on – and like the young lady in the photo, I was frustrated and impatient waiting for the computer to boot up.  Instead, I just turned off the monitor – a meager reduction in energy use.  Yes, I knew better; yes, I felt guilty, but not enough to change the habit I had developed years ago.

Then I had a great intern in our SPC Sustainability Lab, Michael Jaworsky, who ran an experiment, measuring energy use while leaving the computer on overnight, turning it off, and putting it to sleep. He found that putting it to sleep was almost as good as turning it off, reducing energy use by 90%, and waking it up took mere seconds. computer sleep button

Putting the computer to sleep is easy as 1-2-3, and waking up takes two seconds, according to PC World.  I’m definitely willing to do that, and now I feel much better than I did when I just turned off the monitor.  (By the way, this works at home, too.)

How about you? If you are an ardent environmental advocate, you may think this is a pitiful start – but you need to understand your audience.  If you are surrounded by people like you, then by all means purchase the proper surge protectors and reduce your overnight computer energy use to zero.  That is indeed best.  But, if you are in a very diverse organization, then start with this.  People will be amazed by the impact such a small step can have, and will be more willing to take this easy, highly visible action.  Celebrate, and then do more.

It’s amazing how far along the path towards sustainability we can travel with simple, easy actions.


Jason Cross, Why you should use sleep mode.  PC World. Retrieved from: https://www.pcworld.com/article/169941/Why_You_Should_Use_Sleep_Mode.html.