Tech Tuesday: IRT offers sustainability tips

In the spirit of Earth Day (April 22), IRT offers the following tips on how sustainability can be promoted through the miracle of modern technology.

Restart your PC when not in use

Not only is restarting your computer once every day a good practice in general, it helps sustainability by eliminating the possibility that a hanging process will cause the hard drive to remain spinning when it’s not being used; needless to say, a spinning hard disk uses more power than one not spinning.

Also, don’t leave discs in your CD/DVD drives. The optical drive also will consume more power while spinning up if a disc is left in the drive at start-up or while logging on.

Turn your monitor off and/or change your screen saver to “blank”

If you prefer to leave your computer on and running even when it’s not being used, turning off your monitor is an obvious way to save on power consumption. Also, reduce your computer’s power needs by changing its screen saver.

Leaving an unattended PC in screen saver mode keeps the hard drive engaged and consuming power. Using the “blank” screen saver option does not keep the hard drive active and uses less power.

Best case? Turn your monitor off and use the “blank” screen saver, reducing the power consumption of both the hard drive and monitor.

Buying a new computer? Buy a laptop

Laptops use less power than desktop computers, but be careful to select and purchase a model that is rated for good battery life. Laptop batteries are a source of “e waste,” so buying a laptop with a short battery life will benefit sustainability from a power-consumption standpoint but it also may eliminate that benefit from a waste-management perspective.

Use your mobile instead of scratch paper

Text yourself a note the next time you need a list for the grocery store. Writing on your hand is also an option but using your mobile is far less unsightly.

Print smarter, not harder (or better yet, don’t print at all)

Printing habits offer a host of areas to increase sustainability. In addition to obvious ways, such as always using recycled paper, tips are listed below to turn your printer green.

Changing your default font to “Century Gothic” or “Times New Roman” can help reduce consumption of toner and printer ink. As noted in many news outlets, the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay recently made an institutional level change to “Century Gothic” to reduce toner costs (“Century Gothic” uses about 30 percent less ink than “Arial”). UST’s printer vendor does not have a separate charge for toner, so reducing toner consumption does not necessarily correspond with increasing sustainability, but it can be a good tip for reducing costs and waste for faculty, staff and students who use a personal or desktop printer.

Reviewing your document before you print helps find wasted space, especially the dreaded and often unnoticed blank last page; furthermore, adjusting the text size and page margins may help reduce the total number of pages in the document. Looking for the “printer friendly” link on Web pages can help you avoid turning a 250-word article into a 10-page document that includes vertical and horizontal banner ads.

Perhaps the best tips related to promoting sustainability within the realm of printing are those that help you avoid printing altogether. Using Blackboard for both disseminating and submitting class assignments, saving documents as PDF files and e-mailing them as attachments, and saving Web pages as HTML documents are all very common and effective ways to eliminate printing.

Happy Earth Day!