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Eleven ways to reduce your laptop's impact on the environment

  • Written by Tara Gale, Client Solutions Country Lead, Dell Technologies Ireland.

    The climate crisis impacts all of us, and we know that to hold a global temperature rise to less than 1.5°C, we need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions dramatically. Addressing the climate crisis requires breaking it down into small actions that add up to a big impact. We can all make simple choices to shrink our carbon footprint, including that all-important laptop purchase. Check out these eleven ways to live your best laptop life and reduce your carbon footprint.

    1. Know your numbers

    Do you know your carbon footprint? It's the amount of greenhouse gases (GHGs) – including carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and others – that you produce as you live your life. There are several great calculators out there that can help you calculate your carbon footprint, like You may be surprised by your own footprint, so knowing it will be the first step in figuring out where you can make savings. Many brands will help you compare the carbon footprint of various models to further inform your sustainability-minded buying decisions.

    2. Circularity at the centre

    We normally think of recycling as a waste issue, but it's also a climate issue. For example, a recycled aluminium can has a 95% smaller carbon footprint than making that same can from virgin aluminium.

    So, before you buy a new laptop, consider how you might responsibly return, refurbish or recycle your old one. Depending on the brand of your laptop, you may be able to send it back to have it recycled. Some, like Dell, will collect your old electronic goods of any brand, in any condition, and recycle them for free.

    3. Before you replace it, can you repair it?

    Repair is essential to keep products in use longer and out of landfills, so it's worth checking whether a laptop is designed with repair and recycling in mind. If a component is covered in adhesive and takes hours to disassemble, it isn't as easy to repair and may not be able to be recycled at all.

    Some brands provide customers with easy access to the resources, spare parts and support they need should they wish to repair their products themselves. For example, some brands, like Dell, make it easy to access information online, including manuals and downloads that keep products performing. Publishing their parts list online means customers can order parts to conduct their own repairs. Dell has even created an augmented reality app that provides step-by-step part replacement instructions for almost 100 products for many customer-addressable issues.

    4. Level up

    Many people think about changing their computer to support the latest applications or games. Before buying new, check whether you can upgrade components like memory, storage, graphics cards, or the CPU to instantly extend your device's usual lifespan.

    5. Old is the new, new

    If you have decided on a new laptop, why not consider refurbished? Going through an official refurb programme removes the uncertainty of buying through peer-to-peer websites. You can have peace of mind with a warranty that protects your device and your studies.

    6. Lean, mean (sustainably built) machine

    If buying new, what is it made of? There are lots of materials that can be recycled to create a new laptop. Recyclable and renewable materials, including tree-based bioplastic upcycled from the papermaking industry, reclaimed carbon fibre, post-consumer recycled plastic, and new bio-based rubber feet made from castor bean oil can all be used to create sustainable laptops now.

    Our team at Dell uses recycled plastic in nearly every hardware product we make, and we’re expanding our use into more components throughout our devices. Up to 85% of the materials used in our monitors are made from recycled materials We have also reclaimed carbon fiber for several years now and it's just a fantastic material to work with. This carbon fiber is left over scrap material from the aerospace industry and we blend it with post consumer recycled plastic and bioplastic to make the lids and bottom base of some of our notebooks.

    7. Energise your coursework with energy efficiency

    You've got energy-efficient LED light bulbs in your house – but how energy efficient is your laptop? Energy-efficient devices help cut your electricity bills and reduce the amount needed. Thankfully, there are some helpful standards to tell you how efficient any device is, like the EPEAT rating (the Green Electronics Council's Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool). It's the most comprehensive tool for evaluating overall environmental criteria and makes it easy to evaluate the life cycle implications of a product.

    8. Don't feed the vampires

    Reducing energy use is a simple solution with environmental and economic benefits. Energy consumed by common household devices in standby mode can account for up to 10% of residential energy use, adding up to £147 per year to your power bill. PCs are some of the UK's and Northern Ireland’s top energy vampires, so switch off your laptop at the mains when you're not using it - even the standby light uses energy.

    Try not to over-charge your laptop unnecessarily, too. Unplugging it as soon as it's charged will save energy and help your battery last longer. You can also adjust your PC’s Power settings to reduce the energy impact and save battery life by optimizing things like backlit-keyboard, screen brightness and adjusting your settings for “Best Battery Life.

    9.What's on the outside counts too

    What about packaging? In the UK, an estimated 4.9 million metric tons of plastics are placed on the market each year, of which three-quarters become waste, so making sustainable choices based on packaging will also help you select a more sustainable laptop. Many companies now use reclaimed plastics and natural products like bamboo to make more sustainable packaging, so you can go ahead and responsibly recycle or compost the packaging or use it to send your old tech for recycling. Dell’s packaging for example is made from 100% recycled or renewable materials – and is 100% recyclable.

    10. Future-proof

    If you want to play your part in preserving the environment, one of the easiest things you can do to help is preserve your laptop – that means protecting it and extending its lifespan. So, update your software regularly to optimise your PC’s efficiency and avoid viruses, treat the battery well, and keep your laptop clean!

    While software can't help get rid of fingerprints on a screen, it can help you keep your energy-efficient laptop running like new. Dell's SupportAssist, for example, is an intelligent technology that runs on your PC and removes viruses, detects issues, optimises settings and tells you when you need to make updates. All of which keep your laptop healthier, reducing the need to replace or refurbish/recycle.

    To protect your choice of sustainable laptop when on the move, consider purchasing a laptop case. For a double-whammy sustainability choice, there are cases on the market that are eco-conscious in their own right, like the Ecoloop Pro Backpack, which is made with recycled ocean-bound plastics.

    11. Variety is the spice of your device

    How multifunctional can you make your device? For example, can you make your laptop work for school, work, and entertainment? If you're big on gaming, look for a PC that can take a marathon session without breaking a sweat and can also keep you focused when you have those tight deadlines. You could even consider repurposing old tablets or phones as home management devices for alarm systems or other uses.

    The bottom line is that, as consumers, we have the power to influence how seriously companies take the issue of our collective carbon footprint. Through our choices to reward companies with strong sustainability programmes, we can take a concrete first step towards our push for effective climate change solutions.


    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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