Green Computing

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How can we save energy (and money!) by using our computers smarter?

Here’s the Key Summary:

  1. Use your computer’s built-in Power Management options
  2. Turn off your monitor every time you walk away from your desk for more than a few minutes
  3. Power down your computer if you leave it for more than a couple hours

UMD Sustainability has partnered with UMD ITSS (Information Technology Systems & Services) to provide recommendations and information that might help you be more green in your computer usage. UMD ITSS has specially engineered server rooms which help reduce energy use, and is experimenting with Virtual Servers to further reduce energy use.


The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that a desktop computer can waste up to 400 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year by functioning at full power even though it is not being used, which may represent $50 or more per computer. This does NOT include the monitor and other attached peripheral devices!

To address this waste, sometimes the simplest, most common-sense solutions are the most effective. For instance, computers and peripherals should be turned off when not in use.

Click HERE for instructions on how to configure your operating system (Mac OS, Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8) to automatically turn portions or all of your computer off when it is not being used.

Additionally, putting your computer’s AC adapter on a power strip that can be turned off (or will turn off automatically) can maximize savings.

It is a common misperception that a screensaver reduces a monitor’s energy use. This is not true, since your computer is still using processing power, and your monitor is still displaying images.

Another misperception, carried over from the days of older mainframe computers, is that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This has not been true for years – when you leave at night, power down any computer that it not being actively used.


If you are buying a new computer or peripheral, look for energy efficient options, like a strong Energy Star rating, the ability to print double-sided or a ‘scan-to-email’ feature.

Consider buying a laptop for your next computer upgrade; laptops use much less energy than desktop computers.


At the end of your computer’s life, don’t just ‘toss’ it!

Here at UMD, our ITSS department will securely delete all of the information on your computer. This is not only a good idea, it’s also required by University of Minnesota policy for all computers used for University business [policy: Media Sanitization Standard]. Personal computers are not required to be ‘sanitized’ by ITSS.

Here is a link to other campus e-waste recycling options:


Power management, double-sided printing, and purchasing Energy Star computers and equipment are easy approaches to green computing. Computer users can start making a small but significant difference in reducing how much energy each one personally consumes in using technology. Such small decreases in individual energy use can scale up into substantial decreased costs on a campus-wide level. For many , green computing is more about saving money than the environment. Nonetheless, implementing green computing programs have a positive impact on the environment while reducing energy costs.

By making relatively simple changes, UMD students, faculty and staff can reduce our overall carbon footprint and save energy costs, which contributes to an improved ‘triple bottom line’ of:

  • Saving money
  • Helping protect the environment
  • Doing what is right for our community

Thanks for pitching in and doing your part – it all adds up.