Monday, December 31, 2007

Bigger and Better?

Although there are some obvious exceptions, bigger doesn't always mean better.

The more I work with computers in the classroom and incorporate technology in my own life, the more I get concerned about my own consumption habits but also about our consumption as a society. Consider the trend toward bigger TV's:

According the National Research Defense Council as told to The Christian Science Monitor, by 2009, when half of all new TV sales are expected to be extended- or high-definition digital sets with big screens, TV energy use will reach about 70 billion kilowatt-hours per year nationwide—about 50 percent higher than at present.

Big TV = Big Electric Bill : Robin Raskin : Yahoo! Tech

After watching cars get bulkier up to the gas shortages and oil embargo of the 1970's, and then witnessing our collective amnesia as we again bought larger and larger personal vehicles, culminating in the tank-like Hummer, I'm concerned with the proliferation of computers that require more energy. As a teacher I'm pretty sure that there will be more computers in classrooms next year than there were last year. And I don't see that trend changing. But what are institutions and businesses doing about this increase in comsumption. Is there much talk of conservation where you work?

Kudos to Tufts University in the late-1990's for at least trying to address the issue as an institution:

The average desktop computer uses about 120 Watts (the monitor uses 75 Watts, and the CPU uses 45 Watts.) Laptops use considerably less, around 30 Watts total. 4,300 Tufts-owned computers X 0.12 kW X 250 workdays X 8 hours = The university uses 1,032,000 kWh per year to run all of Tufts computers just during business hours.

This amounts to: 1,032,000 kWh X 11 cents = $113,500 per year in electricity costs. Greenhouse gas emissions for this electricity amount to: 1,032,000 kWh X 1.45 lbs of CO2 per kWh / 2,000 = 748 tons of CO2 per year. 100,000 - 500,000 trees are needed to offset these yearly emissions of CO2! (A tree absorbs between 3-15 lbs of CO2 per year.)

TCI Computers

Tufts has made it a point to raise awareness of their institutional energy consumption. There should be more of that happening, even from an economic standpoint, let alone an enviornmental one.

So one thing on my list of New Year's resolutions is to become more aware on a personal level about Energy Star ratings and the data behind them, on a professional level as a classroom teacher to think more about when and how to best use the computers available (and when to shut them off), and to raise awareness of my school's consumption habits as a whole.