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How To Save A Whopping One-Half Watt Of Energy In 12 Easy Steps

If you can't trust the geeks at MIT when it comes to leveraging technology, whom can you trust? Still, the memo the other day that students and faculty save a half-watt of electricity by turning off the backlit LCD displays on their VoIP phones seemed a bit over the top.
If you can't trust the geeks at MIT when it comes to leveraging technology, whom can you trust? Still, the memo the other day that students and faculty save a half-watt of electricity by turning off the backlit LCD displays on their VoIP phones seemed a bit over the top.But when it comes to saving energy, one axiom is inescapable: The cleanest kilowatt -- or in this case, the cleanest half-watt -- is the one never spent. And when one adds up all the half-watts, MIT stands to save about 144 kilowatt hours each day -- enough, it says, to power four or five homes. So, the institute recommended on Monday that VoIP users press 12 keys on their phones to douse the lights.

MIT is counting on other energy-saving techniques, as well. Namely, its recommending that computers users turn off hard-disk drives after 20 minutes on computers plugged in to the wall, and after five minutes on those operating on battery. With more than 20,000 computers used by staff, faculty and students, MIT is certain it can save more than a few kilowatt hours there.

The University of Buffalo, which became one of the charter signatories of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment (ACUPCC) in March 2007, continues to look for ways to save energy. The ACUPCC has more than 400 institutional members across the U.S. that have pledged to achieve "climate neutrality." Among UB's efforts, the university has switched to VoIP, which, it says, reduces power consumption in the communications closets. UB has also created a Committee on Environmental Stewardship, charged with conducting an inventory of campus greenhouse gas emissions by September 2008.

In assessing its environmental stewardship, UB notes that it uses enough electricity each year to light a 100-watt bulb for 243,788 years. That's wonderful, of course. But one way the university might protect the environment is to come up with clearer analogies. I had to keep my monitor on that much longer before the analogy made any sense to me.

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Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
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John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
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