A new study shows computers, like people, use less energy and emit fewer gases when sleeping than when standing by.

The study, put out by Info-Tech Research Group, shows computers entering sleep mode in Windows Vista use less power and can reduce carbon dioxide emissions by half compared to those going into an analogous standby mode in Windows XP.

Info-Tech research consultant Jennifer Colasanti says results showed Vista’s sleep function is more reliable than XP’s standby when entering and exiting the low-power mode. Vista’s power management functions are also easier for users to manipulate and are turned on by default, something Microsoft senior product manager Elliot Katz says can have a major impact in the workplace.


“Most people using their PCs don’t tend to change their system defaults, so having sleep turned on from the start can help save energy and emissions,” Katz said.

Overall, the study found that laptops running Vista instead of XP save 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions every year, while desktops save 25 kilograms.

Zerofootprint, a Toronto firm that helps businesses reduce their environmental impact, estimates that 25,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, equivalent to 61,000 barrels of oil, could be saved annually if only 10 per cent of Canada’s roughly 22 million computers switched from XP to Vista. Zerofootprint executive director Deborah Kaplan says the effect would be similar to the emissions saved by taking 6,500 cars off Canadian roads.

Kaplan also says other environmentally sound strategies don’t have to be difficult to follow either. Carpooling to work saves employees money and knocks down carbon emissions, while bringing your own ceramic mug to work and using a travel mug when buying coffee instead of a disposable one greatly helps decrease environmental impact.

On the company side, employers can keep workers happy and lower emissions by giving free transit passes and other incentives for employees to leave their cars at home. As more people get acquainted with how easy environmental savings are to achieve, Kaplan says, the more likely they will be to take charge.

“When you see these things they become much more real. There can be huge savings without a huge compromise of quality of life. Once people realize that, they can feel empowered to make changes,” she said.

Disposable plastic water bottles are a particular drain on the environment, Kaplan said, because they tend to be consumed in very high quantities. One large company she spoke to went through an average of 15,000 bottles of water daily company-wide. While many of those bottles do get recycled, a large number still end up in the garbage — something that could be avoided by simply pouring water from large containers into mugs, or installing purifiers in workplace kitchens.

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