INFOBITS: Sustainability In The Workplace

by Editor

To “sustain” is to provide relief or support; “ability” is the power or capacity to do or act competently. Combining the two words forms the buzzword “sustainability”; which in its contemporary use implies that something is, “capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment.” During the downturn in our economy it’s as important as ever for everyone to embrace sustainability by conserving energy and resources, not only in our personal lives but in our workplaces as well.

To prepare for the UH Winter Break of Saturday, December 15, 2012 through Tuesday, January 1, 2013 Information Technology Services (ITS) encourages you to review this Top 10 actions list and then read on for more details concerning implementation of the suggested energy conservation steps that you can put into practice.

  1. Turn on power management options within your computer.
  2. Disable screen savers.
  3. Use “smart” power strips.
  4. Purchase ENERGY STAR equipment.
  5. Recycle old equipment.
  6. Turn off all equipment and lights when not in use.
  7. Use available sunlight; remove light bulbs wherever possible; replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs.
  8. Conserve Printer use; print double-sided; use recycled paper.
  9. Unplug your adapters and chargers when not in use.
  10. Use multifunctional (all-in-one) devices.

Estimates of energy savings resulting from prudent use of resources in the workplace vary widely; even so, any small strides in reducing consumption can add up to monetary savings and also result in less negative impact on our environment. Here are a few detailed practical suggestions to consider in the use of computers and other resources in your workplace. 


Leaving a computer on around the clock will not only increase your energy usage but fans in the computer can draw dust into the machine which makes your computer more vulnerable to power surges. Completely shutting down your computer when you leave the office is the best option; however if you must leave your computer on for off-campus access, or use your computer sporadically throughout your workday, take advantage of the power management options built into your operating system to automatically reduce energy use. Power management options have been incorporated into modern operating systems for several years and they are identified by several names: hibernate, sleep, standby, or suspend. Hibernate is distinctly different than the other three options in a few ways:
Standby / Sleep / Suspend =
• Computer’s info is stored in RAM.
• Minimal amount of power is still applied to the RAM. (Requiring battery or AC)
• Display is turned off.
• Fans might turn off.
• Hard drive is stopped.
• Starting the computer is almost instantaneous. (Computer is still keeping in active memory everything that was running and open just prior to being put in a low power mode.)
• If you lose power the RAM is wiped, you will lose any work not saved.

Hibernate =
• Computer’s info is stored on the hard drive.
• Hard drive does not require power to hold on to information. (Allows you to turn off the computer completely and unplug from power)
• Computer can turn off power to everything.
• Typically takes more time to start up. (Requires starting up the computer and loading everything into memory from the hard drive.)
• Computer is restored to exactly where it was before.
• If power is cut, the computer’s state is still stored.

It’s suggested that you should configure your monitor to turn off after 10 minutes (or less) of inactivity, your hard drive to turn off after 20 minutes of inactivity, and your desktop computer or laptop to go into a standby/sleep/suspend mode after 60 minutes of inactivity. Specific power management settings recommended by ITS for Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Mac OS X operating systems can be found in the AskUs article Configuring Power Management for Personal Computers.

Newer monitors do not suffer from burn-in or permanent image etching like earlier monitors. So keep in mind that screensavers are not necessarily energy savers; they continue to draw full power to use the monitor. In some cases screensavers may not be compatible with a computer’s power management features and may prevent the machine from powering down. Consider disabling your screensaver altogether, however if you prefer to use it then ensure that it’s compatible with your equipment and allows the system to enter power saver modes.


When purchasing new equipment look for products displaying an Energy Star (ES) label. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) launched ES in 1992 as a voluntary labeling program designed to promote and recognize energy-efficiency in monitors, climate control equipment, and other technologies. Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have subsequently adopted the ES program. The EPA has expanded the program to include endorsement of computers, monitors, printers, fax machines, copiers, home appliances, and even entire buildings. Devices carrying the ES logo can save 20% to 50% of energy resources on average; however, they save energy only when the power management features are activated, so make sure that any power management options in your equipment are turned on. For specific details on activation of the power management features of your type of operating system read the ITS AskUS article “PC Energy Savings Guidelines.”

Even if you are running an older computer, Energy Star offers several free tools that can work with your operating system to conserve energy; Monitor Power Management (MPM), or Computer Power Management (CPM). MPM places active monitors into a lower power sleep mode after a period of inactivity; while CPM places the computer itself (CPU, hard drive, etc.) into a lower power sleep mode. You are encouraged to check out all the free tools offered by ES at their webpage on General Technical Overview of Power Management. It’s best to consult with your local departmental or campus IT specialist before implementing any ES power management measures.

One of the major decisions in a computer purchase is desktop vs. laptop. While laptops may be a bit pricier than a desktop of similar specifications they’re a good investment when considering energy consumption. Estimates in electrical cost savings from using a laptop over a desktop range from 50% to 90%. Laptops also require less office space for operation, are portable, and can run on batteries that can be recharged via solar sources. Besides being a bit cheaper in price, desktops do have their advantages, they’re easier to upgrade, generally have more power, more comfortable keyboards, and they’re less appealing to thieves. If you prefer a desktop keep a few factors in mind: Consider a flat panel monitor, they use only 1/3 the energy; LCD monitors (liquid crystal display) provide up to 70% power savings and have up to twice the lifespan of a CRT (cathode ray tube) monitor; LCD monitors also run cooler, which helps save on air conditioning costs; the bigger the monitor the more energy it uses, so consider a flat panel screen that’s the appropriate size for your needs.

Always check into manufacturer’s donate/recycle programs for your used equipment when upgrading to newer models. If you have University of Hawaii equipment refer to the UH Disposal Guidelines for Unused Computer Equipment webpage; you may be able to transfer the equipment to someone within the UH system, and the webpage lists local/national donate/recycling options too.


Printers are used periodically but are powered up for extended periods of time, wasting a significant amount of energy. When purchasing a printer select a model with power management capabilities; printers with automatic "power down" features can reduce electricity use by over 65%. It’s also a wise choice to set your machine for two-sided printing to reduce paper and energy usage; if possible choose double-sided printing as your default. And using recycled paper is always a plus.


Lighting efficiency is a major factor in conserving energy. Fluorescent bulbs are much more efficient than incandescent bulbs. Even though compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs) are more expensive than incandescents they can last 6 to 10 times longer, paying for themselves in energy savings over their lifetime. By replacing 25% of the bulbs in your workspace with CFLs you can save 50% on energy. 90% of the energy used to burn an incandescent is given off as heat rather than light; by using CFLs you’ll not only save energy but your workplace will also be cooler. To further energy savings make the most of natural daylight by turning off or dimming lights when sunlight is sufficient for your workspace. Installing lighting occupancy sensors that turn lights on or off depending on occupancy of your workspace is also a plus.


  • Whenever practical choose multifunctional devices (all-in-ones); a typical MFD may perform the tasks of a printer, scanner, photocopier, or fax machine. MFDs save energy compared to several products working in parallel.
  • Use power strips that include surge protection and are “smart.” Smart strips sense the difference between when computers and other devices are on or off, they shut off the power when no longer needed which cuts down on idle “phantom” power usage. If using regular power strips turn the strip off at night; be sure to turn off all equipment connected to the power strip first.
  • Adjust your computer’s data backup and software update schedules to run during the workday so you won’t need to leave your computer on at night.
  • Using rechargeable batteries for products like cordless phones and PDAs is more cost effective than disposable batteries. Many retailers of office equipment routinely offer drop boxes in their store locations for disposable batteries. If you must use throwaways use these retailer services or check with your trash removal company about their battery safe disposal suggestions.
  • Always unplug battery chargers when the batteries are fully charged or the chargers are not in use.

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Article ID: 988
Created: Fri, 03 Apr 2009 10:31am
Modified: Tue, 04 Dec 2012 9:44am