By using energy more wisely on their computers, Cornell students could potentially eliminate the carbon footprint of roughly 2,755 automobiles.
Between now and April 17, the Cornell community has the potential to reduce its total 2009-2010 carbon emissions by approximately 15,773 tons from this year’s projected sum.
Between March 23 and April 17 Climate Savers, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting energy efficient computing, is sponsoring its “Power Down for the Planet” competition. Participants must pledge to activate power-saving features on their P.C.s and to purchase an Energy Star qualified computer when making their next investment. Items with the Energy Star logo consume, on average, 20 to 30 percent less energy than non-Energy Star products. The university with the highest percentage of participation from students, faculty and staff will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.
Cornell recently became the first Ivy League institution to join Climate Savers, according to a press release. The organization was launched by Google and Intel in 2007 with the goal, “to promote development, deployment and adoption of smart technologies that can both improve the efficiency of a computer’s power delivery and reduce the energy consumed when the computer is in an inactive state.” By the year 2010, Climate Savers hopes to reduce global computer power consumption by 50 percent.
Dr. Linda Croll Howell, director of human resources and organizational development at CIT, believes that reducing power use to this extent will be difficult given the exponential growth of worldwide computing, especially in developing nations.
“Currently, computer ownership in developing nations is about three in 10 households. It is expected to grow to seven in 10 by 2020. What’s important is that we do our best to reduce the power consumption of computing to counter balance this rapid growth,” Croll Howell stated in an e-mail.
Croll Howell believes that both components of the pledge — activating power saving features and promising to purchase an energy efficient computer — are simple and practical enough measures that the entire campus ought to utilize this competition as an opportunity to reduce its carbon footprint.
There is no download or installation involved in activating these power management features and instructions for both MAC and PC operating systems are directly accessible from the pledge website. Similarly, Croll Howell stated that there is a wide enough variety of Energy Star qualified PCs available at a reasonable enough cost that purchasing an energy efficient computer is a sensible alternative for college students.
“Almost all the computers purchased last year through Cornell were Energy Star rated. Almost every manufacturer at this point is a member of Climate Savers; so they are all trying to … exceed the standard Energy Star ratings. The only one who isn’t, Apple, is very green — so they meet Energy Star requirements,” Croll Howell stated.
In addition to the pledge competition, the organization also sponsors a Youtube video contest. Between March 2 and April 17, interested students may record and submit a video detailing the history and mission of Climate Savers. Winners will receive cash and technology prizes.
Kayla Fang ’10 believes that the competition will have little impact on students’ collective behavior as it pertains to energy consumption, despite participation in the pledge.
“It takes way more than an HTML form to change people’s minds about the way they live and the amount of convenience and luxury they are willing to sacrifice for a cause that does not provide immediate or even obvious feedback,” Fang said.
Fang also expressed doubt as to whether students who “pledge” to purchase an energy efficient P.C. will actually do so.
“When people go to Best Buy or toshibadirect.com they are not going to have this pledge in mind … they are going to have the price tags,” Fang said. “Until somehow you manage to make CO2 emissions a more forefront concern to people personally … people aren’t going to change.”
Croll Howell, however, believes that finding an affordable computer which meets these requirements is an extremely viable option because most computers on sale are already energy efficient.
Ethan Benanav ’10 shares Fang’s concerns, fearing that many students will not take the pledge because they feel it will have little impact on large-scale energy consumption.
“People often don’t realize that saving small amounts of energy can make a huge difference,” Benanav said.
Benanav hopes that students will realize the enormous potential that would result if everyone on campus took the pledge — reducing the university’s carbon emissions on the scale of tens of thousands of tons is a goal within reach.