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It’s Earth Day! Tips on How to Be a Greener Media Pro

Earth Day

At Toolfarm, we are serious about the environment and feel that every day should be Earth Day. Here are some green tips for you media professionals for reducing your carbon footprint. Some may be doable for you. Heck, you’re probably already doing many of these things. Some of this is pretty obvious but it’s worth repeating. Every little bit counts!

By buying from Toolfarm, you’re already making a difference because the vast majority of our products are downloadable. You’re not only saving money, but you’re saving energy. Most products we sell do not have the need to use fuel shipping products around the globe. Also, Toolfarm’s San Francisco office is solar-powered!

This article breaks things down into two categories, using less energy and saving resources. Most of these ideas are not new and you probably already know a lot of this stuff, so think of it as a reminder to be the greenest you can be!

Energy Usage vs. Resources

It’s important to differentiate where energy use comes into play. To put it simply:

  • Switch them off. Computers use the most energy when you’re using them, so be mindful not to leave them on when they don’t need to be on. A computer turned off uses at least 65% less energy than a computer left on or idle on a screen saver. [Source: Sustainability at Georgetown University)
  • Phones and tablets don’t use much power at all on a daily basis, however, the manufacturing of the phones takes a lot of power and resources. The best thing you can do is to NOT get a new phone each year but to use the one you have for 4-5 years.

Easy Ways to Save Energy

Today’s computers and monitors are much more energy-efficient than those giant ones from the 90s. Case in point…

Michele with Giant Monitor
A photo of me from the mid-90s when I worked at Postworks behind a giant monitor. Photo credit / Shadow: Thom Birks

That said, there are still several easy things that you can do to save energy that won’t impact your work much.

Turn off your computer and your lights when you’re not using them.

The chart below shows the energy usage and comes from StandbyPower.
Chart from

Turn off screen savers and use low-power mode


The days of flying toasters are long gone. Instead, use low-power mode when possible.

Unplug wall warts and gear that you rarely use.

If you have something plugged in that is not being used, it’s just a waste. For example, standby power accounts for 10% of a home’s electricity use, says Berkley Lab. In addition, Energy Star has a report on this topic and it’s eye-opening. Read it here.

Buying a new computer?

Look for the Energy Star logo. Need information on Energy Star-rated computers?

Use LED lights in your workspace.

They use 85% less energy, according to the NY Times. LED’s also last longer and they don’t produce heat. Read more about the benefits of LED lighting. Better yet, use natural light from a window.

According to Sustainability at Georgetown University, compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use 75% less energy than incandescent. If you haven’t swapped out those old bulbs yet, it’s time. And, CFLs can last up to 10 times longer.

Meet virtually and turn off your camera.


Of course, it will save fuel, but did you know that turning off your video on a Zoom call can save 96% on your energy footprint? According to a study from Perdue University, “Just one hour of videoconferencing or streaming, for example, emits 150-1,000 grams of carbon dioxide (a gallon of gasoline burned from a car emits about 8,887 grams), requires 2-12 liters of water and demands a land area adding up to about the size of an iPad Mini.” Read more at Science Daily.

Turn down the heat or A/C

Wear a sweater or a t-shirt to be comfortable. Your mother agrees.


Consider Solar Energy

First, it’s helpful to know your carbon footprint.

Right now the U.S. Government has a 30% tax credit for installing solar or other alternative energies, as well as batteries. I live in Michigan and we have 32 solar panels on our house with a 70% offset. Our electric bills are minuscule compared to what they used to be. We basically have an electric bill for 2 months a year. Consider how that is affecting fossil fuel consumption in our area. In the summer on a sunny day, we are generating 6x as much energy as we use. This excess power is feeding the grid in our neighborhood, powering the houses of our neighbors at peak energy use times. It’s a win-win.

Or, Buy clean energy from your power company.

And, yes, you can get your power from wind and solar sources without installing panels yourself. Learn more at or the EPA. You can also do an energy audit of your office or home to see where you can save energy.



Saving Resources: Fix, Recycle, or Donate Old Equipment

Fixing your old gear

Fixing is always cheaper than buying something new. Most of us are heavy computer users and we do get our machines serviced when needed. However, I don’t need to tell you the sad reality that computers and phones become obsolete pretty quickly. It’s often not worth fixing or updating them. In that case, read on.

Check out the All Connect Guide on Where to Donate and Recycle Used Electronics.

Where to Donate Old Gear

  1. Some charities will take old working gear and refurbish it. I have a few suggestions below.
  2. My local women’s shelter takes old working cell phones and gives them to women who are in bad situations. Of course, wipe your phone first!
  3. Try your local Buy Nothing Project. We gave my daughter’s Chromebook to a college student, and she was extremely grateful. Again, just wipe your personal data first. The Buy Nothing Project is a great way to give away pretty much anything you don’t want: furniture, clothing, sports equipment. Just yesterday I scored a donut maker and today I have someone picking up a button maker that we don’t use!
  4. The Freecycle Network is another national group where you can give your old items away to those who want or need them.
  5. Goodwill also accepts computer donations, working with GoodTech and Dell ReConnect.
  6. The Balance Small Business has a great list of places to donate old equipment.
  7. In addition, buy second-hand when you can. If you don’t need the latest and greatest gear, you can score some gently used equipment online if you do your research.

Recycle your old gear

If your computer is just too far gone for anyone to use, many computer and phone shops will let you drop off old electronics for recycling. Earth911 is a database for finding places to recycle your old equipment.

Buy recycled office supplies and cleaning products.

For example, you can buy sticky notes and pencils that use recycled materials. Recycled printer and toner cartridges have been available for years. Heck, you can even try refilling them yourself!

Make some art!

I’ve made keychains from old RAM chips. These make nice gifts for the geekier friends in your life.

RAM Keychain

If you’re not an artist, you might get lucky and find an artist who reuses computer gear in their art projects.

Check out these art projects made with recycled computer equipment. I love this winged insect sculpture.

How to Save Trees and Breathe Easier

Recycle office paper, junk mail, etc.

Did you know that it takes 24 trees to make one ton of office paper?

According to data from the Global Forest Resource Assessment roughly 80,000 to 160,000 trees are cut down each day around the world with a significant percentage being used in the paper industry.

You can also buy paper made from recycled paper. Instead of paper towels, use reusable towels for the bathrooms. If you’re working remotely from home, you’re probably already doing this.

Go paperless.

Don’t print documents that you don’t need. Those PDF manuals that you get with your downloaded software? You might think twice before printing them. Keep them digital (and searchable!)

Put a plant (or five!) in your office.

Besides the fact that they look nice, there are several benefits of having greenery around your office. Plants can remove harmful pollutants from the air. They also improve productivity and your state of mind. Of course, if you work in a dark edit bay with no windows, that may not be the best place to keep your plant alive. Learn more about why you need plants in your workspace.

Here is a list of indoor plants that are easy to take care of. Hot tip! Don’t pour your leftover coffee into the planter.

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Posted by Michele

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