Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

April 3, 2014

Technology Corner:

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.

Tech CornerReduce, reuse, recycle is the sustainability mantra. This spring, apply these principles to your tech life.

As personal computers became more commonplace 20 or 30 years ago, promises of a “paperless” world were bandied about. In “Star Trek: Next Generation” episodes, books showed up as artifacts, idiosyncratic antiques treasured by Picard and Data. But the paperless revolution hasn’t happened — at least not yet.

Instead, digital documents — books, papers, journals, memos, notes — supplement and sometimes even generate printed documents. Ironically, one of the most important steps toward sustainable use of technology is sustainable practices with paper.

Reducing consumption is an individual’s most effective path to sustainability.  By reducing your consumption of power, paper or other consumables, you reduce the drain on the planet’s resources.

Reduce: Power

The average desktop computer consumes 100-300 watts per day. Multiply that by the number of desktops connected to Pitt’s network on an average weekday and you begin to see the impact technology has on our community’s energy consumption.

What can you do?

• Put your devices to sleep: Use the sleep mode (with password protection) on your machine. From a Windows machine, choose “power options” in your control panel, and select the “require a password on wakeup” option.  For Macs, select “require password to wake this computer from sleep” from the security preference panel.

• Become a vampire slayer: Eliminate “vampire” power drains by unplugging your electronics — and their chargers — when they’re not in use. (An easy way to shut off multiple devices at once is to have devices plugged into a power strip and turn off the power strip, or to use a smart power strip that does this automatically when the main device is turned off.)

Reduce: Paper

The University’s Read Green initiative is a step toward the “paperless world” goal. In February, University Mailing Services transitioned from default paper mailings to faculty and staff to default electronic delivery.

But many people still prefer to use paper for generating ideas and making comments or corrections to drafts. CSSD recognizes the value of paper; in fact, one of the most popular technology perks we provide Pitt students is a generous print quota — on paper comprised of 30 percent recycled material.

Following a few simple practices will reduce the amount of paper you need to use:

• Think before you print. Can you save that email into a folder in your Exchange account or into a folder in your Box account?  Both are storage sites that can be searched easily, so that you can find that email or document even more quickly than you could find it in a drawer full of paper.

• Print double-sided or multi-page. Specific instructions for how to do this will vary depending on the print program you’re using, but you can get help at any time by calling the Technology Help Desk at 412/624-HELP.

Reuse: Devices

New machines and devices are released all the time. You can “reuse” technology simply by resisting the blandishments of newer/better and hanging on to machines or devices for three or more years.

At some point, however, you will need a new or different machine, such as when security updates are no longer provided for your machine’s operating system or software.

When you do need to replace the machine or mobile device you have, look at refurbished devices. If they come with a same-as-new warranty from the manufacturer, this can be a very green approach to getting a “new” machine.

When purchasing a new computer, consider its Energy Star rating. As workstations in Pitt’s student computing labs need to be replaced, for instance, we purchase ones with a minimum Energy Star 5.2 rating.

Recycle: Paper, printer cartridges, computers and gadgets

The paperless world is still in the future. In the meantime, we all have paper in our offices. Please recycle it. Pitt’s Facilities Management division is a champion of sustainability and recycling. Last year, they recycled 473 tons of mixed office paper.

The University is committed to recycling for a range of materials: fluorescent lights, scrap metal and more. You can drop batteries into recycling canisters at various locations around campus.

Surplus Property collects and recycles inkjet and laser toner cartridges through cartridge recycling bins across campus, campus mail or free pick-up. They also pick up e-waste, such as old computers. Some of those machines are reusable and are made available at a low cost.

Finally, CSSD’s “Last Call” boxes are situated across campus (including the computing labs) to allow for safe and convenient recycling of various electronics, including cell phones and their accessories.

There are many other ways to reduce the ecological imprint of your technology use, but adopting even a few of these ideas will have a significant positive impact on Pitt’s sustainability efforts.

Chris Keslar is a research and development analyst for CSSD.