There are a few easy steps that you can do to configure your computer to save more energy and cut greenhouse gases.

1. Take advantage of your computer’s power-saving settings

Older CRT computer monitors are generally the largest consumers of energy on your computer, and the Sleep settings you choose will make a large difference in the amount of energy consumed. By placing your computer in power saving mode and using the recommended settings below, you can do your part to conserve power and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Even newer systems should be checked to make sure that the power settings are properly configured.

IST Recommendation: Shut off the power to your monitor when not in use, and use S3 power-saving options in your computer’s BIOS, Control Panel or System Preferences.

PC Power saving options

Standby: Places your system into low power mode while idle. This is a good solution when you need to quickly return to system use.

Hibernate: Places a image of your working desktop on to your hard drive and completely shuts the system down. Good solution for laptops running low on battery power. Takes longer to “wake up” than a computer in sleep mode.

Where to set power saving options

  • Windows Vista: Go to Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Power Options. Set your computer for Power Saver and then select Change Plan Settings. We would recommend using the Balanced Power Plan. Try this out to see if it suits your needs. If it does not, adjust the settings using the Change plan settings. Also in the Control Panel select Personalize and then select screen saver and select (None). Screen savers do not save energy.
  • Windows XP: Go to Start, click Control Panel > Performance and Maintenance > Power Options. Choose normal power schemes and select the amount of time you would like to have for your monitor to shut down and place system into standby. Ten to fifteen minutes is recommended for both of these settings. Screen savers do not save energy: to turn yours off, right click on your desktop, select Properties and set screen saver to (None).
  • PC BIOS (all versions of Windows): By pressing a selected Function key at system power up (F11 on some systems) you can review the system power settings in your BIOS. You should confirm that power management is enabled and that the S3 sleep state features are enabled. If you have a laptop, make sure that the sleep state is enabled when you close the laptop cover.
  • Mac OS: Go to System Preferences > Energy Saver select sleep and slide the indicator to set the system and display 10 minutes would be the normal setting for systems. You may also want to place the hard disk to sleep when possible. You may want to set your system to schedule startup and shut down times. This option can be set using the Schedule button. You can set this to the time you will normally want the system to be on.

General recommendations:

  • Set your screen saver to blank (none).
  • Shut your monitor and peripherals off when not in use.
  • Close the cover of your laptop when not in use.
  • Use shared printing resources when possible.
  • Use duplex printing when possible.
  • Set your monitor to sleep after about 10 minutes.
  • Make other settings as you wish, or go with suggested energy-saving pre-sets.
  • Experiment, and adjust as makes sense for your work style.

Other recommendations:

  • When purchasing a new computer system please make sure the computer is Energy Star 4 or 5 compliant. EPEAT Gold is also recommended for new systems and Monitors.
  • If possible buy a laptop instead of a desktop system to save power over the life of the system.
  • Recycle your old system for reuse, but make sure to erase all of the data using a disk wiping tool or remove the hard disk from the system.

2. Reduce paper waste

  • Recycle waste paper.
  • Use draft mode printing to save on ink and toner.
  • Buy and use recycled paper in your printers and copiers when possible.
  • Avoid needless printing of email messages and large documents.
  • On larger documents, use smaller font sizes (consistent with readability) to save paper.
  • When documents are printed or copied, use double-sided printing and copying. If possible, use the multiple pages per sheet option on printer properties.
  • When FYI-style documents must be shared within an office, try circulating them or consider using email instead of making an individual copy for each person.

Some of these tips originate from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and their Green Computing Report.

3. Recycle computers and peripherals

You might be tempted to toss old computer equipment in the trash. However, even if a computer is too old or slow for you, it may still be useful to others.


You can ask organizations in your local community if they would be interested in your computer, or you can contact a national organization like the ones below.

Be sure to erase your computer or remove the hard disk drive before donating it.


If you decide not to donate your computer, be sure to dispose of it properly. Computers and monitors should not be discarded in your regular trash or recycling due to the heavy metals they contain. Many manufacturers have their own recycling programs, or you can use the information below to find a local recycling center. Faculty and staff may fill out a form at to have the electronics picked up. For large equipment, they can call Trucking at 617-353-2117 to arrange for a pick-up, and there will be a small fee for the labor.

BU-owned electronic equipment and toner/ink cartridges:

If your computer was purchased with Boston University funds, you should follow the instructions at

Faculty, Staff, and Student-owned equipment:

According to BU’s “Greening the Campus” website:

Students who have small electronics to be recycled must drop off items at 704 Commonwealth Avenue in the drop-box. Larger items, like computer monitors, must be brought to the 2nd floor to the Office of Environmental Health and Safety at 704 Commonwealth Avenue. Faculty and staff also have this option, but for small electronics (excluding printing cartridges).

For more details, please see

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