In 2014, 52% of homes in the UK had a tablet, but despite their popularity, laptops are still the UK’s most popular type of computer, appearing in over 80% of homes. Energy consumption by computers, laptops and tablets currently accounts for around 5% of household electricity bills.

Don’t forget, to save energy your computer and any peripheral devices, such as printers and scanners, should be switched off overnight.

Rather than scrapping a desktop computer, repairing and upgrading it is environmentally more beneficial. It is more difficult with a laptop but you can still upgrade its memory or RAM. Find out at how much more memory your computer can take.

Consider lowering the brightness of your monitor – the brighter your display, the more energy it uses. And there may be an added bonus: some people have reported that a dimmer display reduces eye strain.

Over time, computers become overloaded and inefficient, settings become outdated, clutter is left behind from web surfing and start-up commands are needlessly running. This acts like ‘friction’ on your computer requiring more effort, more time, generating more heat and wastes more power. Regularly use a good PC tune-up software program and extend your computer’s life.

Here are some alternatives to sending your computer to landfill:

Donate to a local organisation, charity or school (check their acceptance rules).
Computer Aid International a charity providing refurbished computers to developing countries.
Recycle IT donating computers to charities and voluntary groups in the UK and abroad.
Computers 4 Africa provides free computers to schools in southern Africa.
Donate a PC a free ‘matchmaking’ service to donate un-needed hardware.
Freecycle giving and receiving stuff for free in your local neighbourhood.

The rapid growth of internet use and the cloud has produced electricity demand that is expected to rise by 60% or more by 2020. Worryingly, the internet’s growing energy footprint is mostly concentrated in places where energy is the dirtiest i.e. produced from fossil fuels.

Mike Berners-Lee (author of ‘The carbon footprint of everything’) explains that, even before you turn it on, a new iMac has the same carbon footprint as flying from Glasgow to Madrid and back, that’s 720kg of greenhouse gases. Think before you buy a new machine!!

PVC is a plastic used in some computers and for insulation on wires and cables. Chlorinated dioxins and furans are released when PVC is produced or disposed of by incineration. These chemicals are highly persistent in the environment and many are toxic even in very low concentrations.

According to Greenpeace, some Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs), used in circuit boards and plastic casings of computers, do not break down easily and build up in the environment. Long-term exposure can lead to impaired learning and memory functions also interfering with thyroid and oestrogen hormone systems and exposure in the womb has been linked to behavioural problems.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed a computer chip made almost entirely from wood, making it flexible and biodegradable.

Electronic waste is becoming a serious and increasing problem with the high turnover of computers. Computers contain significant amounts of lead and heavy metals that are dangerous to the environment.