40th Anniversary of EPA’s Earth Day

As we rapidly approach the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Earth Day on April 22, I am excited and encouraged by the stellar progress the federal government has made in the area of energy efficiency.

Recently, the federal government announced that it will take steps to cut its energy use and reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) pollution by 28 percent by 2020, compared with 2008 levels. This is a monumental announcement from the federal government, which is the single largest energy consumer in the U.S., and this reduction of energy is equivalent to taking 17 million cars off the road for one year!

I applaud the federal government on this announcement and for leading by example in following up on President Obama’s signed Executive Order 13514 on Federal Sustainability in October of 2009, which set measureable environmental performance goals for Federal Agencies. Since the executive order we have seen several agencies make huge strides in the area of sustainability and energy efficiency.

John Broder of the New York Times highlighted several examples of these projects from Federal Agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency’s opening of two new buildings in Virginia that are designed to consume 20 percent less energy than existing buildings. Broder also noted that the Army is installing a 500-megawatt solar power plant at a base near the Mojave Desert and that the Veterans Affairs Department has contracted for a wind energy system to provide 15 percent of the electricity for its hospital in St. Cloud, Minn.

While these achievements are impressive and admirable, many of us are questioning what we can do individually, everyday, on a more manageable scale. With much of our own individual energy consumption related to the use of electronic products, a few simple steps can make a world of difference.

I would like to suggest the following 5 simple steps for improved energy efficiency for Federal Agencies:

1. Audit existing PC inventory

o I recently wrote about PC refresh cycles, and a PC inventory audit is an easy first step in determining whether or not there is room for improvement in the area of energy efficiency. Due to recent advancements in PC design and configuration, a PC refresh that is well past due is a good indication that these older machines may be consuming more power than they should.

2. Baseline current energy consumption

o The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy Information Administration and ENERGY STAR program are good resources for researching appropriate power consumption.

3. Enable power management features on monitors and computers

o Most PCs are equipped with features that place monitors and computers into a low-power “sleep mode” after a period of inactivity. Newer PCs should be equipped with intelligent software features that allow users to fully understand their energy consumption as well as set policies on power usage. For example, HP Power Assistant’s “usage details” feature helps users understand and estimate what running their notebook costs when using each setting—in dollars, kilowatt hours and even carbon.

4. Coach employees to turn PCs off at night

o Powering down office electronics at the end of the day should be a habit for all office workers and government employees. Recently, private sector businesses including HP, Microsoft, Citrix and Intel conducted Power IT Down Day, which encouraged government organizations to power down computers and peripherals at the end of the day. Through this effort over 5,500 people pledged to power down their computers, monitors, and printers at the end of the day, for a total savings of 73,333 kilowatt hours.

5. Purchase Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT™)-registered equipment

o EPEAT is a system that, according to their website, “helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes.” EPEAT registration should be a top consideration in an agency’s purchasing decision.

While these 5 steps outlined above are simple, the impact in terms of reduced energy consumption (not to mention cost savings!) is great. As we near Earth Day later this month, I’d love to hear some of your own tips and tricks for reducing energy consumption.

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Srinidhi Boray

I bought a fan. Made amends to use less air conditioner or better yet avoid. I did check my electricity bills and realized that my running PC as server was costing me $12 / month. By employing NAS drives I can much reduce power consumption. Many NAS drives are designed to be energy efficient. Yahoo!!! I still get my video server, boxee, xmbc into AppleTV without running PC server 24/7.

Christina Morrison

Good for you Srinidhi. Who could use an extra $12 a month in their pocket? It’s like finding money in the laundry. If more people knew they could find money just by using a fan and the A/C less, think of the power we could save — Plus all those dollars. You’re inspired me to put a fan in my home office

Mark Hammer

“Powering down” is widely misunderstood. My own thinking was shaken up several years ago when I read a review of a motherboard that was touted as being highly eco-conscious, by virtue of it only consuming 40 watts in power-down mode.

People, if you have not cut the power to the machine, it is still using power, just like any other appliance that has a sleep mode so that it can respond to hand-held remote controls. Now, if a super-performer consumes “only” 40W, then the chances are very good that leaving your workplace setup connected to power over a long weekend will result in 60-80W being consumed from 4:30PM Friday, to when you return at 8:30 on Tuesday. That is a total of 64hrs x 60W or 3.84kw hours. Now multiply that by all the computers in your workplace. In my building, that probably amounts to 1000 or more computers, so we are talking over 3.8megawatts of energy consumed for no good reason other than a bunch of people didn’t bend down and hit the button on the power bar.

Some folks clearly do need to leave their machines in sleep mode so they can be remotely accessed. But if you aren’t part of that 5% of users, SHUT DOWN COMPLETELY.

Nelly Leonidis

when advocating power-off at night practices, I often find myself defending it to people saying it takes more energy to start the PC everyday than it is to leave it overnight. Got exhausting after a while to explain the “completely, completely” off.


Quite a few states certainly do no respect the EPA nor want their citizens to truly observe an Earth Day.

Kentucky was the last place WORST state for overall statewide public spaces cleanliness, in 2011 American State Litter Scorecard.

Also, LA, MS, NV, AL, IN, GA, IL, OK, MT, ND, TX losers in statewide public spaces cleanliness.

Colorado, Mississippi the two most DANGEROUS, DEADLIEST states for dying from debris-caused vehicle accidents.

These above states could use some federal intervention to “clean up” their acts.



Also, LA, MS, NV, AL, IN, GA, IL, OK, MT, ND, TX losers in statewide public spaces cleanliness.

Colorado, Mississippi the two most DANGEROUS, DEADLIEST states for dying from debris-caused vehicle accidents.