Antarctica is getting slushy, polar bears need a Coke to cool down, and everyone in Miami is keeping an eye on the sea level. Maybe Al Gore is right, and maybe he isn't. But no one can deny that reducing our "carbon footprint" is a good thing. I lower my thermostat in the winter and raise it in the summer, I run ceiling fans instead of AC, and everything gets turned off when Elvis leaves the building. I'm trying to conserve electricity wherever I can. However, these days, the amount of gear that needs to be plugged in or charged up makes it tough to have an energy conscience. The question after the jump is: How can a gadget-guru go green?
When devices with rechargeable batteries were introduced, environmentalists rejoiced — fewer spent batteries heading for landfills. However, much of that green-looking rechargeable gear is deceptively power-hungry. For example, a lot of portable gear doesn't use replaceable batteries, instead recharging built-in ones through USB ports. Brilliant, right? Wrong! Instead of just plugging the player into the wall, now we have to boot up a computer, plug in the device, let it charge, then shut off the whole shebang. I don't think we've saved any polar bears by doing that little maneuver.
My entertainment system is a bit trickier. Virtually every piece of gear (DVD players, receivers and TVs) has a 'standby' mode that is sucking down some power — at least enough to know when the remote control 'on' switch has been activated. I'd like to unplug the entire stack of gear, but some components are difficult to keep unplugged. Hopefully you'll realize sooner than I did that TiVo can't plug itself in to record Eureka. And, if you ever do unplug your TiVo, you'll also discover that it takes its sweet time to reinitialize. Over 5 minutes, in fact. Okay, the TiVo gets special dispensation to be left on, and doesn't get plugged into the switchable power strip.
An audio engineer based in Atlanta, Leslie Shapiro has been covering consumer electronics for almost a decade. Her work has appeared in many publications, including Sound & Vision, Crutchfield Advisor, and How Stuff Works as well as AOL. A longtime consultant and legal advisor for the electronics industry, she has a penchant for Bianchi and Colnago Italian bikes, and her favorite word is "synchronicity."