Cornellians being asked to power down <br />computers to save $1 million a year

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Joe Schwartz

With just a few mouse clicks, computer users on campus could save Cornell about $1 million a year, according to Cornell Information Technologies (CIT). Activating the energy-saving features of one computer not only saves about half a ton of carbon emissions per year but also cuts the computer's electric bill by about $60 a year. That goes for your computer at home as well.

If everyone at Cornell used these features on at least one computer, annual carbon dioxide emissions would be reduced by almost 16,000 tons, equivalent to taking 2,755 cars off the road, says CIT, which is launching a campuswide campaign to spread the word about eco-friendly ways to use computers and encouraging students, faculty and staff to join the nationwide Power Down for the Planet challenge to reduce information technology energy consumption.

The challenge was created by the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, a project of several computer and component manufacturers and end-user institutions founded by Intel, Google and the World Wildlife Fund, in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program. It is asking users at college campuses across the nation to pledge to use the power-management features of their computers -- at home as well as on campus -- as much as possible, and to purchase Energy Star-qualified computers in the future. The challenge includes a monthlong competition to see which university can recruit the largest percentage of its campus community to pledge support. The winner will be announced on Earth Day, April 22.

The program also invites students to submit original videos about energy saving in computing. Prizes include cash, specialized bicycles, laptops and Microsoft software.

So far, Cornell -- the first and, as of March 31, the only Ivy League university to join and participate in the initiative -- is lagging in the number of signups compared with several other colleges and universities. For more information and to take the pledge, go to

Computers have settings that automatically turn off the monitor, power down the hard drive and put the entire computer to sleep after a set period of inactivity. (Note that a screen saver doesn't save energy; there is no saving until the screen goes black.) These features are not always active on new computers, and according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 90 percent of desktop computer users don't have them on.

John Skinner '83, marketing director for eco-technology at Intel and co-chair of the Climate Savers marketing committee, approached Cornell about joining Climate Savers in February. Justin Rattner '71, M.Eng. '72, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Intel, announced Cornell's participation during the Cornell Engineering Conference March 12 in Mountain View, Calif.

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