Ten Ways to Turn Your Gaming Green
Gamers, take heed -- it's easy being green.
By Ben Silverman
If anyone understands the value in saving Earth, it's a gamer. But while we're exceptionally skilled at protecting our blue ball from hordes of alien invaders, we're not exactly leading the charge when it comes to energy conservation.
Don't feel too guilty - you can't expect to power your PS3 with a hand crank - but there are plenty of ways gamers can contribute to global restoration without ruining all the fun. Here are 10 simple tips to becoming a greener gamer.
1. Take charge and recharge.
Wireless controllers might be the greatest innovation in console gaming since the Cheetos/Mountain Dew combo-pack, but man, do they drain batteries fast. That's not a problem if you own a PS3 (which smartly uses a USB connection to charges its controllers), but if you game on an Xbox 360 or Wii, grab some rechargeable NiMH batteries and stop dumping double-A's in your trash can. Don't forget to grab a charger, too.
2. Unplug it.
Most of the electronics devices in your home still suck up power even when turned off, making Standby Power Consumption something of a silent energy killer. On a case-by-case basis it might not seem like much, but that handful of wasted watts pools up quickly, especially if you're the tech-savvy sort with a living room crammed with gear. If you're going on vacation, loaded with schoolwork or just planning on taking a break from games for a while, do the world a favor by unplugging your gaming PC and home consoles (unless, of course, your PS3 is heavily involved in the noble Folding@Home project).
3. Invest in a new Energy Star compliant television.
Generally speaking, the larger the set, the greater the power draw. In an effort to trim down unnecessary energy use, the EPA's Energy Star label is requiring all larger sets to use 30 percent less power in order to claim Energy Star compliance. The new policy doesn't begin until November 2008, giving you plenty of time to save up for a more efficient telly.
4. Rent before you buy.
Simply opening a brand new game is a study in wasteful insanity: left in the wake of an impassioned unwrapping is a mess of discarded shrink-wrap, crumpled security stickers and superfluous magazine subscription offers. If you're on the fence about a game, avoid this ecological nightmare and consider using a Netflix-like rental service such as Gamefly. It's a great way to stay knee-deep in games without cluttering your life with unwanted trash, plus it goes a step further by offering digitized versions of game instruction manuals for free.
5. Reuse it or lose it.
Games are a little like dogs - they don't need to be brand new to make the perfect companion. So visit the virtual gaming pound and give an old title new life by buying used games. It's an easy way to save cash while reducing the environmental costs associated with producing, shipping, and stocking new games. The same goes for game consoles - "refurbished" isn't a bad word, you know. If your local game retailer doesn't carry used products, surf over to eBay and turn another gamer's trash into your newest treasure. Just make sure the game discs are scratch-free!
6. Save your game, already!
Hidden deep in the gamer DNA is a panicky, neurotic gene that drives us to leave our game consoles on overnight. It's likely just a carryover from the old days of gaming before memory cards and internal hard drives, when we couldn't just save games and shut off the system without losing hours of hard work. Well, that's all changed, and while you can fool your mom by telling her you can't stop playing because your game isn't saved, we know better. Press Start, save the thing, and stop hogging up the electrical grid.
7. Donate old games and systems to charity.
No longer using that PSOne? Don't you dare drag it to the dump. Instead, swing by the local Goodwill and perpetuate the circle of gaming life, or consider donating your dusty game goods to a charity like Child's Play.
8. Support digital downloading.
If you believe the pundits, digital distribution is the wave of the future...and we happen to believe the pundits. Each of the three home consoles offers a variety of terrific downloadable games, while PC users can purchase full-blown versions of top-notch games using services like Yahoo! Games on Demand, Steam, Gametap, and there's even more casual fare on Yahoo! Games' Downloads Area. No clutter, no traffic, and no lines at the store? No contest.
9. Lap it up.
Full disclosure: we think your epic rig with the quad-core processor, GeForce 8800 and 4GB DDR3 RAM rules, too. But your mini-supercomputer with the seven cooling fans is an oppressive energy vacuum, so unless you absolutely cannot live without it, how about trading in that desktop dinosaur for a sleek gaming laptop? Sure, you'll lose some oomph, but you'll save money on your energy bill and, best of all, get to geek out even harder while on the road.
10. Recycle game boxes.
If you insist on buying PC games the old-fashioned way, recycle those cardboard game boxes and keep the game discs in a CD holder. We know you like the box art, but trust us: collecting those boxes will only clutter the closet.