These are the technological features of modern life for many of us, and it gets harder and harder to imagine how we'd get along without them. Behind the scenes, though, an enormous amount of electricity is being used to provide these services to us. A recent report by Jon Koomey, an independent researcher associated with Lawrence Berkeley National Labs and Stanford University, estimates that it takes about 14 large power plants to power the world's servers. In the US, servers consume about 1.2% of all electricity generated, and that is expected to rise to 2% by 2010. (Geeks may read the actual report here.)
Amazingly, an online, Second Life avatar (a virtual person used in on-line gaming, for those of you unfamiliar) requires more energy (1700 kWh per year) than the average real-life Brazilian (1000kWh/yr.)!!
What can you do? For one, always turn off and power down your equipment when not using it. If you have a wireless router and/or high-speed modem at home, unplug it while you are away (most households leave these on 24/7. Why?). Both at work and at home, push the button on your monitor to turn it off, even if you are leaving your computer running for whatever reason (even though it uses only a little energy in standby mode, why not turn it all the way off? Your monitor isn't doing anything at all when you are not looking at it.)
You can also choose a green Internet Service Provider (ISP). E Magazine published an article in 2006 about green ISPs, and you can find others by searching the web.