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Column: Ways to ‘green up’ cyber habits

Is there such a thing as a green computer? How do our cyber habits impact natural eco-systems and overuse our resources? In our growing consciousness of sustainable living, power conservation, and landfill management, how can our computer habits be part of the solution, rather that part of the problem?

Reduce, recycle, reuse.

Our habits regarding disposal of computer equipment can lead to overflowing landfills or a great amount of materials recycling. The county provides free electronics recycling for residents at the Lena Road Landfill every third Saturday. Businesses wishing to recycle electronic equipment must pay by the pound. Notice of county electronics recycling can be found with your monthly utility bill.

Some area businesses also provide recycling. Budget Self Storage collects recyclable electronics. Check online for details and locations. American Electronics Recycling of Sarasota provides complete materials recycling and charges by the pound. Goodwill accepts some electronic equipment -- check with your nearest drop off point. Various used computer stores may accept working components. Computer Renaissance will buy working computers and monitors no more than four years old, and can recycle non-working equipment for a fee. Businesses that do not perform materials recycling must pay by the pound for proper disposal of waste.

Along with recycling, reuse of working systems is a viable option. Working computers can be rebuilt and utilized by a second user. Many computer applications, such as typical e-mail and Internet usage, do not need the “latest and greatest” computer capabilities. Those who need only the basics can find a used computer with a monitor for half the price of a new, entry level computer.

Perhaps the largest landfill-violator, the older style CRT monitor, is a system component that seems to live forever. Computing environments that don’t require LCDs can reuse CRTs. So don’t just dump it, look for a location that accepts CRTs for continued use.

If you are planning to reuse your computer equipment by selling, donating or rebuilding it, get a fresh keyboard and mouse. Studies have found keyboards can be one of the dirtiest things around, and it’s is something we have our hands all over nearly every day. It’s not difficult to wipe the surfaces with an anti-bacterial product, or to blow out the crevices with canned or compressed air. But at a cost of $5 or $10, the new user would benefit greatly. The old, dirty pieces can be added to the recycling pile.

The green practices of recycling and reusing apply directly to our computer habits. Earth-conscious living won’t allow us to simply dump our old electronics any longer. Make some quick phone calls or online searches to find better long-term solutions for the earth and for others.

Patty Harshbarger, owner of Computer Renaissance in Bradenton, can be reached at (941) 753-8277.