We geeks like to do a lot of the same things non-geeks do, just with a bit of a geeky spin to them. Lots of people like to put stickers for the college(s) they attended on their cars — geeks do that, too, only they’ll sometimes add one for Miskatonic University or Starfleet Academy.
So we want to do our part for Earth Day, too. After all, Earth’s the only planet we’ve got — for the time being, anyway — and as The Tick said, it’s where we keep all our stuff. Here, then, from all of us at GeekDad, are ten ideas (in no particular order) for how to celebrate this 44th Earth Day, each with a bit of a geeky spin.
1. Charge your handheld devices in a greener way – The site localcooling.com has some good suggestions.
2. Install a programmable thermostat in your home – It’s really simple, not that expensive, and is pretty well guaranteed to save energy, and to reduce your utility bills drastically. It can be a bit of a chore to get the programming just right to keep your family comfortable, but the prospect of doing some experimentation has never yet scared off a true geek.
3. Implement Wake-on-LAN on your home computer(s) – You know how it is: you want to be able to access your home computer from wherever you are, whether it’s to get to your music library, or just to grab a document. But of course leaving the computer on all day is a huge waste of energy. Get Wake-on-LAN to work on it, and you can have the best of both worlds: get access when you need it without leaving it powered up when you don’t.
4. Buy and use an energy-saving surge protector / power strip – These are devices that act like regular old surge protectors, but with an added feature: it helps eliminate “phantom power” waste. “Phantom power” is the little bit of power many devices draw even when they’re switched off. Some, like this one from Belkin, are highly configurable and even have a remote control, for extra geek points.
5. Install solar panels on your roof – Obviously this won’t work for everyone, but if you can do this and you live somewhere where you get a decent amount of sun, this can really reduce the amount of electricity you draw from your utility company. Unfortunately, solar panels aren’t efficient enough yet that you’re likely to see a drastic difference (especially in winter), but without solar panels it really is just perfectly good energy going to waste, right?
6. Find and fix air leaks in your home – Houses, and especially older houses, tend to have a lot of little air leaks, any one of which isn’t too bad, but which together can be a huge energy sink. How is this geeky, you ask? Because it’s a great excuse to buy yourself a Black & Decker Leak Detector, which in addition to having a rhyming name just looks like a lot of fun to play with use.
7. Get a convection oven – We know that many geeks love to cook, so this is really a no-brainer. Not only do convection ovens cook food more evenly than conventional ovens, but they do it more quickly and at lower temperatures. There are even some newer ovens that combine microwave cooking with convection and/or halogen light cooking, which are supposed to save even more energy. We haven’t seen reliable information on how good a job they do actually cooking the food, though.
8. Track your energy usage online – An excellent, and free, online web application called “WattzOn” is a tool for estimating your energy usage, comparing it to other people’s, and helping you plan to reduce it. It’s still in alpha, so you may run into a few bugs here and there, but it’s certainly worth trying out, and it’s even more certainly geeky.
9. Turn off screen-savers, and encourage your friends and family to do the same – Time was that screen-savers were useful, even necessary. Unless you’re still using a CRT monitor, your screen doesn’t need saving, and even if you are all modern operating systems have power management functionality which will do the same thing, only better. It’s much better to have your monitor switch to power-save mode or simply shut off after a certain period of non-use, especially if it’s a CRT (as CRTs draw much more power than LCDs do). Once you’ve done it yourself, it’s time to use your status as Free Tech Support Provider for your friends and family to convince them to do the same.
10. Recycle cardboard, cans, and bottles as game terrain – We’re sure you already recycle, but usual recycling efforts are only somewhat effective due to the resources required to gather the recyclable materials, separate them, and do the actual recycling. So why not find another use in your own home, and a geeky use at that? A little creativity, a pair of scissors, some paint and some glue, and you’ve got yourself some nifty terrain for a miniatures campaign, or maybe as a playset for your kids’ action figures.
Any other ideas? Please leave a comment. Have a happy Earth Day! Remember, think globally, act locally (we can’t stand the ungrammatical way that’s usually said)!
This article was originally published for Earth Day 2010.