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Back to School: You Need Your Sleep! (And Your Computer Does Too)

2013 September 12


By: Steve Ryan & Jamie Ryan

Steve Ryan: The school year has officially begun and countless parents are admonishing their kids to get some sleep. We have all heard that a well-rested body yields a sharp mind.  But for many young people, it is not so easy to sleep with the pressure of knowing you’re taking a test that could have big implications on your chances of getting into a certain college – or if you’re already in college, for keeping up your GPA.  Well, it may surprise you to learn that there may be other thinking units in your house with this problem.  In fact, your computer may not be getting any sleep at all.  Luckily, with a few simple steps you can make sure that your computer gets all the sleep it needs—even if you do not—and also save energy, money and help protect the environment.

In fact, if you activate the power management features (aka sleep features) on your computer, it can cut your electricity use roughly in half, saving $25–75 per year. Saving energy reduces air pollution and reduces the impacts of climate change, since power plants burn fossil fuels to generate the electricity that keeps your computers, smart phones and other devices running (which in turn creates greenhouse gases and other pollution).

So, how do you do it? Just click here and EPA will show you the way. As my parents used to say, electricity does not grow on trees. Okay, they actually said that money does not grow on trees, but I think you get the point and can see how this simple move can save your family money.

As I sat at home writing this blog post it occurred to me that I should ask an actual student how they feel about putting their computer to sleep. Let’s face it—many times they are the ones leaving it on around the clock. My daughter Jamie graciously agreed to write a few words to help encourage her peers to use their computers more efficiently:

Jamie Ryan: I think we can all agree (as students) that nothing is more irritating than the incessant reminders of the importance of sleep.  Academics often put us in a position where we must choose between sleep and a good grade.  However, it is an important factor in our success.  And when it comes to preventing climate change, saving energy from your computer is also very important. While it can be very easy to keep it on day and night, it deserves sleep just as much as you do. And if giving it a rest is a great way to protect our environment from climate change, I think that it is well worth the effort. This school year I plan to spread the word about power management to the other kids in my school. With all of the time that we spend in front of the computer, this seems like the least we could do to help make a difference in the protection of our environment.

Steve Ryan:  Here is one last tip for all of the moms and dads out there: Once you’ve taken a few moments to change the settings on your home computer, be sure to check if your computer at work is going to sleep.  Even if there are only 50 computers in your office, it could possibly save your organization $3,500 per year in energy costs.  You may have just earned a promotion!  Work for a bigger organization? One major company we work with activated power management features on 75,000 computers and is estimated to be saving $2.5 million a year.  That’s enough energy savings to light over 23,000 homes for a year and reduce greenhouse gas emission by 20,000 tons. But don’t feel like you have to save the whole world. Start at home and just take one simple step that will save you money and help the environment.  Besides, sleep is ohhh so good.  And to all the students out there–best of luck on your exams.

Steve Ryan started working for the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Program in 1999.  He currently manages a national campaign to promote power management as well as other information technology energy efficiency initiatives called “The Low Carbon IT Campaign.”  For more information and to get step by step instructions on how to put your computer into low power mode, go to Jamie Ryan is a senior at Oakton High School in Oakton, VA.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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One Response leave one →
  1. Donna D. permalink
    September 16, 2013

    This is great advice, especially for a generation that is so plugged in. Even my 80+ year old inlaws were told by a business store computer guy to leave their computer on 24/7 for updates. No remote access is necessary.

    I appreciate the sleep mode options, but I’m wondering how it compares to just turning off our computers, monitors, printers and routers for the evening? Can you outline when you should shut down vs. sleep mode and saving differences?

    Also, how are the smart power strips performing? I don’t see much about these, but they seem like a great idea to me.

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