Step 3: Use equipment wisely

Buying ENERGY STAR qualified equipment is a sure way to reduce energy consumption, save money and cut GHG emissions. But the process does not begin and end there – how office equipment is used is also important.


  • Are your computers backed up in the middle of the night? If so, could this be done just as easily during normal business hours?
  • Do you receive fax messages during off-hours? If not, does your fax machine need to be turned on at these times or could you install a call-activated switching device?

Educating staff

  • Consider launching an awareness and promotional effort to make staff aware of the opportunities and actions needed to achieve energy savings. Remind them that using less energy is not only good for business but also helps protect the environment.
  • Make sure employees are aware that screen savers are not an energy-saving feature (they protect screen phosphors) – in fact, some screen savers increase energy consumption.

Using the technology properly

  • Turning equipment off manually when it is not in use is the easiest and best way to eliminate unnecessary energy consumption (see the box on standby power consumption on page 15). Encourage staff to do this whenever possible, and show leadership by example.
  • If your computers and servers have power-management capabilities, make sure they are activated.
  • Consider using virtualization technology, which allows multiple, software-based virtual machines to run on a single server. This technology allows a server to run up to 20 times the number of computer applications.
  • Decommission “comatose” servers (servers that are no longer running applications or are running applications that are no longer needed). Consolidate servers and storage equipment in data centres.

Minimizing printing requirements and using paper wisely

  • Communicate and store information electronically whenever possible. Communicating electronically is fast and efficient and uses less energy than producing text or images on paper. Storing information electronically, rather than on paper, can also save money and space.
  • Use both sides of the paper to reduce paper costs and save filing space.
  • Reuse paper for draft printouts and note taking. Inkjet machines handle used paper, although this practice is not recommended in laser printers due to possible jamming and damaging of the fuser mechanism.
  • Purchase recycled paper as much as possible – and make sure that used paper ends up in the recycle bin, not in the trash.

Did You Know?

Refilled ink cartridges are now widely available for inkjet machines, usually at less cost than for new cartridges. As well, most manufacturers and many retailers offer free recycling of empty ink cartridges.

Standby Power – When “Off” Means “On”

Standby power refers to the use of electricity by an electrical device when it is technically turned “off.” Many devices use standby power to operate a built-in clock or timer or to keep a machine in a state of semi-readiness to be launched into active mode. Others, like battery chargers for cell phones and external power adapters for laptop computers, consume power simply by being plugged in, even if the device they power is fully charged or disconnected.

Standby power consumption is a growing problem in Canada and elsewhere. Efforts are underway globally to reduce the standby power consumption of all devices to 1 W or less, but until that happens, it is a good idea to pay close attention to these “phantom loads.”

Purchasing ENERGY STAR qualified products will go a long way to minimizing standbypower consumption. An ENERGY STAR qualified computer, for example, uses 70 percent less electricity than a model that does not have power-management capabilities.

Turning off equipment when it is not being used will give you even more control over standby power consumption. Consider using a power bar —a simple flip of a switch can cut power to several devices at the same time, eliminating standby power consumption and possibly extending the life of the equipment.

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