The Real Toll Of Office Technology

In many ways, the technological revolution has helped us become more energy efficient. We can hold face-to-face meetings via video conferencing rather than traveling cross country. As devices get tinier, so does their energy consumption.  Yet overall, the technological revolution is actually causing a large tick in energy consumption. Business owners just may not see it as readily as before.

office technology energy use

Consider the amount of time spent on computers and the energy used to keep servers running. Think about all the tasks we rely on electronic devices for today that used to be done manually.

The storage of all the electronic data we produce is also raising our energy use: According to Stanford researcher Jonathan Koomey, data centers accounted for 1.7% to 2.2% of all electricity consumed in the U.S. in 2010. And don’t forget the energy used to manufacture all the gadgets we use.

Though few businesses want to turn back the clock and start using typewriters again, it’s all a good reminder to business owners that you need to pay attention to your office technology energy use – and don’t assume it’s a zero-sum game.

Here are some steps that can help you reduce office technology energy use:

Check Sleep Modes On All Equipment

Even if you turn off all equipment – computers and copiers – at night, there’s still likely excess use during daytime hours. What about when you run out for a meeting or grab lunch? For any idle times, your equipments’ “sleep mode” or “power save” mode can reduce energy use by 75% or more when it’s not in use. It also saves money: Setting sleep mode can save $10 to $50 a year per computer and much more for equipment such as large copiers. Many new technologies come with sleep mode already enabled, but you may need to check the user manual to find out how to check it and make sure.

Buy High-Efficiency Technologies

The federal government’s Energy Star program makes it easy to find energy efficient equipment by looking for the blue-and-white sticker. Energy Star-qualified equipment use 10% to 50% less energy than regular models, which can add up to a lot in an office with a lot of equipment.

Move Applications To The “Cloud”

For most small businesses,  cloud computing – or running applications off the Internet – will save energy rather than buying software and running it on premise. That’s because centralizing data storage often allows for greater efficiency than small data centers. A study by Accenture found that a business with 100 users could cut energy use and carbon emissions by up to 90% by moving applications to the cloud.

Given the large energy consumption of today’s technology — and the cost of that energy to your business — it only makes sense to make sure you’re being as efficient as possible.

Energy Saving Photo via Shutterstock


Kelly Spors Kelly Spors is a former small-business and entrepreneurship reporter and blogger for The Wall Street Journal who has also written for Yahoo!, Entrepreneur, NFIB's MyBusiness magazine and The New York Times. Kelly is now a freelance editor and writer based in Minneapolis and has previously managed communications for an environmental non-profit that helps businesses find ways to be greener.

7 Reactions
  1. Solid state memory for the win!

  2. I think ‘going green’ is a hype and awareness is the key in keeping our carbon footprint low. While using energy-saving devices may help, the simple act of switching it off when not in use makes a huge difference — if all of us will put it on top of our priority list. Then, there’s the Earth Hour that calls us to do just that even for an hour, each year.

  3. This is an interesting post, Kelly, and you brunt up some points to think about. I’ve actually haven’t considered the amount of energy consumption all of our tech devises use. Thanks for bringing this issue to our attention and sharing it with our community.


  4. I tell all my SBE clients to turn off their desktops at the end of the business day some have 100+ computers. Although I have no electric bills from them I’d say common sense would win the fact that it’s bound to save them on energy costs.