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Seeing Green: Tech tips to be environmentally friendly -- and save money, too!

I'm flooded with "go green" tech tips from several different sources. So in honor of Earth Day, here is a digest of the best tips and stats that I have come across:

  • Recycle your no-longer-used phones. Many cell phone providers have ways you can drop off your old phone in the store, which goes to a good cause. Phones are often refurbished for resale and reuse, with proceeds going to charities. Or if there is no way to salvage the device, it'll be thrown away in the proper manner.
    • This Saturday, April 26, you can drop off your phone at the Fort Lauderdale Green Living Expo. AT&T will collect old wireless devices for the Cell Phones for Soldiers program. The charity collects and recycles mobile phones to provide U.S. military families with free phone cards. AT&T has donated 60,000 prepaid phone cards to CPFS since 2007.
    • In 2007, Verizon Wireless's HopeLine donation program in Florida collected nearly 30,000 no-longer-used phones. Phones can be dropped off at any of its retail stores.
    • Some cellphone makers, like Nokia and LG, offer free recycling regardless of the manufacturer. Visit www.nokiausa.com/recycle or us.lge.com/recycle for a postage-paid label to mail the used phone.
  • Unplug your charger. If you keep your charger plugged into the wall -- even if the device is not being charged -- it is still using energy. A simple solution is to use a power strip to plug in your chargers, and then just turn the power strip off when not using the charger -- then you won't have to keep pulling plugs out of wall sockets.
    • According to Nokia, if only 10 percent of the world's mobile phone users unplugged their chargers from the power supply once the battery is full, we could save enough energy to power 65,000 homes a year.
  • Optimize your home PC energy use. Norton says most computer users lose $25 to $75 a year and waste nearly a half ton of CO2 because they don't optimize their computer's power settings. Norton normally charges $15 for a green assessment, but now it is free! Go to www.norton.com/gogreen to evaluate your computer's energy use and get a "Green Report Card."
  • Don't just toss that computer in the can. Computers can be refurbished and donated to people in need. There are disk-cleaning utilities available online that can totally wipe out your Internet history, data, e-mails and passwords.
    • If you are going to donate the computer, include the accessories.
    • Keep a record of your donation for tax purposes
    • The National Cristina Foundation is one organization that provides donated computers to people in need and can help you find a local recipient
    • Check if your PC manufacturers has a recycle program. For example, Dell will take in old non-Dell computers when new customers make a purchase, and it will accept its own products all the time.
  • Pay bills electronically and avoid paper bills. Go to PayitGreen.org to use the Green Calculator and learn how much of a positive environmental impact you can have by switching to electronic bills.

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