Green Technology
Green Apples
It’s not a MacBook Air, but the 13-inch MacBook laptop makes energy efficiency easy.
March 21, 2008 by Steven Castle

Say hello to my new little friend. It’s a 13-inch MacBook laptop, and yes, I am in love with it.

Why? Because I work on a computer all day, writing these missives and producing features for Electronic House, and not only is my little laptop easy, easy, easy to use, it’s also pretty green. That makes me feel good as I pound away on the electric meter.

It’s not quite as green as the new MacBook Air, Apple’s latest foray into energy and resource savings, with its mercury-free display and PVC-free wiring. But for me, it’s pretty darned close. And the relative computer experiences of myself and others makes me feel even better.

My 13-inch MacBook is Energy Star-rated, meaning its use of electricity is economical. We’re talking about 14 watts with the monitor on full. That’s much better than most people walking around with aging laptops. The MacBook Air, by the way, uses over 10 watts. (If I had only waited!)

And if you’re wondering, whether I really use my laptop efficiently, yes, I try. I use the “Better Energy Savings” settings to put my monitor and computer to sleep if it isn’t being used for just a few minutes. And this makes up for my sin of maintaining a fairly high monitor brightness. I don’t use a screen saver, which uses energy. And I operate my system as much as possible on battery—one can usually last four hours, depending on the applications I’m running. 

I know some people with older Mac laptops who warned me that the batteries don’t last long. I guess theirs don’t. Mine do A-OK. I also shut down the computer at night and recharge, then I shut off the power strip that it’s plugged into for the evening.

This is my favorite thing about my new little friend, because I can shut it down, and it starts back up in seconds. With my old Windows XP-based laptop, I would have to start it up and walk away for at least five minutes, and that was after streamlining its startup process. As a result, I would simply put it to sleep for the night. That was more convenient, but it also sucked some of the energy from the battery after I unplugged, and needless to say, hinder my energy efficiency. (I’d say those were the good old days, but they just ain’t.)

My other favorite things? The power adapter for my Mac is a little 3-inch square thing that easily plugs into the power strip near my feet. It’s rated as efficient as new power supplies mandated by California and the U.S. government’s new standards set to go into effect in July. What a difference from the power brick I had with my old laptop, which for years I left plugged into the surge suppressor strip (left on) while I unplugged it from the back of the laptop. As a result, it kept drawing power and dissipating it as heat—you could toast your hands on it—while my sleeping laptop continued to use battery life. This new adapter barely gets warm when I mistakenly leave it plugged in. 

On the laptop end of it is a magnetic plug, which also comes in handy. This makes it a cinch to plug in when I need a charge, or to disconnect when the charge is complete. It seems like a small thing, but man, is it worth it. I know some have complained about the MagSafe plugs pulling out easily, and that can happen, but overall the ease of it makes my working more efficiently a breeze.

I’m not writing this a love letter to Apple or to convince you to buy a Mac. Often, the greenest thing you can do is not to throw something out. But if you’re in the market for a new computer, look at the energy saving ones. Check out the lists at Energy Star, and use the energy savings settings on them. And definitely look at ease of use. As experts say in regard to recycling electronic waste, it has to be made easy for us consumers. The same is true of energy efficiency, and that is what I love about my new little friend.

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Steven Castle - Contributing Writer
Steven Castle is Electronic House's managing editor. he has been writing about consumer electronics, homes and energy efficiency topics for two decades. He is also the co-founder of GreenTech Advocates.

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