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Computers and the environment

Learning Intentions

  • Understand what the environmental impacts are involving computers

Success Criteria

  • I can explain how computers affect the environment
  • I can provide way of reducing the impact of computers on the environment

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Electricity production

  • Large-scale electricity production generally involves spinning a turbine using high-pressure steam which is created by superheating (boiling) water.
  • The process of boiling the water generally involves burning a fossil fuel such as coal, oil or gas or from a nuclear reactor (which produces nuclear waste)
  • These methods have serious environmental concerns

Electricity production

  • Electrical energy is generated and distributed to each building or structure using pylons from the power station.
  • Electrical energy used by a computer is measured in watts.
  • When a computer isn't doing anything majorly demanding (i.e. it's just powered on and waiting on the desktop) it is in a state called idle.

How can we save energy?

  • Discuss how computers impact upon the environment
  • Discuss with the people next to you how we can reduce the impact of computers and how we can save energy.

Manufacture - materials

  • The manufacturing of computers requires large amounts of valuable materials from the earth such as:
    • Gold
    • Silver
    • Platinum
    • Palladium
  • Further to that, the manufacture of batteries also includes the use of lithium which is mined across the world.

Manufacture - energy use

  • The manufacturing of computers also requires a lot of energy in terms of electricity and water.
  • Nothing can actual be done about this but we can be concious of this when we are thinking about getting a new computer.

Reducing the impact - manufacture

  • There are ways we can all help reduce the impact of computers involving their manufacture. 
    • When buying a new computer, consider buying a computer with replacable (or user-serviceable) parts.
    • Buying a computer that will last and having good reliability means you won't need to replace it as often.
    • Smaller computers such as laptops require less resources to manfacture

What type of computer do you use the most?

Electricity usage of computers

  • Computers use significant electrical energy when they are used. For example:
    • Mr Balfour's gaming desktop (measured in 2022) used 138 watts of energy when idle but when it is under load (i.e. playing a game) it uses around 600 - 700 watts.
    • A standard laptop will use around 60 - 100 watts.
    • A low-power laptop will use around 40 watts.
    • A smartphone uses around 10 watts.

Reducing the impact - usage

  • We can reduce the impact that computers have on the environment when they are used by reducing their energy use. Consider some of the following:
    • Changing settings on the computer to save energy
    • Reduce the brightness on the monitor
    • Switching off the computer when it's not being used (and using stand by mode when the computer isn't doing anything for a period of time)
    • Picking the right computer for the job (a laptop uses less energy than a desktop)


  • There are several ways of reducing the impact of computers that we as consumers can consider:
    • Buying a computer that will last, and if possible has replaceable parts
    • Switching the computer off when it is not being used, including switching it off at the wall, using stand by mode when the computer isn't doing anything for a short period
    • Reducing the brightness of the screen and setting it to switch off when not in use, using other power saving features on the computer
    • Selecting the correct type computer (laptop, desktop, tablet) for the job

What you can do in the classroom

  • When you are in the classroom you can save energy by:
    • Reducing the brightness of the screens to how you want it
    • Shutting down computers that are not being used (for example, if the classroom doesn't have another class in it after your class)
    • Switching off the screen when you leave the classroom

Complete the task on Google Classroom called 'Computers and the Environment'


When you finish that, make your own single slide presentation about how to reduce the environmental impact of computers.


Lesson review

I can explain the impact of computers on the environment

I can explain the impact of computers on the environment and can state how to reduce the impact on the environment

I can explain the impact of computers on the environment and can explain methods of reducing the impact of them

Presentation Overview
Computers and the Environment
© 2020 - 2024 J Balfour
17:39 | 23-05-2024
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