For some reason, this bit of knowledge just hasn’t gotten out there to the masses. I guess it’s a bit nerdy, but here goes. When computers are not in use, they can do two very different things. They can either suspend, or they can hibernate (or you can turn them off of course). When they suspend, they go into a power saving mode that stores the state of your computer in RAM. When they are hibernating, the state of your computer is stored on the hard drive.
This is an important distinction because RAM requires energy to store information (making it volatile memory), and your hard drive does not (making it non-volatile memory). Hence, any time your computer is in suspend mode, it is incurring a negative environmental impact, and any time it is hibernating, it is incurring no more impact than a lump of silicon.
So. I won’t get into how to deal with these in GNU+Linux, (because I can’t get my laptop to do either), but this article has some good information on how to do it in XP. If you are a Mac owner, this decision has been made for you. Your computer will suspend and hibernate at the same time, and there is no easy way I know of to hibernate only. (They call this SafeSleep, and the idea is that if the RAM hasn’t been reset by a loss of power, it will boot from RAM. Otherwise, it will boot from the hard drive.)
I should also mention that hibernation is a great alternative to leaving your computer on when you go home at the end of the day. It saves the state exactly how you left the computer, and saves the environment by not using energy through the night.
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