Used to be, chip speed and computer power drove the market, and one upgraded their computer every couple of years as Intel giveth new chips and Microsoft taketh away with bloated operating systems. Then the internet became our computer, google is fast becoming our operating system and unless you are a hardcore gamer, architect or 3D modeller, almost every computer out there is up to speed and you can start thinking about green. And every week there are more and more options, as companies comply with obligatory European RoHS standards, or the new EPEAT rating system.
Green computing is not only better for the environment, it is better for your office; who needs all those fans blowing all the time? Intel is chasing AMD to make the coolest chips, and onboard video eliminates yet more fan noise. Solid state memory is coming down the pipe, so even the hard drives will stop spinning. Buy a complete package or roll your own for the best mix of options, but think low power, upgradability for long life, and recyclability.
There are those who say that the greenest computer is a notebook, but we have found that notebooks don't last as long, are hard to upgrade, cost more and are not as productive when you cannot have the keyboard, laser mouse or big monitor that you might need for your work. There is definitely still a place for a green desktop computer.
Why: It's tiny and draws only 15 watts -- a tenth of a regular desktop. Runs on Via chips and Linux.
How much: $99 plus $12.95 per month.
Nice touch: It's not just a computer, it's a service, full of applications, with free backup.
More: Zonbu and TreeHugger
What: HP rp5700
Why: Repeat after me, it's EPEAT Gold, the first computer this green. (there have been others since that meet this standard)
How much: $ 1,199
Nice touch: It's a tough utilitarian machine that is 95% recyclable.
More: HP and TreeHugger
Where: Apple Store and brick 'n mortar Apple Stores everywhere
Why: Why not? They are beautiful to look at and use, are gaining market share like mad -- particularly among young people. It scores EPEAT Silver and Greenpeace notwithstanding, appears to be made responsibly.
How much: from $ 1199
Nice touch: That's the thing about Apple, especially if you are stuck on a PC: everything is a nice touch; they are so well thought out and preoccupied with design.
What: Suissa Enlighten
Why: Sustainably harvested woods and upgradable forever. The Rolex of computers; top of the line components assembled like an expensive watch, and priced accordingly.
How much: $ 16,000
Nice touch: Who doesn't want to fondle their computer?
More: Suissa and TreeHugger
Why: You may not need a new computer at all, just a new operating system. Linux can run on old Pentium 3 chips and meet all your surfing and word processing needs.
How much: Free
Nice touch: Did we say it's free? Every new version gets better looking and easier to install.
More: Ubuntu and TreeHugger
For more tips on greening your computing and computer use, check out TreeHugger's How to Green Your Electronics guide. Stay tuned for more green Buying Guides for gadgets, clothing, interiors and much more!