Eco logic. (environmentally safe computing) (Column)
by Steven Anzovin
Green computing seems to be catching on in many forms--especially in telecommuting and recycling.
Telework advocates have long predicted that the computer will replace the car, and recently you could see some solid evidence of that. Commuters who once had to drive for hours to corporate centers in Los Angeles and San Diego now have an alternative that's closer to home. The Riverside Telecommuting Center, about 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles in the town of Riverside, is a pioneering effort at creating a satellite corporate computing center. Several companies, including Pacific Bell, Edison, Xerox, IBM, and Disney, are leasing or plan to lease office space in the center for white-collar employees who live in the Riverside area to let them avoid the three-hour commute into the city.
CD-ROMs have finally arrived, along with the Multimedia PC. Because many CD-ROMs contain time-dependent information, the discs become useless as soon as the information on them is outdated. And unlike floppy disks, useless CD-ROMs can't be reused, so most people just toss them. A CD manufacturer called Digital Audio Disc, a Sony subsidiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, melts down discs that don't pass quality control and uses them to make CD packaging, but as yet there's no company that recycles used CD-ROMs and audio CDs from consumers. Likewise, it's possible to recycle the jewel box and plastic tray that CD-ROMs and audio CDs are packaged in, but so far only the world's largest jewel box and tray manufacturer, Atlanta Precision Molding, has the facilities to do it, and the company recycles only its own scrap. There's a niche for an enterprising plastics entrepreneur who wants to get into compact disc recycling.
In another development, some CD-ROM distributors are turning away from plastic CD packaging altogether. Apple Computer, which sends out thousands of CD-ROMs to Apple developers every month, now protects its discs with a cardboard sleeve instead of a jewel box, as does Educorp, the biggest distributor of commercial Macintosh CD-ROMs. By the way, if you have lots of floppy disks you want to recycle, a company called Covenant Recycling Services (201-838-1336) will recondition them and sell them through a middleman to schools and other outlets.
In a previous column I mentioned a Mac program called DynoPage that makes it easy to print documents on both sides of the paper. Robert G. Chaplick of Wheaton, Maryland, notes that there are two much less expensive PC utilities for double-sided printing. One is a shareware program called Microtxt, which can be found in shareware catalogs and on several online services; the other is PRNCOL (available for $15 from Steve Fox, 11515 113th Place NE, Kirkland, Washington 98033). Chaplick uses PRNCOL for all his printing and recommends it highly. If you want recycled paper to print on, there are several mail-order sources, including Earth Care Paper (4601 Hammersley Road, Madison, Wisconsin 53711; 608-277-2900) and Inmac (1111 West North Carrier Parkway; Suite 200, Grand Prairie, Texas 75050; 800-547-5444). Inmac even offers hard-to-find recycled fanfold paper.
More and more people are saving money by recycling their laser toner cartridges and reinking their printer ribbons. Be sure, by the way, to use the newer soy-based ribbon inks rather than petroleum-based inks and to keep ribbons well inked to lubricate the printer head. Did you know that you can refill the ink cartridge in your Hewlett-Packard DeskJet or DeskWriter printer by yourself? Bruce Marchesani of Lyndhurst, New Jersey, sent in this tip. Simply use a hypodermic syringe to inject the empty cartridge with a new supply from a bottle of standard Shaeffer ink, which can be purchased in any stationery store, or use a soy-based ink of similar viscosity. (Syringes are available from your local surgical supply house.) There's a little pinhole in the top of the ink cartridge that allows you to do this.
Share your tips on green computing. Send your ideas to me at Box 2173, Amherst, Massachusetts 01004. Maybe you'll see your name and idea in a future column.