I was just reading an article in the latest issue of Game Informer that was a bit interesting. The article is called Green Gaming, and it’s of course about the effects of gaming on the environment and how we can reduce the impact. The whole “Green” thing is admittedly an overused term at this point, and it’s often seen everywhere. You can always count on someone to write an article about “going green” in relation to almost any topic. My house is probably a bit more green-focused than most though. My dad works at the Oregon Zoo and a good portion of his job has been to run their “Green Team”, or something like that. So we recycle everything, compost, buy organic foods, whatever else. Anyway, I’m always hearing about making things more green and helping the environment, so this article caught my eye.
The article goes into how there are two main ways that video games affect the environment. The first is the power that’s drawn from the console itself when turned on and playing games as well as when in standby mode. That’s an issue, but the real problem is in the manufacturing process. “It has been found that between 60 and 80 percent of a desktop or laptop PC’s cumulative energy demand is associated with the manufacturing process.” It seems like common knowledge that manufacturing a PC would be similar to manufacturing a game console, especially in this day and age. Beyond the energy resources it takes to manufacture consoles, there are then chemicals inside the consoles that are potentially very harmful to the environment if the consoles aren’t properly disposed of. Casey Harrell of Greenpeace points out that while electronics waste isn’t the most immediately dangerous type of waste, it’s still “the largest amount of hazardous waste in the world.” The article then points out that things are made worse by the fact that a lot of communities don’t have proper means to dispose of these wastes, and a lot of electronics waste are sent to Africa, Asia, or South America, where it’s then burned. You don’t need to be a scientist to know that that’s probably a bad idea.
According to Casey Harrell though, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that we individuals can do. He thinks this needs to be addressed at the manufacturing level. The article then goes into how environmentally friendly each of the console manufacturers are. Sony ranks highest--in the four out of ten range--while Nintendo and Microsoft are both rated terribly. This is admittedly a flawed ranking system though, as Nintendo specifically refuses to disclose some of their specific manufacturing processes. Also, Sony’s rating is based on a larger division than just consoles. The article says that if just Sony’s console manufacturing was being measured, it would line up a lot closer with Microsoft and Nintendo. The manufacturing process simply needs to become more efficient and less damaging. I’m sure multi-billion dollar companies could make that happen if they really wanted to.
While the manufacturing process does account for most of the negative environmental impact, there are things that we can do to make a difference as well. According to Casey Harrell’s “super rough” estimate, if every game device purchased in 2009 was unplugged for 8 hours a day, it would eliminate “roughly the same amount of CO2 green-house gas emissions as taking 13,000 vehicles off the road for one year.” The biggest thing we can do according to Casey is letting the companies know that we care about more environmentally-friendly practices. To wrap up, it’s recommended to just be sensible and consume less. “Buy less, use less, waste less.”
There’s then a side-bar that talks about a Green Gaming Hour that was started by some high school students. The idea behind it is to turn off all of the electronics in your house except for one room where you and your family would then gather to play some video games for an hour. It’s an interesting take on the “turn everything off” thing that’s become so popular in recent years, and I kind like the idea. I don’t know if my family would go for the idea, but maybe someone’s will.
I thought all of that was pretty interesting though. Especially the part about unplugging every console sold in 2009 for 8 hours a day and the impact that alone could have. That actually makes it seem like we could make a difference. My problem is that I always think that I’m only one person and I can’t make a difference. I know that that’s the wrong way to think, but I’m sure tons of people think the same way. It’s tough to be motivated to do anything small like unplugging a console when you’ll likely never see any benefit in it. All you’ll ever notice is your task of having to go out of your way to plug in and unplug the console all of the time. It’s a culture change thing though, and I think people will eventually start to come around and save energy; it’ll just take a while. I’m still working on it myself.
Anyway, it wasn’t really my plan to summarize the entire article, but, well, there it is. What do you guys think of the environmental impact of gaming? Do you feel bad about it? Do you ever do anything to green up your gaming? Are you going to write a letter to your console manufacturer of choice and explain why they should work on becoming more green?