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Updated 8:45 AM March 24, 2009

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U joins Power Down for the Planet competition

U-M is challenging universities worldwide to Power Down for the Planet. Through the Climate Savers Computing Initiative, the university is leading a global competition to be the world's most dedicated campus to green computing.

"All those perks that come from using IT devices — desktops, laptops, printers and other devices — are powered by amazing amounts of energy," says Pam Fons, chairperson for U-M's Power Down for the Planet challenge. "Our goal is to be an eco-friendly campus; we want U-M to be the leader and best in green computing."

One university will be selected as the Power Down for the Planet challenge winner, based on the percentage of its campus community that pledges to use computer power management tools and to purchase energy efficient equipment the next time it buys.

From March 23-April 17, U-M students, faculty and staff can pledge their commitment to Power Down for the Planet at By taking the pledge, they commit to conserving energy on personal computers through power management settings and using ENERGY STAR-qualified equipment.

While the university that collects the most pledges only will win bragging rights, U-M participants have the opportunity to win gift certificates to local restaurants and bookstores by forwarding participation confirmation e-mails to Winners will be selected weekly through random drawings.

In addition to pledging commitment to eco-friendly computing, U-M students, faculty and staff have the option to record their green computing stories and participate in a viral video competition on YouTube. Representatives from the Climate Savers Computing Board of Directors and sponsor level companies will select the winner. Prizes include $5,000 cash, laptops, bicycles and software. The video competition runs through April 17 and the winner will be announced May 4.

Currently there are more than one billion computers in use worldwide; by 2014 this number is projected to double. Computers are designed to make life easier and more efficient by increasing the speed of everyday communication, but the average desktop computer uses more energy than a flat screen TV and DVD player combined.

Organizers of the competition say people wouldn't leave their cars running in the driveway or their refrigerator doors wide-open, but many people leave their computers running 24/7 without considering the impact on their energy bill and the environment. In fact, few people power down overnight or use widely available power management tools, they say.

Virtually all personal computers (PCs) support power management; however, an estimated 90 percent of all desktops currently run with this feature turned off. When enabled, computer power management places the monitor, hard drive and computer into a low-power sleep mode after a period of inactivity. A touch of the mouse or keyboard wakes the computer in seconds.

The use of power management features on a typical PC can save an average of 603 KWh of energy per year, which equals a greater CO2 savings then lowering a home thermostat two degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, washing clothes only in cold water or giving up driving two days out of every month.

"Really small changes, like setting your printer to print both sides of the paper as default or not turning on your computer until you'll need it, make a big difference," Fons says.

Savings on a college campus are significant. A university with 70,000 networked computers can save about $3 million per year just by activating power management features on all of its computers. That's the equivalent of removing 4,500 cars from the road for an entire year. Nationally, by enabling energy saving features on desktop PCs, college students collectively could contribute to annual savings of more than $150 million in energy costs.

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