Welcome to The Digital Environment! The Internet has changed our world dramatically, and not always for the better. Here you can learn about environmental issues related to computers and the Internet and what you can do to minimize your environmental impact.


Cyber Defender &
Message Center Supervisor

As an environmental activist, Trey believes that technology has the potential to improve our world, but only if it is used and created responsibly. He encourages people to become aware of their actions and to make simple changes in their lives that will have a big impact on the environment.

A recent graduate of the Academy (class of '07), Trey runs the Message Center in Cyberspace. He loves communicating via email because it is quick, easy, and reduces paper waste.

Favorite Quote:

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
- John Muir

Favorite Food:

Vegetable Curry


Ultimate frisbee, Gardening, Recycling trash into treasure

December 2, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: CFL: Good or Bad?

Staring at all these holiday lights has got me thinking about the lights in my own home. When compact fluorescent bulbs (CFL) first came out, everyone was shouting how awesome they were and that they were going to save the environment. Well…it turns out they might not be so great after all.

On one hand, they do save money and power. On the other hand, they’re filled with harmful chemicals that, if not properly recycled, can be very dangerous. If you break a compact fluorescent light bulb, do not vacuum it up. Leave the room immediately and tell an adult to open all the windows in the area for at least 15 minutes.

After this, let the adults pick up the pieces while wearing disposable rubber gloves. Tell them to use a damp cloth to pick up all the little bits and to wipe up the powder. After the mess is cleaned, they should put the bulb pieces in a sealed plastic bag and bring it to a recycling center that takes hazardous materials – the Earth 911 site can help you find one near you. The other trash should be put into a plastic bag and thrown away.

Is it worth it? I guess it is, as long as you recycle them properly.

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

November 17, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Mobile Phone Technology

So the holidays are coming up, and maybe some of you might be getting new mobile device as gifts. Or, maybe you already have one and the old one is lying around, collecting dust. So what exactly should you do with an old mobile device? Throw it at your enemies? Save a bunch and make some sort of cellular phone art? Leave them in a drawer in case of an emergency? No!

You should recycle them! There are actually a LOT of great things your old mobile devices can do for people. Whether that means helping soldiers overseas talk to their families or helping victims of domestic violence, they can be a lot more than junk drawer filler. Here is a list of several worthwhile charities.

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

October 7, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Recycling Your Computer

So you’re ready to get a new computer. Of course, you’re not just going to throw your old computer away! That’d be both harmful to the environment and a terrible waste. Instead, you decide to recycle it. So you unplug your machine and drop it off at the local thrift store. What a good deed!

Unfortunately, you never bothered to properly take your information off the donated computer and now whoever buys it will have access to EVERYTHING you’ve ever put on there. Suddenly, that good act has come back to bite you in a major way. So what should you do?

Most people will just try to drag everything to the trash can or recycle bin, but this only partially erases the information! Cyber villains can find this “deleted” information and use it however they want. To really protect yourself, you need to run a program that “sanitizes” your hard drive. These programs, which can be found online, work by replacing all your data with a jumble of useless nonsense. That way, your information is safe and your good deed goes unpunished!

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

March 4, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Greywater Systems

I finally get to tell you guys about greywater systems! Firstly, let me explain why they call it greywater. All water in your house fits under one of three categories – white water, greywater, and black water. White water is the water that you can drink, like tap water. Black water is sewage. Grey water is not drinkable but it’s not completely unsanitary either, such as the water in your pipes after you take a shower or the water you get after you run the dishwasher, and it accounts for 50-80% of the water produced by the average home. Best of all, this water can be reused! Think about it – does it really make sense to use drinkable water to flush your toilet? Of course not!

In addition to being used for flushing toilets, greywater can be used for a number of other useful things. For example, the greywater system that I want to install in the school will filter all the water so we can use it to irrigate the garden. Once we install it, it could cut our water use down 30%! This will make me happy because the less water we use, the less impact we’ll have on the environment, and it will make Commander Omni happy because 30% less water used means a 30% smaller water bill. Talk about a win/win!

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

December 16 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Make the Yuletide Green!

Holiday cards. Every year, I get 10, 20, or even 30 holiday cards! It used to be that only my parents and my brother would send me a card, but now I'm getting them from everyone! My coworkers, cousins that I've never heard of, and even the woman that delivers the newspaper gives me a card around this time of year. Don't get me wrong - I think it's really nice of them.at least, they mean well.

But what is it costing our environment?

Just thinking of all the cards that get thrown out at the end of the year makes me crazy! And don't get me started on wrapping paper!

Thankfully, there is a way to let people know you're thinking about them without killing so many trees! That's right, E-cards! With so many people using the Internet today, E-cards are a great (and usually free) way to let them know you're thinking of them. Just do a search for E-cards and you'll find a ton of great Web sites. And if anyone sends you a card, be sure to recycle it when you've finished enjoying all that holiday happiness. That's one way to keep the Yuletide green!

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

August 14 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Recycling Printer Cartridges

Did you guys know that you don't need to throw away your used ink cartridges? It's true! Many locations that sell new printer cartridges will refill your old cartridge for a fraction of the cost.

Think of it this way - each cartridge you throw away takes anywhere between 400 and 1,000 years to decompose, and on average there are 11 cartridges thrown out every minute across the globe! Imagine how much better it would be if everyone just recycled their cartridges. It's important to know that not all cartridges can be refilled. Even cartridges that you've filled in the past will eventually break down after continual use. When this happens, do not throw them in the garbage! Take them to the store where you bought them and recycle them. Sometimes, the store will even give you a discount on your next ink cartridge.

Just a note to our international readers - using refilled ink cartridges can cancel your printer's warranty, so be careful! If you're in the US, don't worry about it - it's illegal for the manufacturer to cancel the warranty because of used ink cartridges. And there you have it! Though it may not seem important to recycle your ink cartridges, every little bit helps. Do your part to make this world a healthier place to live!

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

June 10 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Computers and Electricity Usage

The amount of electricity a computer uses is typically between 65 and 250 watts for the computer and 35 to 80 watts for the monitor.

Desktop machines with fast processors use more electricity than laptops, big CRT monitors use about twice as much as LCD ones, and peripherals like a mouse, a printer, a modem, or a webcam can also increase how much electricity your computer uses. How much heat your computer generates is also a factor, because it takes electricity to run the cooling fan inside your computer.

Creating electricity takes a lot of resources, and it costs you money to use it! It makes sense to try and reduce how much you use.

In addition to turning off your computer when you're not using it, there are a few things you can try out to reduce your computer's electricity consumption. Software programs like Local Cooling can calculate how much electricity your computer uses and adjust the settings of your power options to help minimize it. Physical devices like the EarthWatts Power Supply can help increase the efficiency of your computer's power supply and keep the computer cooler, so the fan doesn't have to work as hard.

If you're looking to buy a new computer, there are a number of machines that are designed to be more energy efficient. Be sure to look for a computer and monitor that has an Energy Star rating.

Green Machine Shop sells machines that use up to 10% less energy than standard ones and also contain fewer toxic substances. The EcoSystem PC uses only 75 Watts, and NEC's PowerMate Eco's processor doesn't generate a lot of heat so it doesn't even need a fan. It also uses less power and the plastic case is non-toxic and fully recyclable.

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Trey's Green Tips

March 18 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The paperless workplace

Back when personal computers first became popular, people thought that the office of the future would have no need for paper. Everyone would have a computer, and every document would be digital. This was great news for environmentalists because trees would no longer get cut down to make into paper than just ends up in the trash again.

Today, while it's true that in many offices use digital documents, this doesn't seem to have reduced the use of paper that much. Printers and photocopiers have become less expensive over time and make it very easy to produce documents rapidly and in large quantities. In fact, they make it much easier to waste paper!

We might not be able to stop using paper completely just yet, but we can be smarter about how we use it. Here are a few ideas:

  • Think twice about printing documents, email messages, pictures, and things you find on the Web. If it really doesn't need to be on paper, save a digital copy or a screenshot instead. A digital copy is just as easy to share with others, and you won't be wasting paper or ink on something that's going to get thrown away.
  • Try to buy paper that is made from recycled post-consumer paper. You probably won't notice a difference, but the trees and landfills sure will.
  • Recycle the paper that you do use. Many different types of paper can be recycled, including office paper, newspaper, magazines and catalogs, cardboard, and phone books.
  • Get as much use as you can out of your paper. Re-use junk mail envelopes for grocery lists, use the back of paper that's been printed on as scratch or doodle paper, and turn newspapers into gift wrap and craft projects.
  • If your school doesn't have a paper recycling program, talk to your teachers about starting one. You'd be surprised how much paper gets used at school every day!

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle , Trey's Green Tips

January 14 2009

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: How to Dispose of Technotrash

Technotrash, also called Electronic waste or
e-waste, is any broken or unwanted electrical or electronic device, and is currently the most rapidly-growing type of waste. Technotrash contains all sorts of hazardous and non-biodegradable materials that are very unsafe for the environment, and it has to be disposed of using special methods. Many European countries have even banned technotrash from landfills.

To help protect the environment, you really should avoid putting technotrash in with the rest of your household's garbage. Check with your local recycling centers to see if they take technotrash, or enter the type of trash and your zip code at Earth911.org to look for other recycling places nearby. You can also ship it to a company that specializes in disposing of technotrash, like GreenDisk.

Because electronics contain precious metals including gold, silver, and copper, technotrash can actually be worth a little money. Why not hold a community fundraiser to collect and dispose of everyone's technotrash? You'll be helping both your community and the environment at the same time!

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle , Trey's Green Tips

September 10 2008

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Reducing Waste from Games

The computer and video game industry is very large. Thousands of games are produced every year and played by people all over the world. Producing all those games requires a lot of materials and resources, from the energy used to run the developer’s computers while they are making the game all the way down to the paper used for the user manual.

One way that game companies are reducing their waste is to offer their games as an online download instead of selling it in a box at the store. This is great because not only do they conserve the resources used to make the game boxes and ship them to the stores, but also you don’t have to waste gasoline driving to the store to buy it or figure out how to dispose of a game that you no longer play.

Some games, like MMOGs, will have the game (and future expansion packs) available both as a download and on the store shelf. To reduce your own environmental impact, you can choose the downloadable option rather than the box. If you have old games that you don’t play anymore, consider taking them to a used game store and trading them in for other games, or even giving them to a friend.

posted by Trey
topic: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle , Trey's Green Tips