How can energy be saved through Green Steps?

Under the electricity and heating section in the Green Steps, everything related to hot water and electricity use is included. This covers all lighting, all use of electrical appliances, and how we manage the heating or cooling of our buildings. There are many ways to save energy, and every bit counts.

1. Computer manufacturing and usage

Computer production has significant negative environmental impacts, both due to the natural resources used as raw materials and the production process itself. For instance, producing a 2 gram memory chip typically requires an average of 72 grams of chemicals and 1.2 kilograms of fossil fuels. The production of a computer weighing 25 kilograms typically generates 63 kilograms of waste, uses 27,700 liters of water, and 2,300 kilowatt-hours of energy.

When purchasing computers and other office supplies, buyers can opt for devices with less environmental impact than comparable ones; with Energy Star certification for energy savings; or labeled with eco-certifications such as Blue Angel, EU Ecolabel, or others. When a computer reaches the end of its life, it is vital to dispose of it properly. Computers should be placed in electronic waste containers at Sorpa recycling centers to make their reusable parts accessible.

1.1. What can I do to reduce environmental impacts from using my computer?

  • Restart the computer
    While most modern computers are very energy-efficient, it can be improved by habitually restarting at the end of the day, before weekends, or longer breaks instead of leaving the computer in sleep mode. Restarting saves energy because it turns off any background applications and resets the computer. The energy saving for one computer is not substantial, but since Reykjavík City is a large workplace, there can be significant savings in energy and money with improved practices. It all adds up over time.

  • Lock the computer
    If people do not want to restart but prefer to access their data and open windows as they left them, it's better to use locking (Windows key + L) rather than leaving the computer on. Locking ensures that the computer senses no movement or processing, allowing it to go into 'idle mode,' which saves more energy but still remains open for program updates and such.
  • Delete spam emails
    The larger the storage memory of a computer and the more information it holds, the more energy it requires. To save energy, it is therefore good to consider better storage methods. Is it possible that we can do something good for the Earth by deleting our spam and other emails we don't need to keep? The answer is yes, but not everyone realizes how much energy is wasted in the storage of emails. Emails are stored in data centers all around the world. These data centers use an immense amount of electricity, which comes from coal-powered plants. Regularly clean out your email account of both old and spam emails. Also regularly empty the trash bin in the email application.

2. Printers and print paper

Paper has various impacts on the environment at all stages of production and use, such as deforestation, timber processing, the release of pollutants from paper and pulp mills, and eventually as waste, to name a few. Use lightweight paper in printers and copiers to reduce the amount of timber used in paper production. Printing on both sides of the paper reduces the amount of paper needed. It is important to set double-sided and black-and-white printing as the default setting on employees' computers if possible.

2.2. How can I reduce the use of printer ink?

  • Electronic documents
    The best advice to reduce printer ink usage is to print less or create electronic documents for reading on the computer.
  • Choose ECO print settings
    To reduce ink usage, choose ECO-printing settings, grayscale or draft settings on printers through the 'print properties'. The printout will be slightly grayer but this does not matter in daily printing. These settings could also be set as defaults.
  • Environmentally friendly ink cartridges
    Cartridges from recognized manufacturers are more environmentally friendly, with much emphasis now on quality and reducing packaging. Contact the cartridge vendors for information about environmentally friendly cartridges. If the printer is environmentally certified, the cartridges are included, and the printer would not get certification unless the cartridges were also environmentally friendly. Toners can be recycled with plastics when they are empty.
  • Set devices to go into sleep mode
    Many electronic devices like printers, copiers, fax machines, and projectors can be set to enter sleep mode if left unused for a certain period. The devices reactivate when they are used again, such as when a print job is sent to the printer. Keep the time it takes for the devices to go into sleep mode as short as possible and adapt to the needs of the users. You usually need to activate these settings in the devices themselves. Printers without sleep mode settings can be centrally managed to turn off at set times and turn back on when a print job is sent.

3. Electronics

Other than computers, electronic devices should be manually turned off overnight, on weekends, and during holidays. Electrical devices still consume power while plugged in, even if they are set to standby.

To facilitate consumer comparison of household appliance energy use, there is a harmonized European Union standard that all manufacturers must adhere to. According to this standard, washing machines, dishwashers, dryers, and stoves are rated from A to G, where A represents the highest energy efficiency and G the lowest. These energy labels were updated in 2021 but the previous labels had been in use for 25 years. Today, the most energy-saving products on the market will initially receive a B or C label. Some products may be marked A but this is not as common as before when many devices had A++ or A+++ ratings.

3.3. What can I do to save energy?

  • Dishwasher
    Fill the dishwasher before starting it. It uses the same amount of energy regardless of how much is washed at once. Use the economy or Eco program as often as possible. Use as little dishwasher detergent as possible and only use environmentally labeled detergents, such as those marked with the EU Ecolabel or the Nordic Swan Ecolabel. Washing pots and other large utensils in the dishwasher is not efficient. Wash dishes as soon as possible so that food remains do not dry. This allows for a shorter wash cycle and lower temperature. Rinse all food remains off first to avoid clogging the dishwasher filter, and when there are fewer grease residues on the dishes, a lower temperature will suffice. However, it's good to wash at a higher temperature occasionally to kill all bacteria in the machine and to clean the machine and remove any accumulated grease.
  • Washing machine
    Fill the machine with laundry, as it costs about the same to wash a small or large load. Don't use too high of a temperature; you can save about 30% of energy if the heat is lowered by one third. Skip the pre-wash if the laundry is not very dirty. Rinsing with cold water before washing can save energy. The lower the water temperature during washing, the less electricity is used. Often, washing at 40°C instead of 60°C is sufficient. Labels on clothing indicate the maximum temperature the garments can withstand, but are not instructions on which temperature should be used for washing. Use environmentally certified detergents. Similar to the dishwasher, there is a need to occasionally wash at the highest temperature so the machine cleans itself.
  • Dryer
    Hanging up laundry saves money and energy, and it also causes less wear on the clothes. If it's necessary to use a dryer, it's best to wring the laundry well before putting it in the dryer. Clean the lint trap after each use. Put an adequate amount of laundry in the dryer, neither too much nor too little. Both overloading and underloading cause more energy use than drying an appropriate amount at a time. Use the energy-saving setting when available.
  • Stove
    Make sure the pot is appropriately sized for the burner. If the pot has a smaller diameter than the burner, we are wasting energy. An uneven bottom on a pot or pan can lead to increased electricity use. Use a tight-fitting lid on the pot and do not remove it while boiling. If the lid is not on the pot, it requires three times more energy.
  • Chest freezer
    It is advisable to place the freezer in a cool location. The lower the ambient temperature, the less electricity the freezer uses. The optimal temperature in the freezer is around -18°C. If the temperature is lower, electricity usage increases. Ensure that the cooling grid on the back of the freezer is clean and that enough air can circulate around it. A confined and dusty cooling grid can cause higher electricity use. Do not run the freezer empty and remember that an empty freezer uses as much electricity as a full one.
  • Refrigerator
    The proper temperature in the refrigerator is 4-5°C. Electricity usage increases by 4% for each degree the temperature is lowered. Ensure there is adequate ventilation behind the refrigerator. Poor ventilation can lead to 5-10% more electricity usage. Refrigerators without automatic defrosting need to be defrosted regularly.