How to be a greener gamer

As a gamer my hobby poses a conundrum. I describe myself as green but I also partake in one of the most ungreen and consumer-focused hobbies I can imagine. So I started to try and think up some small practical steps myself and others could take to start to improve this aspect of our hobby.

Gaming is my last big luxury – the one thing up to now I’ve not compromised on. But that needs to change, and here are some of the first steps you can take.

Try to reduce your energy use

Use only what you need

Do you really need your entire console collection plugged into the mains? Be more selective about what you’re going to play on and unplug what you’re not using. Standby modes on consoles and TVs quickly sap up power – as does leaving games on pause while you go AFK. (It also causes damage to your DVD drive too) so avoid both at all costs.

You’re probably already using socket adapters to plug in multiple consoles, so set them up a little smarter, make them easy to reach and completely unplug everything at the mains when you stop playing. Even devices that are plugged in and not on still take power from the grid. If you need to leave your router plugged in 24/7 choose an energy efficient one and stick it in it’s own dedicated socket so that’s no longer an excuse for you not unplugging consoles and TVs. Even turning your router off when you’re out or on holiday will make a massive difference and give your device a break.

Use LCD screens rather than plasma

Of the three main TV options, that old CRT screen you’re using for your retro games is definitely not the helping. But when it finally bites the dust opt for an LCD TV over a plasma as it uses slightly less energy, and should cost you less money to run in the long-term. Read more about the LCD or Plasma debate.

When HD gaming, try to go for a smaller screen where possible – but if that’s not an option at the very least choose a highly-graded energy efficient TV which should also save you money!

Use green electricity

Gaming simply isn’t a green hobby because of the amount of electricity we use to fuel it, and more often than not your gaming habit is being powered by fossil fuels and other brown sources of energy. By using a renewable energy provider for your electricity you help to remove the biggest energy problem surrounding our hobby and actively do something to help stop climate change.

Make sure you choose a tariff that’s actually green, not one provided by a big energy company that’s not actually improving the situation. An ideal green energy tariff should be creating new sources of green energy rather than buying up clean energy generated by everyone else. Read the small print for each energy provider and make an informed choice!

Use rechargable batteries

Most handhelds use rechargeable batteries these days. But even then don’t forget to remove a fully-charged device from the mains to save power and prevent battery damage. You should also try to use rechargable batteries for your controllers, wireless guitars and other devices. Rechargeable batteries have come on leaps and bounds in recent years and should last you almost as long as regular batteries if you follow the instructions – and all it takes is a little preparation.

If you’re still using normal batteries – did you know you can recycle them rather than send them to landfill? Ask your local council for your nearest battery recycle bin.

Buy greener electronics

Of the three current gen consoles, the Wii tops the board as the greenest using the least amount of energy with the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 lagging behind in second and last place respectively. Read more about the energy use of game consoles.

If you’d rather not choose between the three main consoles. Make sure that you choose energy efficient TVs and other devices such as DVD players and monitors for your next purchase. Remember using devices that do multiple things use up using more energy than the equivalent standalone product. e.g. watching a DVD or Blu Ray movie on your console rather than a seperate DVD or Blu Ray player.

Recycle and repair

Make your games last longer

If your discs no longer work clean them with an anti-static cloth and some cleaning fluid (for a cheaper option use some stuff you can find easily around the house – furniture polish should do the trick!) For those really scratched, unplayable discs try taking them to be professionally fixed using a disc cleaning service at a local gamestore. The kits you buy in the shops just don’t compare, as industry machines remove the scratched layer off of the disc, making it playable again. Old retro cartridges can be saved in much the same way using cleaning alcohol and cotton buds.

Your current gen systems should still be under warranty, so you’re already making the most of this year-long period. If you must buy a console try to get a second hand one – and even if you opt for a brand new console avoid repair bills by picking out the ones with the newer chipsets. These are more energy efficient and less likely to break down. Find out how to tell a Jasper chipset Xbox 360 from the rest

Buy second hand

As gamers we already buy a lot of our consoles and games secondhand but there are other benefits to doing so. By buying a game second hand you don’t have any of the wasteful packaging that arrives with the game first time around, and the same is true for second hand consoles. You’re reusing the product that someone has already bought meaning the need for more to be produced is reduced!

Dispose of your electronics responsibly

When consoles and games are beyond repair or you simply don’t want them anymore, give them to friends or sell them on. Even broken consoles can be scavenged for parts, and empty game cases or manuals used by those who are missing them. Most public disposal areas have designated areas for electronics – and this is where your consoles should end up rather than in landfill, that way all the harmful chemicals used to make the consoles are disposed of safely in accordance with EU or other international regulations.

Remember that it’s not a case of out of sight out of mind – even if you give things to someone else, are you sure that they’ll dispose of the stuff you’ve given them responsibly too?

Reuse game stuff

And that means everything that you receive through buying games. Cases, leaflets, console boxes, cables – the lot. The excessive packaging for every peripherial can be reused as packing material, storage materials or a helpful part for someone else. Everything that you’re able to reuse again should be leaving the bare minimum for the bin.

Change the way we play games

Take the campaign to the console manufacturers

The process of making consoles and games also uses a lot of power, and on top of that minute amounts of toxic chemicals go into the plastics and metals that compose a console shell and motherboard if you disagree with this (and I hope you do) – take it up with Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft using the Greenpeace site.

Spread the word

Hopefully some of this blog post has given you some food for thought, if it has let other gamers know what they do to improve matters and suggest new ideas, as my post is by no means authoritative. With more and more of the world becoming aware of the threat of climate change gaming runs the risk of falling behind with our part of what we need to do – and that’s going to reflect badly on our community.

If someone challenges you about the impact of your gaming you should be able to list some of the actions that you’re doing to try and improve things, can you honestly admit to that now – and if not, is there something about your gaming behaviour that you can change?

4 replies on “How to be a greener gamer”

Interesting article and definitely not the type of thing you expect to find on your average gaming blog. If people out there aren’t using rechargeable batteries they need to get on that. It saves the environment and saves you a ton of money in the long term. While it isn’t as green to do so, people really should buy games new whenever possible. It is the only way to support the developers and not just the big game retail chains. Not that your point about packaging isn’t valid. If you are a PC gamer, I highly recommend switching to digital only versions of your games via Steam, Good Old Games, etc.

Thanks for your feedback guys. I must say I did write this for entirely the point Jonah made – it’s not the sort of thing that gamers want to – or do – think about so I did my best to think of some small things you can do, and some huge ones that will make a massive difference.

@Jonah You’re right to point out the importance of digital sources of games here – not an option I have thought about but you’re quite right. But I want to make clear reducing your energy use is definitely the biggest aspect you can change.

I’m constantly aware of the amount of energy I use with my gaming to “make myself happy”, so I hope this is a help to someone.

As I told you previously, I really enjoyed this article, Michelle. I tend to leave my consoles on for inordinate periods of time when I’m browsing the web or watching a video, and that adds up to a lot of wasted energy. I always tell myself I’ll soon get back to what I was playing, but it’s not difficult to become immersed in a particular article or topic, losing track of time in the process. I’ve been using rechargeable battery backs for my controllers, and I tend to trade in or donate my used hardware, but I’ve got to address my energy consumption. Oh, and I hope your next post is coming along well.

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