Unplugged: Why Your TV And Smartphone Suck (Energy)

Much of what our consumer electronics do is unnecessary.

This page was published 12 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

I was talking to a co-worker recently about how to improve the efficiency of her new TV. She doesn’t watch much—certainly not the five hours a day that new TVs average—so the obvious answer of “Turn it off” wouldn’t have helped much.

Instead, I sent her these helpful tips from the folks at CNET and our friends at NRDC, which basically amount to “at least turn it mostly off,” by turning down the brightness and disabling certain features that are constantly running in the background.

Even more than new TVs, smartphones constantly do a lot of stuff that we don’t really need them to do, and they do it very well. At any given point, even while it’s in your pocket or on your coffee table, the typical smartphone is likely to be bright enough to be visible at high noon, talking to a nearby tower at speeds high enough to stream videos, communicating its location with a satellite and one or more software applications, searching for nearby wireless networks to join, and checking e-mail automatically several times a minute.

These features are what make the phone smart, and they’re rather handy. But it’s kind of stupid for a phone to be doing them at all times. They use energy, drain the battery, and emit radiation, all for things that are unnecessary most of the time. The trick, then, is to at least turn the phone mostly off.

For iPhone users, last week’s New York Times had some helpful tips on how to do that. Tech News Daily recently made similar suggestions for Android users. Try them out, and share yours in the comments. Here’s one from my own experience: Remember to warn your fiancée that the GPS tracking software is turned off before you ask her to look up directions for you.

Jon Wiener was an associate attorney in the Washington, D.C. office, focusing on energy efficiency issues.

Earthjustice’s Washington, D.C., office works at the federal level to prevent air and water pollution, combat climate change, and protect natural areas. We also work with communities in the Mid-Atlantic region and elsewhere to address severe local environmental health problems, including exposures to dangerous air contaminants in toxic hot spots, sewage backups and overflows, chemical disasters, and contamination of drinking water. The D.C. office has been in operation since 1978.