Energy use

Energy use action areas

IT consumes significant amounts of energy. Electronics alone were responsible for 24% of the energy used in office buildings in 2012 with a consumption of 253 billion kWh of electricity13. To manage this, there are several actions that have emerged in best practice and at other higher education institutions which can help reduce the energy use in IT.

electronics alone were responsible for 24% of the energy used in office buildings

Sleep mode during the day

Sleep mode

Best Practice: Put computers in sleep mode when the user will be away for 5 minutes or longer.

Action: Sleep mode saves energy compared to keeping the computer on all day. Settings can be configured on laptops so that they automatically enter sleep mode when the lid is closed.

Virtualizing servers


Best Practice: Replace data centres with virtual servers.

Action: Datacentres require lots of energy for cooling. Virtual servers cost less money, result in less material waste and wasted energy, and decrease the environmental impact16.

Multi-function device

Multi-function device

Best Practice: Prioritize multi-function devices over single-function machines for new purchases.

Action: Multi-function machines (e.g., a combined printer and scanner, instead of separate printers and scanners) save energy and reduce waste21.

Turn devices off

Power off

Best Practice: Shut down computers when the user will be away for 30 minutes or longer19.

Action: Shutting down computers saves a lot of energy. According to Energy Star, shutting down computers does not damage the hard drive and it takes much less energy to start up a computer than to leave a computer on14. Work is underway at Waterloo to develop better guidance on processes and requirements for university computing equipment.

Laptops vs. desktops

Laptops vs. Desktops

Best Practice: Transition from desktops to laptops where appropriate.

Action: From the survey of Sustainable IT at Canadian Higher Education Institutions, it was seen that there is a growing trend among higher education institutions to default to laptops. In fact, laptops often use less energy than laptops since laptops are generally 2.5 to 3 times more energy efficient15. Laptops are also more portable which makes it easier to work from home and don’t require a remote connection to a second computer running on campus.

Of course, there are many uses where the computing power of a desktop is necessary for the work being done, and there are more and less efficient laptops and desktops.

[13] (University of Michigan, 2021)

[14] (Energy Star, n.d.)

[15] (Energy Star, Choose ENERGY STAR Certified Office Equipment, 2012)

[16] (University of Michigan, 2021)

[17] (Green Economy Canada, Sustainable IT Procurement Pilot: Implementation Workshop, 2021)

[18] (Taylor-Smith, 2019)

[19] (HP, 2020)

[20] (Taylor-Smith, 2019)

[21] (Green Economy Canada, Sustainable IT Procurement Pilot: Implementation Workshop, 2021)