ESP Day 31: TV

I watch way more TV than I want to, but it’s one of those things that’s everyday sustainable in that it’s SO EASY TO DO, but that is not generally good for my health nor that of the planet’s. 

And then there is the TV itself.  The TV is a big source of energy usage and waste, and also a huge toxic waste problem.  I know this, and yet I know the allure of a shiny new HD tv.  My boyfriend and I stood transfixed in front of a $1200 HD plasma screen, watching Happy Feet, last night at Circuit City.  It was beautiful!

With the transition to digital TV next year (February 17, 2009), there will be a LOT of new TV purchases, and I bet a lot of it will be based on incomplete information about what that means for TV viewing. 

The US Department of Commerce has this site with info, and TV Converter Box Coupons: https://www.dtv2009.gov/.  Importantly, TVs connected to cable, satellite or other pay TV service will not require a TV converter box from this program.

And here is what Coop America Says:

  • Check your television. – Many TVs made after 2003 were equipped with digital tuners.  Look for a label that says “Integrated Digital Tuner,” “Integrated Digital Receiver,” “Digital Receiver Built-in,” or “Digital Receiver Built-in.”  If you have a digital tuner already, you’re all set.
  • Use a converter box. – If you don’t have a digital tuner, a set-top converter box can still keep your TV from becoming e-waste.  Each household is eligible to receive two vouchers, valued at $40 each, to use toward purchase of a converter.  Check out www.dtv.gov for more information.
  • Recycle your television – If you must purchase a new television, make sure your old one isn’t simply carted to a landfill.  The Basel Action Network provides a list of recyclers who have pledged not to export hazardous e-waste.  Also, Sony is offering a free take-back program for all Sony electronics in the US.
  • Speak out about the e-waste nightmare — Finally, take our action to tell the FCC that you’re concerned about the coming deluge of e-waste that may be triggered by the digital switch.  Tell the FCC to require manufacturers to follow Sony’s lead and take responsibility for their products throughout their entire life cycles.

BONUS ENERGY-SAVING STEPS:  If you must purchase a new television, look for an LCD (liquid crystal display) model, marked with the Energy Star label.  LCDs use six times less energy than plasma screen models.  But each TV model uses a different amount of energy, so always look for the Energy Star label, which indicates that the TV uses at least 30 percent less energy than conventional TVs. Philips recently launched its new Eco-TV, an LCD model that saves energy by dimming the screen when the TV sensors tell it the room is dark, among other measures.

You can cut your energy use further by unplugging your TV (and its attached appliances) when you’re not watching it; this prevents your electronics from consuming electricity even while not in use.

Fortunately, our TV is connected to cable, and we don’t need a new TV set.  I think what we need to do to make TV Everyday Sustainable for us is twofold:

  • Only watch shows that we really want to watch.  Like So You Think You Can Dance, and a newly discovered gem: KQED’s ImageMakers, which airs wonderful short films like these.
  • Make it easy to switch off the power to the TV. 
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