'Standby culture' adds £120m a year to energy bills

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While three-quarters of employees say they have become more environmentally aware in the past five years, more than a third still fail to turn off their computers when not in the office. Energy campaigners say the "standby culture" is responsible for one million tons of carbon being pumped into the atmosphere each year.

Home computers waste £41m a year and emit 220,000 tons of carbon dioxide when left on standby.

A nationwide campaign to reduce greenhouse gas levels begins today, with the focus on encouraging people to switch off electrical equipment, rather than just leaving it on standby.

The Energy Saving Trust wants the average person to try to reduce their energy consumption by 20 per cent with simple measures, such as switching off televisions, PCs and DVD players.

A spokeswoman for the Energy Saving Trust said: "People seem to think that if they put stuff on standby, it is saving them money and electricity, but that just isn't true. A computer on television on standby will still be using 90 per of the energy that it would if fully turned on, and that is a massive resource in terms of carbon dioxide emissions."

Reducing average energy consumption by 20 per cent could save a typical three bedroomed, semi-detached household £250 a year, the trust says.

Campaigners also want people to be more environmentally aware at work as well as home. A survey of 1,000 people by Fujitsu Siemens found 37 per cent admitted to leaving their computers on standby when they leave the office.

Employees in the North-east were the worst offenders, with 42 per cent using the standby button, while 72 per cent of workers in the Midlands already make sure they switch their PCs off properly when going home.

Garry Owen, of Fujitsu Siemens, said: "It was surprising to see that so many workers claimed to have 'gone green' in the workplace and yet they still overlook this most basic way to save energy.

"British businesses need to consider both the financial and environmental implications of leaving a computer running and make turning off their PCs each night a policy."

Environmental groups have called for tougher rules for manufacturers on the amount of power that goods use when they are on standby. Martyn Williams, of Friends of the Earth, said: "This is a big climate change problem. We can agree rules to prevent children injuring themselves with toys; why can't they have rules governing this?"

European ministers have pledged to impose a set of tough new limits on any "standby" emissions.

How to cut waste


Energy saving per year: 23 per cent

Cash saving per year: £140 to £170


Energy saving per year: 0.3 per cent for each lightbulb

Cash saving per year: £7


Energy saving per year: 0.1 per cent

Cash saving per year: £2.50


Energy saving per year: 6 per cent

Cash saving per year: £30


Energy saving per year: 1.7 per cent

Cash saving per year: £35.

Source: Energy Saving Trust