Britain Says Goodbye to Standby

| | No more standby modes for this man |

It seems like it's becoming increasingly difficult to buy an electronic device that doesn't come with a standby mode—the "always on" function that draws a reduced amount of power to allow for quick startups. TVs, videogame consoles, DVD players, cable boxes—basically your whole living-room A/V setup, not to mention your coffee machine—now come stocked with little standby lights that continue to glow well after the devices have been turned "off."

This week, in its annual energy review, the British Government announced intentions to put a stop to this trend, proposing a ban on any device with a standby mode that draws more than one watt of power. With more efficient standby modes—especially from notoriously power-greedy televisions—Britain hopes to reclaim a large chunk of the 8% of annual British energy consumption drawn by devices in standby.

And while we're talking about phantom energy wasters around the house, what about that tangle of A/C adapters beside your desk, used for charging the laptops, cellphones, digital cameras and portable game systems that no gadget fiend can leave the house without? As long they're plugged in, power bricks continue to draw energy—even when not charging anything.

What can you do to eliminate this waste? Put your gadget chargers on one power strip that you can switch off when not in use. While you may not notice a huge difference on your individual power bill, when applied to the estimated 2.5 billion devices in the U.S. running on power supplies, the difference is pretty significant: The Natural Resources Defense Council, a U.S. environmental nonprofit, estimates that increased power-supply efficiency could result in savings of 32 billion kilowatt-hours per year—the equivalent of six coal-fired power plants and 24 million tons of carbon emissions. —John Mahoney