I've often wondered whether it's more environmentally friendly to use a desktop or a laptop.
To compare purely the electricity usage, I can of course calculate how long I leave my computer turned on, measure the electricity usage with a meter, convert the kilowatt hours to metric tons of CO2 pollution depending on my power company or source of power (my power company's website's calculator indicates about 3000KWh makes a metric ton of CO2 emissions). Desktops are clearly worse for the environment in this respect.
But there are other factors to consider, and I'm not sure how to compare them to the electricity cost. For example:
- There are a lot of harmful and unjust mining practices involved in building a computer to get rare metals - is this impact greater for a desktop or a laptop?
- Laptops have batteries, which are bad for the environment.
- But desktops have more mass, and electronic waste is bad for the environment.
There may be specific situations where computers can be built from parts, often that people give away, which mitigates some of these concerns. But I don't know how to compare the environmental cost of production of any extra desktop parts / laptops that I have to buy against the difference in electricity usage. Does anyone have any insights into how to do this analysis, or can anyone point to any studies that have been done? Let's assume that the computer will get recycled at the end of its life (I don't know enough about electronics recycling to know whether there will still be any harmful materials left though).