UK retailer to sell wooden PC

Wooden PC has zero carbon footprint

A supposedly zero carbon PC is being developed by U.K. retailer PC World, featuring wood casing for keyboard, screen and mouse. Use of recycled materials and low electricity needs will reduce its carbon footprint to 85 percent of a standard PC.

Reminiscent of a wood-framed Morris Traveller estate the 'carbon buster' as it known is mostly made from recycled aluminium, steel and plastics. There is an external power supply and the hardback book-sized aluminium chassis has lots of ventilation slots, removing the need for a fan.

Dixon Stores Group International (DSGi) says its new own-brand PC will draw just 45 watts, 23 percent of a standard PC's 200 watts, and have the same capacity as a current PC, enough DSGi says, to run Vista. There has been criticism that Vista is a resource-hungry OS and shouldn't have been chosen. A Green Party spokesperson thought this might be a mistake.

Derek Wall of the Green Party said: "Vista requires more expensive and energy-hungry hardware, passing the cost on to consumers and the environment."

Simply removing a fan doesn't reduce a PC's power-draw by 155 watts, and the expectation is that the wooden PC will use a notebook-class CPU and graphics chips, making it a pedestrian performer. Its enhanced and power-hungry graphics capabilities will probably not be available.

To make the wooden PC carbon-neutral, PC World will buy carbon offsets. These are being criticized as allowing people to use carbon-emitting devices now with no guarantee that an equivalent amount of carbon will actually be taken out of the atmosphere over the next ten to thirty years. It may also offer customers low energy light bulbs.

DSGi has climbed aboard the green bandwagon. Currys is switching off sales of incandescent light bulbs. All of DSGi's UK retail chains comply with the new WEEE directive - they have to though, and Currys' new distribution center in Newark helps the group reduce carbon emissions by 600 tons per annum.

Some DSGI set-top boxes are graded "Energy Saving Recommended" by the Energy Saving Trust. The group is encouraging the use of recycled carrier bags and working to phase out use of stand-by functions.

John Clare, DSGi's chief executive, said: "Electronic devices form a key part of our lives, and as the number of electronic appliances we own increase, DSGi works actively to off-set the trend of increased domestic energy consumption. I believe that it is critical that DSGi maintains its position as being actively engaged in this area. As a business we are now more effectively showcasing the good work that has already been done and the progress the business has made."

"Making progress on the green agenda is rightly the responsibility of all of us. There are numerous ECO-friendly initiatives each one of us can take that will have a positive impact of the environment, and maybe the easiest would be to flick or unplug the electronic device when it is not in use. We also recommend consumers to buy Energy Saving Recommended appliances, such as AA-rated white goods. This is not just beneficial for the environment, it can also help reduce customers energy bills."

However, through its various retail outlets, such as Currys, with 550 outlets in the UK, and PC World, DSGi has contributed hugely to the electrical requirements of its customers with flat screen TVS, hi-fis, mobile phones, camcorders, digital cameras and PCs. Its retail outlets use huge amounts of electricity though lighting and heating.

It wants to format environment data from across DSGi operating countries into normalized data where ever possible (i.e. CO2/M2, tons waste/M2) but DSGi has made no defined commitment to actually reduce its own carbon emissions. It does aim to develop an updated set of energy-saving measures as guidance for stores and subsequently require each business to make a commitment to a CO2 saving.

There is no aim to calculate the carbon emissions of all DSGi-sold products annually and reduce that number.

Showcasing a low-energy wooden Advent PC as a green flag bearer will make little difference. It's as a good as far as it goes, but possibly akin to putting green lipstick on a carbon-emitting giant.

The wooden Advent could be on PC World's shelves by autumn and cost £399 with the wooden flat-panel screen costing £100 more. A model with an integrated screen will be available later on.

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Chris Mellor

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