You may be wondering what could possibly make computers green.

After all, for most of their existence, computers have been decidedly bad for the environment: they use up electricity, they contain harmful materials and their packaging leaves a lot to be desired in terms of eco-friendliness.

That said, several computer makers have made great strides in recent years to start manufacturing green computers.

For instance, Apple Computers Inc. has made a point about how much they’ve done to reduce the carbon foot print of their products.

The company notes on its website that over the past decade, Apple’s designers and engineers have developed smaller, thinner and lighter products.

And Apple reports that although the most recent 21.5-inch iMac is more powerful and has a larger screen than the original 15-inch iMac, it contains 50 percent less material and generates 35 percent fewer carbon emissions.

For its part, Dell has also worked to reduce the carbon emissions from its computers.

Its laptops and desktops were designed to consume up to 25 percent less energy by the end of 2010 compared to systems offered just two years ago. All Latitude, Precision, and OptiPlex systems can be configured for EnergyStar compliance by users.

Dell has also done something unique with its packaging.

Bamboo is gaining more and more popularity as a sustainable packaging alternative because of its relatively small environmental impact. Bamboo trees can be harvested in about five years after they’ve been planted. That’s much faster than the decades required for hardwoods to grow to maturity. In addition, bamboo plants regenerate quickly after a harvest.

Dell introduced bamboo into its packaging portfolio in November of 2009. The company has used it as an alternative to molded paper pulp, foams and corrugated cardboard. The first Dell products to be packaged in bamboo were the Inspiron Mini 10 and the 10v notebooks.

While it is becoming more and more popular, Dell noted on its website that many municipal recycling programs do not accept bamboo packaging materials. The company said it is working with Georgia-Pacific, Unisource Global Services and Environmental Packaging International “in an effort to certify bamboo packaging for recycling.”

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