Analysis

6 simple ways to embrace sustainability in gaming for a greener future - from pre-owned to turning off devices

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now

This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.

Practical and actionable steps that anyone can take to mitigate the environmental impact of the beloved hobby

Gaming is a pastime that goes far beyond just the captivating worlds we explore on our screens. Players find solace, excitement and endless possibilities in the virtual landscapes that unfold before them, but outside, our planet is confronted by an ecological crisis, with climate change and human activities impacting the delicate balance of ecosystems.

Gamers have a unique opportunity. By taking conscious steps to reduce the ecological footprint of the hobby, we can make a significant collective impact and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

We've put together some practical and actionable steps that everyday gamers can take to mitigate the environmental impact of the beloved hobby. From energy-efficient gaming setups to embracing digital downloads and playing games with eco-friendly themes, we will uncover how each of us can play a role in preserving our planet, one level at a time.

Energy saving

Optimise your gaming setup to minimise energy consumption. Choose gaming PCs that meet your needs while consuming less power, and make sure to enable energy-saving features on gaming consoles - which could include automatic power-off timers, sleep modes or power management options - and displays.

It's also good practice to turn off devices fully when not in use, as leaving them in standby or idle mode can still consume a significant amount of energy. Get into the habit of powering down your console or PC and any connected peripherals when they're not actively being used.

(Images: Getty Images/Microsoft/Campo Santo)(Images: Getty Images/Microsoft/Campo Santo)
(Images: Getty Images/Microsoft/Campo Santo) | Getty Images/Microsoft/Campo Santo

If possible, you could also choose renewable energy sources for powering your gaming devices. Switching to renewable energy providers or using solar panels can reduce the carbon footprint associated with your gaming hobby.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

You could take steps to make your setup more energy-efficient by lowering the brightness of your screen, turning off vibration features or reducing the volume levels as necessary, small adjustments that can help conserve energy over time.

Bright screens require more power, so adjust the brightness level to an appropriate and comfortable setting without compromising your gaming experience, while vibration feedback in controllers can consume extra power - consider disabling the vibration feature or reducing its intensity, which can also help extend your device's battery life.

Some particularly energy efficient consoles available on the market right now include the Nintendo Switch (OLED model). The original Nintendo Switch is known for its relatively lower power consumption compared to other consoles, but the recently released OLED model boasts improved energy efficiency.

Likewise, the Nintendo Switch Lite - the handheld-only version of the Nintendo Switch - consumes less power since it doesn't need to drive a separate TV display, while Microsoft's Xbox Series S is a more energy-efficient alternative to the more powerful Xbox Series X.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Microsoft's Xbox Series S is a more energy-efficient alternative to the more powerful Xbox Series X (Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)Microsoft's Xbox Series S is a more energy-efficient alternative to the more powerful Xbox Series X (Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)
Microsoft's Xbox Series S is a more energy-efficient alternative to the more powerful Xbox Series X (Photo: CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images) | Getty Images

Go digital

Digital distribution platforms such as Steam and Epic Games Store (or the PlayStation and Xbox Stores or Nintendo eShop on the console side) eliminate the need for physical game discs or cartridges.

Digital downloads have a lower carbon footprint, and digital distribution eliminates packaging materials, transportation emissions and the energy consumption involved in producing physical media.

Trade-in your old games

If you prefer to have your games on a physical disc, consider purchasing pre-owned games at places like CeX (the second-hand market provides an opportunity to enjoy games at a lower cost while extending the life cycle of existing game copies) or trading games with friends.

This helps reduce the demand for new game production, saving resources and reducing waste as fewer new copies need to be manufactured, reducing the associated environmental impacts. It also provides a more cost-effective way to enjoy gaming.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad
Pre-loved video games for sale in a CeX store (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)Pre-loved video games for sale in a CeX store (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Pre-loved video games for sale in a CeX store (Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Eco-friendly materials

Look for gaming consoles or peripherals that are made from recycled or eco-friendly materials. Some manufacturers prioritise sustainability and offer products that incorporate recycled plastics or other sustainable materials.

You could also consider brands that prioritise eco-friendly packaging and reduce the use of plastic and non-recyclable materials. Look for gaming devices that come with minimal packaging and opt for products with digital manuals or documentation whenever possible.

Dispose responsibly

When it's time to retire your gaming devices, make sure to dispose of them responsibly. Many electronic devices contain hazardous materials like lead, mercury or flame retardants, so consider recycling them through proper e-waste recycling programs or donating them to organisations that refurbish or recycle electronics.

Some gaming device manufacturers even have their own recycling programs or partnerships with e-waste recyclers, which ensure that the devices are properly recycled and valuable materials are recovered. Check the manufacturer's website or contact their customer support to inquire about recycling options.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Similar to getting rid of your old games, you could also donate your old gaming devices to organisations, schools or community centres that may be in need of such equipment. Alternatively, some retailers offer trade-in programs where you can exchange your old gaming devices for store credit or discounts on new purchases.

Environmental awareness

Some games are designed to raise awareness about environmental issues and promote sustainability (Journey, Never Alone, the recently release After Us etc). These games often have narratives centred around conservation, climate change or environmental activism. By playing these games, you can immerse yourself in interactive experiences that educate and inspire players to take action in the real world.

There are also games that focus on conservation and resource management, where players are challenged to make sustainable choices in order to protect virtual ecosystems, manage renewable resources or prevent environmental disasters, which can encourage players to think critically about their impact on the environment.

Many city-building or simulation games (like Cities: Skylines) that allow players to construct and manage virtual cities include mechanics that emphasise sustainable development, renewable energy usage, waste management, and pollution reduction, while some exploration-focused games like ABZÛ and Firewatch provide virtual environments that replicate the beauty of real-world landscapes and ecosystems.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.