The fast-moving pace of technology is good news for gadget lovers, but not such good news for the environment. As we acquire more and more electronic products, an explosion in e-waste (electronic scrap) containing toxic chemicals that cannot be disposed of safely is a growing concern. To make environmental matters worse, devices are burning up more energy than they need to through being left on while not in use.

The blame lies with both PC users and manufacturers. Last year saw campaign group Greenpeace take on Apple, slamming its lack of environmental policies and non-existent plan to reduce its eco-impact. Apple CEO Steve Jobs rectified this in May, when he posted environmental targets online.

Other PC makers have been making a lot of noise about their energy efficiency, reducing carbon footprints and cutting non-renewable or toxic components. PC World's carbon-neutral PC has been picking up a lot of press attention, while Intel has been working on energy-efficient Santa Rosa and Centrino processors and rolling them out into various laptops.

Laptops that have flash memory rather than hard disks are another green choice. With no platter to spin, far less energy is required to write data to memory. They're a pricey option at the moment - Sony's Vaio TZ18GN costs $700 (about £350) more than its hard disk version, and has a 32GB capacity rather than 100GB - but we expect to see prices drop as more are launched.

More than a coincidence

This year, the long-promised European WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) directive came into full force, requiring IT firms to take responsibility when goods they've made reach retirement age. Dell and others have been heavily publicising their take-back schemes. This is something each company is legally obliged to do, yet some are more open than others to taking away all your unwanted kit rather than only items you bought from them.

There are legal requirements for consumers too. If we choose not to give back outdated equipment, we must dispose of it responsibly at a recognised recycling centre or in another approved manner.

But simply giving back outdated kit to the place from whence it came is not a complete answer for those of us keen to be a little greener in our technological dealings. Choosing wisely in the first place can be just as important.

To help you make more informed decisions, read on. We've put together a 10-step guide to greener computing and if you follow all of them, you'll already be half way to eco-friendly bliss…