Dolphins will thank you. Trees will blossom. The world will be made right. Upgrading your PC is about more than saving money – it could well save the planet...

This column appears in the July 06 issue of PC Advisor, available now in all good newsagents.

There are plenty of compelling reasons to get the best out of our PCs, printers and peripherals – but did you realise that saving trees is among them? Well, sort of.

In our fast-paced consumer society, with its seemingly unquenchable desire for the new and improved, we inevitably end up binning the old and inferior. But that may well be to our cost – hurting not just our wallets, but the environment as well. I'm not about to start hugging whales or hand-rearing endangered beetles, but I will say this: our computer waste needs more than dumping in the virtual trash can.

Take printer cartridges. Astoundingly, gram for gram, cartridge ink is more expensive than the finest Dom Perignon or Krug champagne. Yet in the UK we chuck away more than 60 million print cartridges per year. Only five percent are recycled; the rest will take around 1,000 years to decompose in landfill sites. The fact that it takes nearly three litres of oil to make a single printer cartridge means we would save almost 180 million litres of oil if we recycled our cartridges in the UK. That's more than four times as much as was spilled by the Exxon Valdez oil tanker into Prince William Sound in 1989.

PCs are problematic too. The microchip industry involves more energy, water, fossil fuels, toxic chemicals and elemental gases than any other industry in history. The act of making a computer uses around five times as much energy as you'll need to power it over its lifetime. Amazing facts, but here's the whopper: the estimated energy savings potential of upgrading a tired computer is some 20 times greater than that of recycling it.

Greener than green

Upgrade your PC instead of recycling it and you'll be greener than the greenest of grasses – not to mention quids in. For if recycling the likes of printer cartridges makes environmental sense, spending a little to keep your PC in tip-top condition could save you a fortune in the long run.

Upgrading processors, adding extra RAM, swapping out your graphics card and expanding your hard disk drive can often breathe new life into a PC that was destined for the recycle bin or the landfill.

Actually, it isn't the environment that I'm so concerned about. Being a self-proclaimed gadget-loving impulse buyer, saving money is high on the list. Upgrading saves you money, it's as simple as that – and you don't have the hassle of reinstalling software and files on to a new PC, meaning you are up and working that much quicker.

If your PC really is ready for the scrapheap, by all means buy a new one – they are often more energy-efficient than older models. But if you can upgrade, then do. You might just save the world.