Microsoft has allied with various tech giants and a non-profit group to tout energy-efficient "green" computing. This effort, however, is aimed at consumers, and includes free energy-saving software called Edison that is a scaled-down version of a product Verdiem sells to corporations.

"There are many ways we can reduce environmental impact, from recycling electronics to reducing energy consumption," a Microsoft statement reads. The company has worked with its largest customers and partners to reduce energy waste in data centers, and of course it complies with the voluntary Energy Star program and its PC power management standards. Late last year, the software giant published guidelines describing the power management advantages of Windows Vista over previous Windows versions.

Microsoft says, however, that more can be done. So in concert with Intel, Verdiem, and other companies, and the non-profit Climate Savers Computing Initiative, the software giant is working to educate consumers about the steps they can take. Verdiem's free software is a great start: It can auto-configure the power management functionality in Windows XP or Vista-based PCs to run in a more green-friendly modes, while displaying the cost and energy savings of the changes.

Climate Savers hopes that these efforts will reduce PC-based CO2 emissions 54 million tons per year, a figure it says is equivalent to the annual output of 11 million cars or 10-20 coal-fired power plants. "This effort will lead to a 50 percent reduction in power consumption by computers by 2010, and committed participants could collectively save $5.5 billion in energy costs," the company notes.

Microsoft maintains a Web site dedicated to green computing called Microsoft Environment. Users interested in downloading Edison can visit the Verdiem Edison Web site. The Climate Savers Computing Initiative Web site also maintains a collection of related tools and, of course, a lot more information.