Microsoft is making changes to your Xbox console in pursuit of carbon negativity

Xbox in space, saving earth
(Image credit: Windows Central)

Microsoft is on a mission of sustainability. Last year we covered how the company is aiming to move beyond carbon neutrality to carbon negativity, using a combination of green credits, investments in sustainable tech, and changes to its internal operations. To that end, Microsoft is not only planning to eliminate carbon from its direct operations, but also in the products it puts out into the world. On January 11th, the firm is bringing some new options to Xbox consoles to further reduce its carbon footprint, and yours as well. 

Users on the Xbox Insider Program will notice that their consoles will now default to full shutdown mode, rather than standby sleep mode. Microsoft has been working to reduce the boot-up time of Xbox Series X|S consoles to a few seconds even from a cold power-off state, and shutdown mode will also retain the ability to update games, apps, and system features overnight too. 

Xbox's new "Active Hours" feature will help those in standby mode to save power.  (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft says shutdown mode uses up to 20x less power than sleep mode, which will multiply carbon savings when scaled up to millions of Xbox users now and in the future. Those that want to keep standby mode will also get a new "Active Hours" feature to control when (and if) they want to move their console into a low-power state. 

  • Xbox Series X|S consoles will default to shutdown mode, but sleep/standby mode will remain an option for those who want it. 
  • In support of this effort, Xbox Series X|S consoles will be able to get automatic updates even in shutdown mode, but some features like remote play will become unavailable unless you use sleep/standby mode.
  • Xbox Series X|S consoles will also become more "carbon aware," optimizing updates and downloads based on current renewable energy throughput in your local power grid. 
  • Every two Xbox consoles in shutdown mode will contribute the equivalent of one tree absorbing carbon for a decade — based on an Xbox in shutdown mode for an average of 20 hours per day for a year. 

Microsoft is also expanding energy-saving options to Xbox One consoles too with this update, including shutdown mode. 

Even if you're not interested in reducing carbon emissions, these updates should also serve to help you save money on your energy bills, at a time when energy markets are being disrupted. Microsoft has been working hard to reduce, and even eliminate carbon from its entire supply chain. We spoke to the team a couple of years back to learn more about Microsoft's sustainability efforts, which include green credit purchases and investments in carbon capture technology. 

Microsoft has also been investing heavily in green server technology solutions for Azure, while also championing the right to repair in an effort to reduce e-waste and plastic pollution. You can find out more about Microsoft's climate efforts by heading over here (opens in new tab)

Windows Central's Take

Microsoft continues to put its money where its mouth is regarding sustainability. Green policies have become a great marketing tool, to the point where even the big oil companies claim to have sustainable energy programs. 

Microsoft is one of the few firms within the big tech umbrella that continues to release sustainability reports while also inviting independent verifiers to keep it accountable. Microsoft can only do so much to change global carbon use, of course. Even if it manages to eliminate carbon from its entire supply chain from the very base raw materials all the way through to consumer use, it's sadly still a drop in the ocean in the face of the globally industrialized world. Microsoft's efforts, however, will continue to serve as a reminder that the challenge is not insurmountable. 

Jez Corden
Co-Managing Editor

Jez Corden a Managing Editor at Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!