PALO ALTO, Calif. -- You're typing at your computer, and the phone rings. You stop working and answer the call. When you return to the computer, the screen has a picture of a fish in water and a message that says: "A leaky faucet that will fill a cup in 10 minutes will leak 3,000 gallons a year."
Now where did that come from?
It's out of the mind of Russ Mumford, who has created a software program called Green Screen. The program is an unusual new use for the time when computers "rest."
Screen savers are programs that turn a computer terminal blank or display a moving image if no key on the keyboard has been pressed for a set period of time. This prevents an unchanging display from damaging the monitor by burning into the screen's phosphors.
"There are 70 million Americans sitting in front of computers everyday," said Mr. Mumford, an advertising man from Visalia, Calif. "So you've got a medium in place where you could create custom graphics supporting environmental education, data security and that type of issue on a custom basis for medium- to large-size companies. It could incorporate their own logo and be aimed at their own audience."
Mr. Mumford is negotiating with Bank of America and Safeway to tailor environmental messages close to the hearts of individual businesses.
"We ask what issues are important to each company," he said. "Water conservation is more important in California than it is in Oregon. In Southern California, ride sharing is big, while in the Bay Area, curbside recycling is a key issue.
"These will be issues that will change and develop over the years," Mr. Mumford said. "And we will try to stay current with what is important."
Mr. Mumford's advertising agency, The Adgap Group, is located in Visalia. But he belongs to the Peninsula Conservation Center in Palo Alto, where he is a member of the business environmental network.
He spends most of his time promoting Green Screen in the Bay Area because "environmental interest is the strongest in this area as opposed to anyplace else in the country."
He began selling Green Screen through his company called Greenidea about a year ago. In addition to the program featuring dripping water and swimming fish for water conservation, Mr. Mumford offers a pirate floating around the screen with the words: "Don't pirate software" as a computer security message.
Another program shows a swirling effect on the screen, which turns into the message: "A white paper is worth twice as much as colored paper."
Then the swirl returns, and new text appears saying: "Colored paper requires considerably more bleaching and processing." That message supports recycling white office paper.