I was just reading Scott Hayes' performance blog article "Are you REALLY ready for production?" and his "Unwise Practice #1". The related recommendation matches exactly what a customer told me the other day. The customer happily mentioned that over the years they moved to give the oldest hardware to their application developers, especially for Java-based applications.
The result was that they were saving on hardware costs (what to do with old machines?) and, even more important, were gaining on performance of their production systems. Almost all resource-hogging design error or inefficient programming became evident during early testing. This saves on testing later in the development cycle and is the best way to ensure resource-conscious programming.