Choose a topic to learn more about greener electronics at home:

  • 1. Greener Products for Your Home view


    The “Greenest” Product You Will Ever Buy is the One You Don’t Buy

    What does your computer have in common with a rhinoceros?

    Are you filled with “techno-lust”? Consider: It takes 1.8 tons of raw materials—530 pounds of fossil fuels, 1.5 tons of water and 48 pounds of chemicals—to produce a single desktop PC and CRT monitor—roughly the weight of a rhinoceros!

    So, before you replace your gadgets, ask yourself: do I really need to replace my current machine? Consider that giving up on your PC also means wasting the 1.8 tons of raw materials that made it. Isn’t there a better way?


    Extend the lifespan of your current product

    Upgrading your electronic gadgets can use 20 times less energy than replacing them, saving natural resources, energy and preventing the unnecessary use of the toxic materials needed to make a new product.


    “Greener” than New: Purchase Refurbished Products

    Unlike “used” products, refurbished equipment is typically taken apart, cleaned, restored, repaired, and then reassembled to be used again. Responsible remanufacturers have strict quality control process for these products to ensure that they meet the same technical and safety specifications as new products.

    Refurbished products can offer significant cost savings and large environmental benefits. You can find refurbished products through manufacturers, online factory outlets, electronics retail stores, online retailers, and private individuals. Unless you are a “do-it-yourself” tech person, be forewarned about products sold by private individuals. Most of this equipment is sold as-is and has probably not been refurbished and brought back to factory condition.


    Resell or Donate your Working Electronics

    Electronics depreciate rapidly; so if you have an idle computer and are thinking of reselling, consider selling sooner rather than later, while it still has value. Donating equipment in full working condition can be a win-win proposition.


    Buy greener products

    Use the reports and report cards on electronics listed below to identify “greener” products:

    Keeping up with the ever increasing number of products and companies making “green” claims can be a daunting task; the reality is that there are no truly green electronic products on the market today. The following resources can help cut through the confusion to identify “greener” products. Join with CEH and ETBC and use your buying power to demand greener products, product takeback and environmentally responsible recycling.

    Greenpeace: Guide to Greener Electronics

    Want to know how electronics companies compare to one another on important environmental criteria like:

    • Use of toxic chemicals?
    • How they handle their e-waste?
    • Their corporate carbon footprint?
    Electronics Without Brominated Flame Retardants and PVC—a Market Overview (pdf)

    This 2010 resource by ChemSec (the International Chemical Secretariat), a Swedish non-profit environmental group, lists more than 500 products made with no or significantly reduced levels of brominated flame retardants and PVC. The registry covers small and large household appliances, IT and telecommunication equipment, consumer electronics (TVs, cameras, video cameras, etc), lighting, and gaming devices.

    EPEAT

    EPEAT is an eco-label that ranks electronic products (bronze, silver or gold) based on how well the products meet a list of preferred environmental standards. EPEAT currently ranks desktop computers, notebooks and monitors; soon it will also rank televisions and imaging devices (printers, copiers, scanners, facsimiles and multi-function devices). The registry lists more than 3,000 products from more than 40 manufacturers worldwide.

    Note: EPEAT is a good starting point, but it has weak requirements in the areas of packaging, manufacturer takeback, and reduction of toxic chemicals.

    ENERGY STAR

    ENERGY STAR is the label created by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to help consumers identify products that save energy.

    Electronics TakeBack Coalition’s (ETBC) Report Card

    An important measure of an electronics company’s “green” credentials is how successful their takeback/recycling program is. ETBC has rated the computer, TV, printer, and game console manufacturers on their takeback programs for consumers in the United States. The companies are graded on how successful they are in getting their products back on a national basis (not just where the law tells them they have to) and how responsibly they are handling the e-waste they do collect.

    NRDC Rating of Energy Efficient TVs:

    NRDC has compiled a list of the 200 most energy efficient TVs on the market as of November 2010. All models listed are already meeting the power use requirements in the future version of ENERGY STAR (Version 5.1) that does not go in effect until May 2012. These TVs will use about 25% less power than those models meeting current Energy Star Version 4.1 requirements. NRDC also offers some helpful insight into the energy use of televisions, video game consoles and cable and satellite set top boxes.

  • 2. “You Make It, You Take it Back” view

    CEH works to encourage manufacturers to take responsibility for their products at the end of the products' lives, a concept called “Extended Producer Responsibility” or “Producer Takeback.” Producer Takeback requires manufactures (not the consumer or government agencies) to take responsibility for the environmentally safe management of their product at the end of its useful life. Producer Takeback provides important incentives for manufacturers to:

    • improve product design
    • increase ease of recyclability and
    • reduce the use of toxic materials.

    Support manufacturers who have free, convenient takeback programs, and who handle their products in an environmentally responsible way.

    See ETBC’s report card to see which manufacturers have stronger programs to take back their products when consumers can no longer use them.

    Send a letter to manufacturers asking them to take it back and recycle responsibly.

  • 3. Saving Energy (and Money) in Your Home view

    Upgrade to more energy efficient products only when you need to buy new equipment.

    Consider the entire lifecycle of electronics before purchasing new equipment. 81% of the total energy your computer will use throughout its life is used during its manufacture—so extending the lifespan of your existing product is the real way to save energy.

  • 4. Environmentally Responsible E-Waste Recycling view

    Use only e-Stewards Recyclers.

    e-Stewards is a new accredited, third-party audited certification program that identifies electronics recyclers who conform to the highest environmental and worker health and safety standards:

    • No export of hazardous waste to developing countries
    • No landfill or incineration
    • No use of prison labor
    • Protection of private data
    • Protection of worker health

    See a full list of e-stewards here.

    Don’t have an e-Steward in your area? Ask your local recycler to contact the Basel Action Network to inquire about becoming an e-Stewards Recycler.

    Avoid E-Waste “Recycler” Greenwashing

    While there are other e-waste recycling standards, only e-Stewards include the necessary safeguards to protect the environment and human health. Other recycling standards have loopholes that allow for the export of toxic e-waste to developing countries, the incineration of e-waste, and the use of prison labor. See a comparison of existing recycling standards (pdf).

    Urge community recycling events to use e-Stewards recyclers

    Before you take your e-waste to “free” community events, find out if they are using an e-Steward recycler. If they are, you are set to go! If they are not, look for an e-Stewards recycler in your area to handle your e-waste.

    E-waste contains many hazardous materials and proper e-waste recycling costs money. If recycling is free for you, ask who is underwriting the cost. It is possible the collection event is being paid for by a manufacturer, the state, a local government agency, a retailer or an event sponsor. But if you are not paying, and there is no clear sponsor paying, there is a good chance that your e-waste will be exported and dumped overseas.

    Ask the electronics retailers in your area if their takeback recycling partners are e-Stewards Recyclers.

    Some electronics retailers are starting to offer takeback programs but only some of them are using e-Stewards Recyclers. Check with the retailer before you take your electronics to find out if they are using only e-Stewards recyclers.

  • 5. Take Action! view