What makes a Computer or Electronics Product Green?
Posted by Norman Fong
You are interested in a new computer or new TV or new electronics gadget. Your old electronics have been recycled. You want to be green, to minimize the impact on our planet, and are recycling your old product. Very few people know how to judge the eco-friendliness of electronics. Hundreds of new products have hit the market with reduced power needs. Here are some criteria to judge new electronics on greenness:
Buy from a Green Company
Greenpeace has a ranking guide to the top 18 manufacturers. You can see which manufacturers are more serious about the environment. Select ones that are higher up the list. Nokia and Sony Ericsson rank well.
Computers and electronics
Energy Star rated products have their logo on them and use less energy. If all computer sold in the US had the Energy Star label we could save $2 billion on energy costs. They have certified everything from TVs, monitors, printers, computers to cordless phones. Desktop/integrated desktop and notebook computers, products must meet stringent TEC requirements for estimated annual energy consumption, power supply efficiency, and phantom power or vampire power.
Lawrence Berkley National Labs estimates that 10% of residential power use is wasted toward this as most homes have 40 products constantly drawing phantom power. Keep in mind that their testing has been called out of date, so you still need to follow techniques to save power.
RoHS logo is the European Directive on the Restriction of the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances
in Electrical and Electronic Equipment, also known as the RoHS Directive. Examples of
materials restricted by RoHS include lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, and
the brominated flame retardants (BFRs) PBB and PBDE. Look for products with this marking.
DigitalTips has an Energy Calculator to show how much powering your electronics costs as well as how to find green electronics.
Fair Trade and Electronics
The ultimate in green electronics would also have the product classified as Fair Trade. This means that the suppliers to the manufacturer are all responsible and paid a fair wage. It is extremely difficult to trace the hundreds or thousands of items in a typical phone or computer though. More progressive manufacturers are requiring their suppliers to certify that their parts are conflict free.
It is difficult to force factories to pay a reasonable wage and expect products to be priced competitively. Many of the people working in these factories are paid far better than alternatives like farming.
Computers – desktops, notebooks, and monitors
EPEAT is a certification that helps purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on their environmental attributes. It is based on the IEEE 1680 standard. Any computer that has an EPEAT rating is good. Ones with EPEAT Gold ratings are even better.
Cnet has good reviews of flatscreen TVs that include power consumption. Newer LCD TVs will meet California’s low power guidelines. Newer sets draw less power when idle and when operating. Some Flat Panel TVs have room sensors to turn off when you are not in the room. Optimize your TV with our LCD Flat Panel Power Saving Tips.
TVs made after May 2011 are required to have a EnergyGuide label that shows an estimated annual energy cost as well as cost for similar size TVs.
Cable set top boxes consume a lot of energy. Check with your local cable company to see if they have new energy efficient models that meet the Energy Star 3.0 standard, effective Sept. 1, 2011. A single whole house DVR may remove the need to have DVRs on every TVs
Economically upgrade your current machine within reason to extend its life first. Windows XP software tips to speed up and secure your computer.
The product should be made with as many recycled materials as possible. No toxic materials like mercury, brominate, PVC, or arsenic should be use. The product should be easily recycled when the its life has expired.
Electronics should draw as little power as possible especially when in standby mode. Do not assume that your product is completely optimized to save energy. Follow our techniques to save power using special power strips and power measuring tools to ensure phantom or vampire power is not being drawn.
Look for minimal amount of packaging. The packaging should be made from recycled materials and should be recyclable with itself. Manuals should be the same.
Examples of Green Electronics Products
Etón American Red Cross ARCFR160R Microlink Self-Powered Weather Radio
Etón American Red Cross ARCFR160R Microlink Self-Powered Weather Radio is a fully functional gadget that also has a Flashlight, Solar Power and Cell Phone Charger. Be ready for those storm related power outages.
It comes with a USB cell phone charger to keep your mobile phones running when the power is out or when going camping.
Generate energy to power this sleek radio by simply setting it under the sun or with a few turns of the hand crank. Free yourself and ease your mind with self-powered radio broadcasts anytime anywhere.
It costs about $30 and has good reviews. The bigger and fancier Eton FR600 costs $80 and has poor reviews.
Green Computer Power Supply – 80Plus Rating
Did you know that most older computer power supplies are not very efficient?
Replacing your power supply will a modern 80PLUS certified model will instantly reduce power use. My old power supply’s efficiency was a meager 60%. 80plus.org has a calculator to see potential savings. On a typical Energy Star 4.0 Desktop, you save $14 a year. On older desktops, you will save more.
The Antec 380 Watts Earth Power Supplies is a low cost ($50) eco-friendly, energy-efficient ATX power supply I upgraded to. It is more than 80% efficient at 20%, 50% & 100% load. I instantly found that my machine used about 15% less power with the new power supply over a Ultra Power supply or an Antec 300 Watt PP-303XP power supply. It will probably take over a year to make back this small amount, but I plan to keep this power supply for many years. ou can buy it in a bundle with the Kill a Watt power meter for $60. Anandtech has an article that outlines typical PC power usage.
Tom’s Hardware also remind people that you want a power supply sized for your power needs. Using a 1000 Watt supply for only 50 watt of needed power will result in the power supply not operating in its most efficient zone, even if it is 80PLUS rated.
Even more efficient are 80 Plus Gold power supplies. 87% efficiency at 100% load. Some power supplies are over 90% efficient.
Energy Efficient Notebook Power Adapter
Antec makes the new SNP90 Energy Efficient, slim, lightweight Notebook Power Adapter that supports a wide variety of notebooks including models from Dell, Toshiba, Acer, HP, Sony and more. It includes 7 detachable connectors for compatibility with nearly every laptop on the market. This power adapter has a minimum high-efficiency rating of 87% at full load, saving you money and energy. It is also energy Star certified.
Targus Spruce EcoSmart Backpack made from recycled bottles
It is great that recycled materials are getting more mainstream. The new Targus Spruce EcoSmart Backpack for 15.6-Inch Widescreen Laptops is a new green backpack is made of polyster fabric made from recycled plastic bottles. It also has no PVC and no nickel hardware. They also make a Spruce Toploading case and a Spruce Messenger Bag.
Ecogear also makes backpacks and other bags from recycled plastic bottles.
act2 GreenSmart Eco friendly Green Bags
act2 GreenSmart Bags are made of 100% post consumer recycled water and soda bottles. It takes between 9 and 20 16oz. bottles to make a yard of the various fabrics. The bottles are collected, sorted, cleaned, ground up twice and then spun into yarn.
Eco Friendly or Green Apple Mac Mini
Apple just announced new faster and greener Mac mini desktops. There are very energy-efficient and compact. They use only 12.4 watts of energy at idle and meet forthcoming Energy Star 5.0 specs before its July 2009 effective date. Mac mini has earned the highest rating of EPEAT Gold based on how much power it uses and how recyclable it is. Mac Mini Enviromental Report
Amazon is a good source for Macs. Tax only in KS, KY, ND, NY and WA and free shipping.
Eco Friendly Green Shredder
GoECOlife has shredders marketed as being eco or green. How could a shredder be green?
- They paid to offset carbon used to create this product
- Energy-Saving Technology prevents phantom power loss
- Meets RoHS standards so it doesn’t use lead, mercury and other heavy metals
- Responsibly packaged using recycled or recyclable materials
- No use of styrofoam or plastic tape.
All great things to have but it would have been far better if they also used recycled material for the unit itself. GoECOlife is definitely thinking green, so if you need a new shredder, this would fit the bill. Always try to buy or find a used one first.
Be sure to read our article:
New Conflict Minerals Law
The Dodd-Frank financial law passed in July 2010 added the so-called Conflict Minerals law that is meant to pressure companies who use minerals from war-torn Congo in Africa. Companies must take steps to verify that minerals such as tin, tantalum, tungsten, and gold are not sourced from Congo. Products that don’t contain minerals from this region can be marked “DRC conflict free”. This affects many products from laptops to electronics to ballpoint pens to drill bits to jewelry.
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