With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, many consumers have electronics at the top of their shopping lists. This holiday season, the average American is expected to spend over $230 (more than a third of their gift budget) on electronic products, up about 5% from last year.
Increasingly, shoppers are asking about green electronics; they want to use their consumer spending to support companies doing the right thing to make their products more eco-friendly. We applaud you who seek to spend your green on green.
But we hesitate to say there are truly “green” electronics at this point. This industry still has a long way to go (in finding safer chemicals, and using more recyclable materials and designs) before it can really claim to have “green” products. But still, it’s good to support the companies that are making efforts in the right direction, even if we are still at the baby-steps part of that long march towards green.
Luckily, there are some resources out there to help identify companies and products that are leading the way on key environmental issues, which you can find in our 2010 Holiday Shopping Guide For Finding Greener Electronics compiled by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH), a partner group in the Electronics TakeBack Coalition.
We wish we could tell you there was a single green label that would be a one-stop shop for finding truly greener gadgets. That was the idea behind the EPEAT label (currently available for business computers and monitors), but it’s simply too weak on key environmental criteria to be the only thing you look at, although we recommend EPEAT “Gold” rated products as one thing to consider. Instead, we have combined a few different resources, report cards, and other tools to make this as user-friendly as possible.
The shopping guide includes these resources, all in one handy printable reference:
- A side by side chart of the latest rankings from the Electronics TakeBack Coalition alongside the latest scores from Greenpeace, to give you a sense of what the top electronics companies are doing (and not doing) in the areas of chemicals, energy and e-waste takeback and recycling.
- A list of products “free” of brominated flame retardants and PVC, that are available in the United States. PVC and brominated flame retardants (BFRs) are hazardous substances that pose human health and environmental concerns and are being phased out by leading electronics manufacturers.
- NRDC’s Energy Efficient TV buying guide. NRDC has been a strong advocate for energy efficiency in electronics. Their new guide lists the 200 most energy efficient televisions available. NRDC also offers additional tips on how to minimize the energy use of TVs and some of the products connected to them (like video games and cable and satellite set top boxes).
The greenest gift of all
Given all the dated computers, cell phones, printers, VCRs, and other electronics that we all have piled up in our closets, we know that the greenest gadget is the one you don’t buy. Or at least the one you buy used. While this won’t satisfy those craving the latest gadgets, for many of the rest of us, buying refurbished electronics will work just fine. CEH’s website has resources for buying used electronics and for prolonging the life of your existing products.
But if you’re determined to buy electronic stuff this holiday season, don’t forget to bring along our guide when you go shopping. In addition to the Holiday Shopping Guide, CEH’s website offers concrete steps people can take at home , at work or at school to improve the sustainability of their electronics.
Judy Levin is the Pollution Prevention Coordinator at the Center for Environmental Health, a partner organization and Steering Committee Member of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition.