Buy Greener Electronics

Are there green electronics?

Or at least greener electronics.  Right now, we don’t really have what we’d call “green” electronics – they are still made with too many natural resources and toxic chemicals. They are manufactured in poverty wage countries, often under troubling worker conditions. And they are not nearly recyclable or upgradeable enough to be considered “green” yet.

But  we, as purchasers of electronics, need to use our purchasing power to support companies or products that are moving in the right direction. And we need to pressure them ALL to do better.

Those who labor in the global high-tech factories or third world recycling operations experience poor working conditions, little labor protections and virtually no health and safety protection.

How to find greener electronics at home, work, school

CEH website banner

Resources from the Center for Environmental Health

We don’t quite have “one stop shopping” for finding green electronics, but there are some resources we can use. The Center for Environmental Health (CEH) – one of the partner groups in this coalition – has put together a great Green Purchasing Website that shows you what you can do to find green electronics at home, at work and at school. Visit their website for tips on extending your product’s lifespan, resources for identifying environmentally preferable products and other helpful tools. Businesses and Universities can show their commitment to greening their organizations by taking CEH’s “Sustainable Electronics Pledge”.

Quick summary of some purchasing tools:

Tool What products are covered What part of “green” does this tool cover?
EPEAT label
Now: computer equipment for “institutional purchasers” – so business, but not much consumer equipment. Soon: TVs, printers, scanners, copiers, multi-functions – consumer and business Companies grade their products against a range of “environmentally preferable” criteria, grading as bronze, silver, or gold.Products and their grades are listed on the Epeat registry. EPEAT is a good start, but is weak in many areas. Still, start with EPEAT gold products if you can.Sample procurement questions that go Beyond EPEAT.
Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics

Greenpeace logo

Computer, TV, mobile phone, game manufacturers Greenpeace publishes a  “Guide to Greener Electronics” that evaluates companies on efforts to remove toxics from their products, as well as on climate impacts and recycling. The guide is updated 2 or 3 times a year
ETBC Recycling Report Card Computers, TVs, printers, game consoles We publish a report card on electronics companies’ own takeback and recycling programs One important element of “green” is whether you can easily recycle your old product with the manufacturer.
BFR and PVC Phaseout Report Report covers a whole range of products, including home appliances, computers, tvs, cell phones ChemSec (a Swedish NGO) published a report lists products from 28 electronics companies and indicates whether they contain brominated flame retardants or PVC – both chemicals. Go to report. Electronics product results start on page 22.
Failure Rates
Laptops, iPhones, digital cameras, smart phones, game consoles Square Trade publishes reports on certain electronics failure rates. See results by company. Square Trade is a product warranty company
Cell phone radiation levels CNET Website on Cell Phone Radiation
Cell phones on the market in October 2012
This tool gives us an easy way to find lower radiation levels in phones.  Cell phone carriers don’t show this info. By law, cell phones in the U.S. must have a SAR (specific absorption rate) of 1.6 or less.