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Dear EarthTalk: Where can I find information on which electronics and their manufacturers are greener than others, with regard to components, manufacturing processes and end use efficiency?
– John Franken, New York, NY

Now that many consumers are beginning to care about their own environmental footprints, manufacturers are responding with loads of greener offerings. One good place to find them is the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, which ranks the 18 top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, televisions and game consoles according to their policies on toxic chemicals, recycling and climate change. Greenpeace hopes that by publishing and regularly updating the guide they can both educate consumers about their choices and influence manufacturers to eliminate hazardous substances, take back and recycle their products responsibly, and reduce the climate impacts of their operations and products.

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According to Greenpeace, the top five electronics manufacturers from a green perspective are Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Philips, HP and Samsung. These companies get high marks with Greenpeace for eliminating or scaling way back on the use of hazardous chemicals linked to cancer and other health and environmental problems, which in turn makes recycling their products less problematic.

Nokia gets top honors from Greenpeace for the second year in a row: All of the company’s new phone models and accessories for 2010 are free of brominated compounds, chlorinated flame retardants and antimony trioxide, three of the most toxic chemicals used commonly in most mobile phones and other consumer electronics today. Toshiba, Microsoft and Nintendo are the last place finishers on Greenpeace’s list for various reasons, including backtracking on or failing to make commitments to phase out chemicals used in the production of vinyl plastic (PVC) and brominated flame retardants (BFRs).

Aother good place to find info on green electronics and related products is the new website of TopTen USA, a non-profit that identifies and publicizes the most energy-efficient products on the market. The goal of the group—which is part of a global alliance of like-minded non-profits—is to make it easier for consumers to find the most energy- and money-saving models, which in turn encourages manufacturing innovations that will shift the whole market in a greener direction. Besides listing the greenest individual models of desktop computers, laptops, monitors and televisions TopTen USA also lists the greenest refrigerators, freezers, dishwashers, clothes washers and even vehicles.

The non-profit Green Electronics Council, initially set up to help government, institutional and corporate purchasers evaluate, compare and select electronic products based on various environmental attributes, has now opened up its EPEAT green certification database to consumers. Some 1,300 computers, thin clients, workstations and monitors from dozens of manufacturers now bear the EPEAT certification label ensuring compliance with green manufacturing and recycling standards. All federal purchasers are required to choose between EPEAT-certified models when possible, and the database has steadily gained traction across a wide range of industries. Now consumers can freely browse the listings to see how various items from the likes of Apple, LG, Panasonic, Lenovo and Sony, among others, stack up.

CONTACTS: TopTen USA, www.toptenusa.org; EPEAT, www.epeat.net; Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/toxics/electronics/how-the-companies-line-up.

SEND YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTIONS TO: EarthTalk®, c/o E – The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; earthtalk@emagazine.com. E is a nonprofit publication. Subscribe: www.emagazine.com/subscribe; Request a Free Trial Issue: www.emagazine.com/trial.


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