Friday, January 13, 2012

How to choose greener electronics

Think big picture when you choose your next electronic device.
A small enviro footprint can be part of the cool factor.
How many old electronics do you have lying around your house? The pace of innovation is so fast these days that within 18 months the industry can deem something virtually obsolete and be pushing consumers to upgrade. Even if you don’t want to buy a newer version, often you have little choice since some items cost more to repair than to buy new and many items can’t be repaired because replacement parts aren’t available. In our disposable world, electronics make the list of things “designed for the dump”, items made to be disposable. Crazy but true.

This approach to electronics consumption is creating mountains of e-waste, clogging our landfills with toxic PVCs (poly vinyl chloride – nasty stuff), flame retardants, lead and mercury, and more.  
The good news is that some electronics manufacturers are working to green their products and their manufacturing processes. Helping nudge them along is the Green Peace Guide to Greener Electronics. Published regularly since 2006, it is helping build awareness about the environmental impact of electronics and lobby electronics manufacturers to be more environmentally responsible.
The guide ranks the top 15 TV, computer and cell phone manufacturers. These companies are rated on their greenhouse gas emissions and their plans to reduce emissions, on the energy efficiency of their products, efforts to eliminate hazardous substances from produces, use of recycled plastics, and durability and ease of repair. Manufacturers’ supply chains are part of the evaluation as are take-back programs and recycling initiatives for obsolete products.
In the 2011 report HP tops the list with a score of 5.9 out of 10, followed by Dell (5.1), Nokia (4.9) and Apple (4.6). The scores aren’t stellar but year over year the leaders are improving their efforts to create all-around greener products.
Choosing top-rated electronics is one way to help the industry move in the right direction.  Just review theguide before making your next purchase. You can also do a lot to lessen the environmental impact of the electronics you already have. Reduce energy consumption simply by turning off computers and other electronics when they’re not being used. If you have them plugged into a power bar, turn that off too when they’re not in use.
Be sure to recycle old electronics. The Fundy Solid Waste Commission accepts old computer systems (monitor, hard drive, printer, speakers, mouse, keyboard, scanner,) and other electronics Saturday mornings at the Household Hazardous Waste facility. (The computers are shipped to Resnet, a non-profit in Edmundston NB where they are disassembled to salvage working components and recyclable materials. Some systems are refurbished and donated to low-income families and non-profit groups.) Old cell phones can be dropped off at Future Shop, Staples, Superstore and some cell phone dealers.  The Future Shop drop box also accepts CD players, MP3 players, CDs, DVD players and ink cartridges.
The ultimate goal is to have manufacturers create longer lasting, updatable products. Choosing the greenest products today is the best thing we can do to push manufacturers in the right direction.

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