Monday, August 22, 2011

Greener less toxic computers and computing tips

A new computer for back to school. Do or don't? In tech purchasing, as in nearly everything these days, it's possible to spend your pennies more wisely for your sake and the planet's, now that companies are being vetted for energy efficiency and reduced pollutants. On the other hand, given the hazardous e-waste released by improper "recycling" (read, dumping) of 50-80% of our e-waste abroad, you might want to hold onto your old machine, upgrading its memory (and saving your money) for as long as possible.

If you really want or need to buy new, ask the company if they'll take your old machine for free recycling.
In a nutshell, here's what to look for new, and what to avoid:

Choose It: Energy Star computers with least toxic contents

Lose It: Computers that waste energy and contain hazardous chemicals

Did You Know? If all computers sold in the U.S. met the U.S. EPA Energy Star standards, we’d save about $2 billion in electricity each year, and reduce as many greenhouse gases as taking 2 million cars off the road.
Toxic brominated fire retardants (BFRs)can migrate out of computers [casings] into house dust, according to a 2004 Environmental Working Group study. Learn about other hazardous chemicals in computers from the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

4 things to demand from a new green computer:

It should be energy efficient/ Energy Star compliant.For lists of Energy Star desktops and laptops, click here.
* It should minimize the use of hazardous chemicals. The Environmental Working Group has a list of PDBE-free (toxic fire retardants) computers with links to manufacturers’ websites, while Greenpeace (below)also examines PVC, arsenic, lead and other toxic components.
* Its maker should have a responsible takeback/ recycling program
* The company should be significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
* The company should receive a high rating from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) and from Greenpeace's annual electronics guide (see below).

Here are the computer companies who scored among the top ten greenest in Greenpeace’s most recent, 2010 Guide to Greener Electronics.

1. Nokia
2. Sony Ericsson
3. Philips
4. HP
5. Samsung
6. Motorola, Panasonic and Sony in 3-way tie
9. Apple
10. Dell

For the details, see Greenpeace's rankings page.

If your student can wait till Xmas, or better yet, the post-Xmas sales, Greenpeace's new guide comes out in November 2011 and I'll keep you posted.

Old or New: Energy saving tips

Whether you keep chugging along with your old computer or buy a new one, you can always improve on its performance and your energy savings by smart usage.

*Use your machine's built-in power-saving features. To learn what they are, how to activate them, and calculate how much you would save, check out the EPA IT Calculator and other tools featured on the Climate Savers Computing website.

Turn off your computer and the power strip when it's not in use. See more tips from the EPA.

If you turn off your PC when it's not in use, you can save 188 kilograms of CO2 and 437 kilowatt hours (kwh)a year. Significant savings, with the average national cost of a kwh topping 12 cents in 2011.

Finding more products

Want more simple green living tips? Subscribe to my free monthly e- newsletter by emailing And, for Choose It/ Lose It lists with brand names in everything from cookware to cosmetics, see my book, Do One Green Thing. Thanks!

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