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Earth Day Electronic Products: Energy Star and EPEAT

April 22nd, 2010

earth-day-products.jpgThe annual Earth Day events of April 22 just set me thinking about the environment and what one can do to save it. What came to my mind were things like jute grocery bags, car pools, CFL bulbs, a well-insulated home, and online reading. I wondered though how one goes beyond these in other areas, for example electronics. I wondered if one can make electronic products that are environmentally friendly or ensure that one buys environment-friendly electronic products. Going through the Electronics category on Amazon.com revealed that this is possible. On the occasion of Earth Day, Amazon has a list of Green products in every category, and I realized that two programs, Energy Star and EPEAT, ensure that electronic products have a rating based on their potential environmental effects. This allows “green” shoppers to buy the ones with the best ratings.

Begun by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy as a joint venture, Energy Star products are supposed to by energy efficient and prevent greenhouse gas emissions. These products meet the strictest guidelines laid down by these departments to deliver quality and energy efficiency at the same time.

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), which began as a collaborative effort to develop an environmental rating system and involved various environmentalists, manufacturers, researchers, and the EPA, has now become a worldwide standard. EPEAT rates electronic products on the basis of 51 criteria like toxic reduction, recyclability, product longevity, recycled content, energy efficiency, and packaging among others. Out of the 51 criteria, 23 are to be met with necessarily whereas 28 are optional. EPEAT gives three ratings – Gold, Silver and Bronze – based on the number of the optional criteria met with above the 23 necessary ones. EPEAT rated products have reduced levels of lead, mercury, cadmium, and other toxic substances while being energy efficient.

While researching I also got to know that if only Energy Star computers were sold in the USA, the energy cost savings would be approximately $2 billion each year, and greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced to an equivalent of those from more than 3 billion vehicles. Meanwhile, Energy Star refrigerators use up to 50 percent less energy than non-Energy Star ones. $75 million would be saved on energy costs if all office products were Energy Star qualified. In fact, if every USA household serviced and efficiently used their air conditioners and heating systems, $14 billion would be saved every year. Using Energy Star air conditioners would reduce greenhouse gas emissions close to $1.2 billion annually. Overall, EPEAT products have saved up to 3 billion kilowatt hours of electricity, reduced 3 million kilograms of toxic substances, and avoided 3.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions since July 2006.

All of these are huge numbers. So what can one do to contribute our share? Use Energy Star qualified or EPEAT rated products. They can reduce costs by up to 30% on your utility bills and insulate your home and office well by sealing ducts, windows, doors, and ceilings. Every year, have your heating and cooling systems serviced by professionals at least once, and remember to change their filters once every three months. You could go a step further and get your house analyzed by Energy Star Home Performance to know how you can improve energy efficiency at home. Amazon.com is a partner with Energy Star as well as EPEAT, so the next time you are out shopping for electronics online, make sure you look for Energy Star or EPEAT electronic products.

This article was supplied by Nidhi Varma, a freelance writer who specializes in various environmental and travel-related topics.

One Response to “Earth Day Electronic Products: Energy Star and EPEAT”

  1. comment number 1 by: vancouver

    Electronic green products…… sounds really eco-friendly. At the verge of gigantic global warming we should be really careful about using products.

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