Greenest e-Gear

Here's a guide to go about finding the greenest e-gear. It's not as easy as it sounds!

There are three approaches to evaluating green gear for purchase.

One is to look at various publications' and organizations' recommendations of specific equipment models within an e-gear category, as we have done in our "Finding the Greenest" posts, and by looking at the EPEAT computers and monitors: 450+ Gold-rated products available in the USA, plus products for 40 other countries. ENERGY STAR® computer and office equipment is another resource: Click on the equipment category in the left sidebar, then look for product finder utilities on the page. You'll probably have to page down.

The second is to purchase based on the overall rating of a company's products. Greenpeace's 13th Guide to Greener Electronics is an example. (See four-year analysis of company trends.)

The third is to look at the overall rating of a company's sustainability efforts. Newsweek's Green Rankings 2009 includes the tech sector in its ratings of the 500 largest US companies. The Greenpeace Cool IT Challenge is another.

All this points out the challenges green buyers have making sense of various ratings: do business with the greenest enterprise or buy the greenest product? (Apple has an emphatic but controversial position on enterprise vs. product ratings.)

Even more challenging is that various rankings appear to contradict each other, even when coming from the source.

Here are our listings of the Greenest E-gear.

Dell Challenges Apple Green Claim

Apple claims "The New MacBooks. The world's greenest family of notebooks." Dell Computer challenged Apple's claim before the National Advertising Division (NAD) of the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB). Here is an excerpt from the NAD/CBBB press release, which includes Apple's response.

NAD noted in its decision that "what is unique to this advertiser is that it has elected to only produce computer notebooks that meet the highest EPEAT ratings. While other manufacturers may have subcategories of lines with similar ratings, none has comparable high ratings for all of the notebooks it produces."

However, NAD believed that consumers could reasonably take away the message that a “family” of notebooks is a line of products and not all the products produced by a manufacturer. Accordingly, NAD recommended that Apple modify its “world’s greenest family of notebooks” claim to make clearer that the basis of comparison is between all MacBooks to all notebooks made by a given competitor and avoid the reference to "world's greenest" given the potential for overstatement - noting that, for example, some Toshiba Portage notebooks have a higher ["greener"] EPEAT rating than MacBooks.

Greenpeace noted when releasing its 12th Guide,

Apple's new computer lines, virtually free of PVC and completely BFR-free, demonstrate the technical feasibility and supply-chain readiness of producing alternatives to these hazardous substances . . . It's ridiculous that some companies, such as Dell, are busy challenging Apple's advertising claims when Apple is clearly leading its competitors on toxics phase out. All PC companies should be concentrating on matching or beating Apple’s lead on this important issue.

Green IT

I am not writing this as an employee of an energy efficient IT harware and software manufacturer but as someone who knows the "green" IT market in the UK and what is really going on behind the doors of most companies, I write this because it annoys me as a person with environmental interests, as a father, as a consumer, as somebody who lives on this earth, an as a hater of all two faced corporate spin doctors, if you say you're going to do it, do it properley this is OUR planet.

I work for a Green IT manufacturer based in Sheffield, UK, we have been producing "green" market leading PC's and servers for over five years, our figures leave all the big companies far behind. Alas as true as this may be, have you ever heard of us? probably not, we are constantly in a David and Goliath situation.

People are not willing to check the whole of the market, they just approach their usual vendor and say "what sort of green equipment have you got?" job done, think no more and tick it off the green agenda, this is not being "green" or just by replacing everything with laptops is not "green" they are an energy efficient replacement in comparison with a desktop or tower, but think of the plastics used, the mercury, the battery acid and disposal even the toxins produced in the creation process, as well as the fact that you can't really upgrade a laptop to a succesfull level so you have no choice but to buy another, even if its just the screen thats defective or just the keyboard or any other kind of internal error, etc. Need I say more, if you have ever used a laptop I'm sure you understand where I am coming from.

We have workstations that operate at 6 watts, PC's with draw levels of 17 watts and servers that could save companies quite literally millions of pounds in energy bills, a high percentage of each unit is recycled or recyclable after use, each unit is built with the next 5 years in mind and we do not compromise power and speed (and nor do we just stick an Atom 1.6 processor into eveything), compare that to the big companies, they want to stay big and will drip feed us the technolgy for as long as we buy it, with energy star 5 now coming in as the standard office grade (a standard set by the EU) I am finding that no one knows anything about it, why?

Shall we ask the corporations?

The technology has been around for years as we have proven and the machines we have in R+D would make your eyes pop and head wonder what these other manufacturers have been doing with all that money that you have been paying to them for the last twenty years.

Oh and I hate the word "green" it has been adopted by far too many people for marketing purposes (I like to refer to this as Green Wash), energy eficiency is the key and recyclability.

I guess this is more of a rant than a comment, but hopefully soon this sector will see sense in true energy efficiency.


Case Study of Home Purchase

I was recently asked about power consumption for a particular piece of home electronics. My reply illustrates the complexities of this sort of assessment, so I’m publishing it here.

HP does not appear to publish power specs for the HP MediaSmart Server EX487, but online reviewers cite peak load consumption in the 60W-72W range. HP does claim that its power management offers a 1W sleep mode.

Real-world power consumption is a function of technical and behavioral issues, including configuration, use patterns, and power management settings.

Heat is also an issue. A data center may spend as much energy cooling a server 24/7 as powering it in the first place. Home servers tend to be less expensive to cool, as the heat cost is only associated with warm periods requiring air conditioning.

Storage or printers connected directly to a network (“network attached”) also save energy over gear attached to a particular computer in that no host computer has to be powered on for other computers to access that resource. But a media server is overkill if the requirement is simply shared storage and printers on a home network. This can be fulfilled more economically with simple network attached storage (NAS) units. I use a 500GB NAS device with two USB printer ports and a sleep mode. It costs <20% of the HP unit and consumes <20% of the power at peak load.

Dell's Studio Hybrid

Consumer Reports wrote of the Dell Studio Hybrid:

"In our tests, this Energy Star 4.0-compliant desktop used about 60 percent less electricity than a typical desktop. That didn't seem to affect its performance."

I could not find this article online, so you'll have to check out page 37 of the Sep 08 paper issue. (I also could not find CR's own Website Statement of Sustainability!)

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