Pay Attention to Those EPEAT Exceptions

One way to ensure you are purchasing the greenest gear is to buy computers and displays certified as EPEAT Gold. But some EPEAT Gold models offer options that can put specific configurations out of compliance.

The EPEAT database notes out of compliance features at the configuration level in an 'Exceptions' field. EPEAT's Sarah O'Brien explained the approach to me this way: "The exceptions field is meant to allow a manufacturer to identify specific configurations of a model registered in EPEAT that will not meet the standard  for some reason...We could try to list products by their particular UPC/EAN/GTIN codes [but] there would be tens of thousands…"

The EPEAT database already contains over a 1300 model-level entries the USA alone, so avoiding configuration-level entries in favor of noting exceptions appears to be a reasonable trade-off.

So what options generate exceptions to Gold compliance? For notebooks, these include processor chips that draw too much power, like the Celeron in HP notebooks, and CCFL backlit displays, used in some AsusTek models. For desktops, the inclusion of certain graphics and networking/storage controllers, as in the Apple Mac Pro series.

Operating systems are also an issue. Some manufacturers note in their exception fields that, "Registration is valid only for products configured with an operating system with ENERGY STAR compliant power management features. Without such features, desktop and notebook computers may not conform with ENERGY STAR and would not be in conformance with EPEAT." Others call out specific non-compliant OS options by name, as in HP's FreeDOS exception.

Most unique is the exception for a couple of AsusTek notebooks: "Product with Plastic and Leather Cover not included. Declaration for product using Bamboo Cover only."

EPEAT offers the 'Exceptions' field for good reason. Be sure to use it!