Sending your child off to college; updating your workspace; furnishing a new business—while on the surface these three activities might not seem to have much in common, there is one thing they all likely entail: purchasing various electronics. From laptops to televisions, desktops and tablets, you and your checkbook might find yourself overwhelmed by choices, but what many people forget to consider is that our environment, too, feels the effects of these purchases.
Just five years ago it was estimated that a mere 10% of all discarded cell phones were recycled—leaving the rest to become toxic trash. While some progress has been made over the years as public awareness of the issue has grown, more still needs to be done. Now enter EPEAT, or what's otherwise known as the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool.
Established by the EPA in 2006, the EPEAT uses 51 criteria to assess a product's efficiency and sustainability. Depending on how well a product measures up, it can be labeled either gold, silver or bronze—gold being the most eco-friendly.
Housing a searchable registry on its website, EPEAT is making it easier for consumers everywhere to make smarter electronic decisions. Products are divided based on environmental ranking as well as product type. With nearly 3,000 products from approximately 40 manufacturers meeting their qualifications, visitors to the site will find no shortage of options. Big name brands like Apple, Dell, Hewlett Packard and Panasonic are just some of the companies with products making the cut.
In its short existence, EPEAT has made some significant progress, including having an Executive Order enacted on their behalf. Passed by former President George W. Bush in 2007, the order states that the federal government must use EPEAT-Registered products whenever they can. President Obama expanded on this in 2009 with an order that specified that 95% of electronic equipment used by federal agencies must meet EPEAT criteria.
For critics of the program who wonder what switching to more energy efficient, recyclable products really means for the planet, I suggest you check out the Electronic Environmental Benefits Calculator. Great for companies and individuals alike, the calculator measures everything from the benefits of recycling computers to purchasing EPEAT-registered products.
So, the next time you go to purchase an electronic gadget, take some time to check out the EPEAT site first. You might just be surprised by what you find.
[Guest blogger Maria Rainier is a freelance blogger who dispenses online education advice and useful data for students, instructors, and parents interested in the online education industry. She also frequently touches on topics related to the environment, health and wellness.]