In 2011, sales of EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) registered ‘greener’ electronics products increased by almost 30% to 120 million. The environmental benefits of over conventional products resulted in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking 1.6 million US cars off the road for a year, cutting out the use of mercury equivalent to over a million thermometers, and reducing solid waste by more than 50,000 metric tons, equal to more than 75,000 US households' annual trash.
EPEAT is the green electronics rating system based on the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards. The programme evaluates computer desktops, laptops and monitors on 51 environmental criteria (including compliance with Energy Star efficiency specifications) and awards EPEAT Bronze, Silver or Gold certification. The organisation’s product registry lets purchasers view and compare the specific environmental performance of registered products from all participating manufacturers.
EPEAT now covers 41 countries, 45 participating manufacturers and more than 3,600 environmentally preferable electronic products. International sales of certified products grew by 40% in 2011, particularly in Europe, Asia and Latin America, compared with 23% growth in the US, which still constitutes over half of the global total.
Other benefits from choosing EPEAT products in 2011 include:
• Reducing the use of toxic materials, including mercury, by 1,381 metric tons, equivalent to the weight of 266 elephants.
• Avoid the disposal of 74,082 metric tons of hazardous waste, equivalent to the weight of 7 Eiffel Towers.
• Savings of over 12 billion kWh of electricity—enough to power 963,716 US homes for a year.
• Avoidance of nine million metric tons of air emissions (including greenhouse gas emissions) and over 77 thousand metric tons of water pollutant emissions.
EPEAT registration will shortly be expanding to cover imaging equipment (printers, copiers, fax and multifunction devices, mailing machines and digital duplicators) and televisions. Standards have already been finalised and registries will open to the public early in 2013. Development of a new server standard is also underway and the existing PC/ Display standard will undergo an update in the coming year.
Review: EPEAT has been a great achievement and become the focus for environmental IT product standards around the world.
The success of the registration is down to two things. Firstly, at an early stage EPEAT became a requirement for government purchase in the US. It's mandatory for 95% of US federal government purchases and other governments around the world have also adopted the certification as a benchmark for purchases, including the UK and EU.
Secondly, although EPEAT started in the US it has pushed hard for, and achieved, international recognition. The organisation has been working with international standards and testing operations for some time and just this year announced that four organisations with global reputations for technical excellence will participate as trust providers in the EPEAT system.
I suspect that EPEAT will do just as well in 2012, mainly thanks to the publicity that Apple provided - for all the wrong reasons. The computer manufacturer decided to pull all its 39 certified desktop computers, monitors and laptops off the EPEAT list of green products. But under the resulting storm of bad publicity, less than a week later Apple said it had made a mistake and reversed the decision. The publicity EPEAT gained was invaluable.
So well done EPEAT. But I’m not sure whether measuring achievements in terms of elephants and Eiffel Towers helps that much (except to provide good graphics)!