Your Electronics and Your Energy Footprint
As part of BlogHer's Earth Day is Every Day series, let's take a look at all the stuff you use every day that is plugged into the wall or needs periodic charging to keep working. Here are some ideas to help you do your share toward reducing carbon loads, creating a sustainable world for your children, and saving energy.
Certifications and Specifications to Look For
Energy Star is most likely an idea you've already heard about. Any appliance such as a refrigerator, dishwasher, clothes washer, or furnace can receive an energy star certification by meeting certain energy use requirements. The thing most people don't know about Energy Star certification is that it's applied to all sorts of products, not just major appliances.
Visit energystar.gov and click the Product tab. You'll find a complete list of products that qualify for the Energy Star certification. Everything from battery chargers, ceiling fans, windows, cordless phones, computers, fax machines, light bulbs, and vending machines to water coolers. Before you buy anything, you need to look at this resource. If what you want uses electricity, you may be able to find a brand listed that meets the Energy Star qualifications.
Another beautiful thing about buying Energy Star appliances is that many municipalities now offer rebates to reward you for being a good citizen with some of your purchase. I've received large credits on both my electric and water bills from my city because of appliances I've purchased. When you're making a purchase, remember to ask if there are any rebates available in your area.
At GreenElectronics.com you find information about computers, audio/video, personal electronics, emergency electronics, and solar electronics. This site uses more than just Energy Star ratings. They also judge items based on what they call "Green Specs" which looks at
- Stewardship - Company has environmental charter
- Product is RoHS compliant (Restricted use of Hazardous Substances) Product materials are less hazardous to human health and the environment
- Optimized Design–Product design, manufacturing and delivery reduce environmental footprint
- Repurposed - Product has responsible end-of-life programs
- Efficiency - Product is Energy Efficient. This category uses Energy Star and 80 Plus
- Alternative Energy – Product operates using alternative energy sources i.e. Solar, Wind, Wind-Up
The 80 Plus specification requires power supplies in computers and servers be 80% or greater in energy efficiency at 20%, 50% and 100% of the rated load, with a true power factor of 0.9 or greater.
If you're looking for computer hardware, audio or video equipment, personal devices like batteries and chargers, digital cameras, phones, mp3 players, flashlights, back up powers, or solar and windup devices, GreenElectronics.com is another must stop site before you go shopping.
There's one more assessment tool that is helpful, the electronic product environmental assessment tool, or EPEAT. EPEAT is speicifically for desktop computers, notebooks and monitors. These products are tested and rated based on their environmental attributes. A product with a Bronze EPEAT rating meets all their criteria. A product with a Silver EPEAT rating meets all their required criteria and at least 50% of the optional criteria. A product with a Gold EPEAT rating meets all their required criteria and at least 75% of the optional criteria.
On the EPEAT resources for purchasers page, there is a searchable database of the registered products.
Energy Saving Tips and Sites
The US Department of Energy is one of many sources for energy saving ideas. The DOE site called Energy Savers has tips for saving energy at home, at the office, in your car, and in many other ways. For example, in the home office tips area, we learn,
- Common misconceptions sometimes account for the failure to turn off equipment. Many people believe that equipment lasts longer if it is never turned off. This incorrect perception carries over from the days of older mainframe computers.
- ENERGY STAR computers and monitors save energy only when the power management features are activated, so make sure power management is activated on your computer.
- There is a common misconception that screen savers reduce energy use by monitors; they do not. Automatic switching to sleep mode or manually turning monitors off is always the better energy-saving strategy.
Big Green Purse organizes information about eco-friendly products, fair trade organic products and recycling.
Tree Hugger provides information about a wide range of green topics, from architecture to fashion. This summary page at Tree Hugger called "How to Green Your Electronics" is a good place to start. It links to dozens of articles on TreeHugger about solar chargers, batteries, computers, thermostats, iPod cases, home energy monitors, solar jackets and more.
You can make a difference when choosing energy saving electronics by looking for products that meet the standards and specifications mentioned here. You can make a difference by using your electronics in the most energy efficient way after you have them at home. Go ahead, make a difference, on Earth Day and every day.