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Nov 112010

By Bill Sullivan
Green Right Now

If you are looking at the big picture, the Samsung UN55C8000 delivers 55 inches of view. Image: Samsung

If visions of a new computer, an upgraded cell phone or a flat screen TV are dancing in your head this holiday season, you don’t necessarily have to feel guilty about it. No one will confuse adding 50 inches of viewing pleasure with planting a tree when it comes to carbon footprint, but bringing that shiny new toy into your home may not be quite the environmental faux pas it used to be.

From design to operation to disposal, electronics are getting a little more eco-friendly. That’s a good thing, too, since we seem to be incorporating more and more of them into our daily lives. According to the Consumer Electronics Association, a typical American household features 24 electronic devices, from clock radios to DVDs and Blu-Ray players to computers and TVs.

That can be 24 energy-sucking environmental time bombs…or, with a little research and careful shopping, something a bit less taxing on the power grid and the planet in general.

One way to try to lessen your impact is to look for the Energy Star label. That designation assures that any electronics you are considering are verifiably more energy efficient than others on the market.

Yet another good source is the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT. Products certified by EPEAT meet standards set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers in a variety of areas, including choice of materials, design for end of life, life cycle extension, energy conservation, end of life management and packaging.

Of course, everyone is claiming to be some kind of “green” these days. How can the average consumer avoid “greenwashing” and make good choices?

In addition to Energy Star and EPEAT, consider advocacy sites such as Greenzer. You can look up a wide range of electronic items and find their “Greenzer Score,” which combines information from Energy Star, EPEAT and other sources Greenzer considers relevant to the product in question.

With all of that mind, here are a few things to look for as you head out to the mall with credit card in hand and the best of intentions in your heart:


Image: energystar.gov

Sorting out the relative merits of various makes, models and sizes is about to get a lot easier: That familiar yellow EnergyGuide label seen on home appliances will soon be attached to televisions in stores. TVs manufactured after May 10, 2011 will be required to carry the designation, which currently is used for dishwashers, refrigerators and the like. Consumers will be able to get an estimate of the cost to power a TV for a year and how those costs compare to other similar units.

Until then, you’ll need to do a little more of the homework on your own.

Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) are more efficient than plasma, but many true video aficionados find the picture quality lacking. OLED (Organic Light-Emitting Diode) promises better picture quality with higher efficiency, but the technology is in its early stages.

If you want to go big with an LED, the Vizio VF552XVT (a 55-inch screen for about $1,650) and Samsung UN55C8000 (also 55 inches, but more pricey at about $2,900) may be solid options.

Prefer plasma? Panasonic’s Viera TC-P54Z1 offers a 54-inch screen in for under $2,000, and Samsung’s PN50B850 delivers a 50-inch screen for about $2,100.

In terms of testing and comparing sets currently on the market, the industrious folks at CNET have done much of the heavy lifting. Click here to find out what’s available and what kind of impact that new set is likely to have on both your carbon footprint and monthly electric bill.


China-based Lenovo has carved out a niche in the “green” computing game by becoming one of the first manufacturers to make that commitment part of their corporate mission statement. Lenovo’s ThinkPad laptops ($400-$1,300)   contain 85% recycled plastic content, while ThinkVision LCD Monitors ($230 and up) combine 65% post-consumer recycled plastic with 20% post-industrial content.

Lenovo ThinkPad L412. Image: Lenovo

In addition, Lenovo products have earned the Energy Star 5.0 rating, meaning you can expect to trim as much as 60 percent off energy usage. ThinkStation workstations (450-$1,300) deliver an 86% or higher increase in power supply efficiency as measured by EPEAT.

Lenovo’s ThinkCentre ($500 and up) line earned EPEAT’s top ratings among desktops, while the ThinkPad series shared the top spots among notebooks with Toshiba’s Portege ($899-$3,499) and Tecra ($839-$1,349) models.

A bit closer to home, Dell recently was named the greenest company in America by Newsweek. The magazine recognized the Texas-based manufacturer for focusing on sustainability in supply chain and operations and diverting 484 million pounds of recycled materials from landfills since 2006.

According to Dell, its OptiPlex ($539 and up) business computers come with energy management features that have saved an estimated $5 billion in energy costs over the past four years. Also, if you purchase a Dell Inspiron Mini 10 ($499.99 and up) or a Dell Streak tablet ($549), each comes in a bamboo package that can be composted for easy disposal.

Cell Phones

Want to be a little greener while texting your friends or checking your Facebook page? There are a few options to consider.

Samsung Blue Earth. Image: Samsung

The first “green” phone from a U.S. carrier was the Motorola Renew W233 ($13-$34.99) for T-Mobile. It’s pretty basic, but call quality is good and the battery doesn’t drain quickly. Plastic parts are made from recycled batteries, and the ink on the user manual is soy-based.

You’ll have to unlock the Samsung Blue Earth ($259 and up) to use a U.S. carrier, but it may be worth it. Blue Earth features solar panels on its rear face that help charge the battery.

The  Sony Ericsson Naite ($119.99 to $139.99) is made from recycled plastic and is power-efficient in standby mode. It also includes a charger compliant with the Energy Star 5.0 standards.

If you are not necessarily looking for a big-ticket item this year, but you’d still like something cool, here are some other ideas that combine fun with peace of mind:

  • Wind-Up/Solar Radio: Kaito’s design operates on any of four power sources – wind-up, solar, batteries or plug-in electric.  Twelve hours of sun charges the NI-MH batteries sufficiently to produce 6-8 hours of playing time.  Good for camping or for those pesky natural disasters. List price: $49.95.
  • Crank flashlights: We all make sure to check the batteries in our emergency kits, right? (Uh, sure…) With the Electrilite Crank Flashlight, a dead battery is no problem. Light is generated when you crank the handle, and the device doubles as a cell phone charger for most phones. About a minute of winding produces 30 minutes of light. $19.95
  • HYmini Wind Charger: A handheld, universal charger/adapter harnesses renewable wind and solar power or conventional wall plug power to recharge cell phones, MP3 players, iPods, digital cameras, etc. $74.98
  • Boogie Board Paperless LCD Writing Tablet:  Make lists, take down notes, or just doodle without wasting paper or ink. Write with the included stylus or even a fingernail. The device uses no power until you erase, and the sealed internal battery is good for about 50,000 erasures. Tablet is only 1/8” thick. $39.95

Oct 222010

Dell headquarters in Round Rock.

From Green Right Now Reports

Dell has finished as the No. 1 company in Newsweek‘s 2010 Green Rankings. The magazine notes that “Dell has built its sustainability strategy over the years by setting a series of ambitious goals, several of which it has already met. In 2008, the company announced it would reduce its total emissions by 40 percent by 2015. It is well on the way to achieving that goal.”

Newsweek credits Dell’s efforts to reduce the environmental impact of its products at all stages of their life cycles, from design to disposal. “The company’s laptops and desktops are now built to use 25 percent less energy than comparable systems made in 2005.” Dell’s green efforts saved its customers more than $5 billion in energy costs over the past few years, the magazine reports.

Other Dell accomplishments include:

  • The company has also used 7.2 million pounds of post-consumer recycled plastic to build new computers–the equivalent of recycling 263 million water bottles.
  • Dell takes back and recycles any of its products for free, and will also take back competitors’ products at no cost with the purchase of new Dell computers or peripherals.
  • Consumers can also mail back old equipment, Dell will pick up items at their homes, or they can drop them off at more than 2,000 Goodwill or 1,500 Staples locations.

Rounding out the top five companies were HP, IBM, Johnson & Johnson and Intel.

See the full report at Newsweek online.

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May 262010
Greenpeace sign on Dell HQ in Round Rock, Texas (Photo: WeAreAustin.com)

Greenpeace sign on Dell HQ in Round Rock, Texas (Photo: WeAreAustin.com)

From WeAreAustin.com

The environmental protection group Greenpeace hung a large banner at Dell’s Round Rock headquarters Wednesday morning, saying the company hadn’t kept its promise of eliminating certain chemicals from its products.

Greenpeace claims that Dell promised to eliminate chemical byproducts such as PVC plastic and brominated flame retardants. The company has pushed that deadline back to 2011.

The banner, addressing CEO and founder Michael Dell, proclaimed “Michael, what the Dell? Design out toxics!” It was hung by climbers Wednesday morning and removed by workers a few hours later.

Apr 152010

From Green Right Now Reports

Dell and Goodwill Industries International have announced they will extend their Reconnect program, which lets consumers drop off any brand of computers or computer accessories for no-cost recycling, to Canada.

Starting this week in Southwestern Quebec and on May 1 in London, Ontario, consumers may drop off used computers for no-cost recycling at Renaissance, a Goodwill affiliate, and Goodwill Great Lakes. The expansion adds to more than 1,900 Reconnect locations throughout the U.S.

Through the program, donated equipment meeting Reconnect’s criteria are resold, and devices needing repair are refurbished or broken down into parts to be recycled by Dell partners.

“The partnership supports Goodwill’s job training programs, employment placement services and other community-based programs for people who have disabilities, lack education or job experience, or face other challenges to finding employment,” Jim Gibbons, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International, said in a statement.

Launched in 2004, Reconnect has diverted more than 96 million pounds of e-waste from landfills and created more than 250 “green jobs,” with Goodwill employees managing responsible computer disassembly and disposal, the two organizations said.

“The Reconnect model really works,” Mike Watson, senior manager of Dell Global Recycling Services, said in a statement. “Donating used goods to Goodwill has become second nature for most people. Reconnect exemplifies what sustainability practices can mean to our communities. It gives new life these old systems – or, at least, their parts – and gives deserving people jobs and skills they need to be successful.”

A list of participating Goodwill locations is available online.

Aug 112009

From Green Right Now Reports

For those who view corporate green initiatives as being more about building image than building profits, Dell has a reminder that “green” is also the color of money.

The Round Rock, Texas, company says its expects to save an estimated $5.8 million a year as a result of power-saving projects and building upgrades in its facilities worldwide. The company, which sources more than 25 percent of its global energy needs from renewable sources, is also piloting solar projects on select campuses to incorporate even more renewable energy in its operations.

Dell says that by the end of 2009, it expects to cut its global power use by around 48 million kilowatt hours per year — enough energy to power more than 4,000 average American homes for one year. It will accomplish this through a combination of building upgrades, power management strategies and IT solutions, including:

PC power-down: Dell installed 1E NightWatchman and SMSWakeUp software on 50,000 of its desktop and notebook computers. NightWatchman helps reduce energy waste by turning off computers overnight, and SMSWakeUp repowers machines from a centralized command the next morning. As a result, Dell realizes an estimated 40 percent reduction in energy costs each year, which translates to around $1.8 million in annual cost savings.

Lighting: In office and manufacturing areas, Dell’s facilities team has replaced three-bulb T8 fluorescent lights and incandescent bulbs with two-bulb T5 fluorescents, which offer longer lamp life and provide better output per watt than standard fluorescent tubes. Parking lots now use pulse-start ballasts on the lights, which use less electricity to power the lights on and help them use less energy overall. They’re also piloting the use of energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lights in elevators.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC): In addition to installing solar window films and improving insulation to keep buildings cooler, Dell says it has made other HVAC improvements such as  installing variable frequency drives – devices for controlling the rotational speed of electric motors by controlling the electrical power supplied to them – on pumps and fans in its ventilation systems.

Building automation: Dell expects to achieve around $1.5 million in annual energy savings by automatically turning off lighting and air conditioning systems during non-peak operational hours, and by fine tuning the settings on water heaters, air conditioner chillers and building thermostats.

Global criteria for building design: The company has established sustainability design standards to be integrated into any future Dell-owned facility, anywhere in the world. These standards include clear mandates for site planning, water management, energy and atmosphere, materials and indoor air quality.

Simplifying IT: As a result of virtualization, server consolidation and improved hardware and data center design, Dell is realizing more computing output in a smaller power envelope. By the end of 2009, Dell’s internal IT organization anticipates saving enough electricity annually to power roughly 2,000 average American homes for one year, which translates to as much as 17,000 tons of CO2 emissions saved each year.

Dell also is launching solar pilot projects around the world to determine new, innovative ways it can incorporate more renewable energy into its operations. The company is building a parking cover topped with solar arrays at its headquarters. The structure, designed by Envision Solar and McBride Electric, Inc. using solar arrays from BP Solar, is designed to produce 131,051 watts of solar power and reduce 221,000 lbs of GHG emissions each year, roughly equivalent to planting 23 acres of pine forest every year. The structure will cover 50 parking spaces and include two charging stations for plug-in, electric vehicles.

The company also is participating in Oncor’s “Take A Load Off, Texas” solar photovoltaic program, which pays incentives to homeowners, businesses and governments to install solar panels.

Jun 082009

From Green Right Now Reports

Dell and Goodwill Industries International announced they are expanding Reconnect, a free drop-off program for consumers who want to responsibly recycle any brand of unwanted computer equipment.
The program is adding 451 new donation sites in seven states — Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and West Virginia. The program also will expand in Wisconsin to the Southeastern and South Central parts of the state.

Reconnect is now available in 18 states, plus the District of Columbia.

Goodwill said it will have 1,400 stores participating in Reconnect nationwide. Goodwill, focused on creating job opportunities for individuals with disabilities or others having a hard time finding employment, plans to hire additional staff to oversee the expanded recycling program.

Consumers can drop off any brand of used equipment at participating Goodwill donation centers in their area and request a donation receipt for tax purposes. You can find a list of participating Goodwill locations across the U.S. at www.reconnectpartnership.com.

May 122009

From Green Right Now Reports

Dell said today it will ban the export of non-working electronics to developing countries as part of its global policy on responsible electronics disposal.

The Round Rock, Texas-based company said its electronics disposition policy now exceeds the requirements of the Basel Convention, which bans the export of certain electronic waste based on its material or chemical composition. By expanding its definition of electronic waste to include all non-working parts or devices, irrespective of material composition, Dell said it hopes to prevent the unauthorized dumping of electronic waste in developing countries by requiring that equipment be tested and certified as “working” prior to export.

“As one of the world’s leading providers of technology, we recognize our responsibility to ensure that technology is disposed of properly at the end of its usable life,” Tod Arbogast, Dell’s director of sustainable business, said in a statement. “These additions to our disposition policy reflect the way Dell has been operating for years with regard to electronics disposition. We strongly encourage the rest of the industry to do the same using globally consistent practices like these.

Dell’s policy states that electronic waste processed by Dell’s disposition chain must be tracked and documented throughout the entire business chain until its final disposition. Dell said it audits its recycling, refurbishment and processing vendors at least annually to ensure they conform with Dell’s electronics disposition policy and environmental partner performance standards.

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Apr 202009

By Laura Elizabeth May
Green Right Now

The Ethisphere Institute announced its annual selection of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 2009. The companies selected must promote ethical business standards and practices by going beyond legal minimums, introducing innovative ideas benefiting the public and forcing their competitors to follow suit.

Ethisphere examined 35 different industries and selected 99 companies that demonstrated the sustained and real leadership worthy of the distinction. This year 22 new companies received the honor such as Dell, Best Buy and T-Mobile. An impressive 44 firms have retained the recognition for three years in a row including General Electric, American Express, PepsiCo, McDonalds, Starbucks and Ikea.

Researchers at the institute reviewed over 10,000 companies’ codes of ethics, investment in innovation and sustainable business practices as part of their research.

They evaluated the companies’ for good corporate “citizenship”, innovations that contribute to the public well being, industry leadership and integrity track record. See more about the methodology at the Ethisphere website.

“After a rigorous and competitive selection process, the companies on this year’s list have demonstrated an understanding that ethical practices are not only necessary, but can support a stronger and more sold business overall,” said Alex Brigham, Executive Director of the Ethisphere Institute in a statement.

Ethisphere began identifying the ethical companies in 2007. A full list is available at their website.

Copyright C 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media