What is a green electronics product?

Feature story - March 5, 2008
The Sony Vaio TZ11 laptop, Sony Ericsson T650i mobile phone and Sony Ericsson P1i PDA have come out on top in our first survey of greener electronics products. Some products were more advanced than others, but there's definitely room for improvement as none of them scored over 5/10.

A pile of e-waste at CeBit 2008.

We conducted a survey of the main brands of desktop PCs and notebooks, mobile phones, and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), assessing them on their use of hazardous chemicals, energy efficiency, overall product lifecycle (recyclability and upgradeability) and other factors such as the promotion of environmental friendliness and innovation.

Check out the e-waste video

We contacted market leaders and invited them to submit their most environmentally-friendly products currently available. In addition, we placed ads in trade magazines and on websites encouraging other producers to participate. Each company could submit a maximum of three products in each of the product categories.

Thirty-seven products were assessed, from fourteen major electronics brands who agreed to provide information for the survey at the end of 2007. The companies submitted information on their most environmentally-friendly products. Sony Vaio TZ11 notebook, the Sony Ericsson T650i mobile phone and the Sony Ericsson P1i PDA came out top.

The best rated desktop came from Dell (Optiplex 755) and HP (dc5750) but these and other mobile phones, laptops and PDAs didn't score above 5/10.

Our survey was based on voluntary participation by companies willing to submit their products to our critical evaluation. Unfortunately, not all the companies we invited agreed to participate, and in the game consoles category in particular we received either no submissions at all or they came too late to be included. Non-responders included: Acer, Apple, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sharp.

Since submissions closed, several companies have launched products that showcase new environmental innovations. Nokia's Evolve phone uses more recycled plastic and has a highly efficient charger. Apple's Mac Book Air eliminates the use of toxic mercury and arsenic to raise the bar on toxics reduction.

Because the electronics industry is moving fast we are at the world's biggest IT fair - CeBIT in Germany, to check out which companies and products are on the cutting edge of environmental innovation. Our experts will be investigating the facts behind the hype and highlighting the leaders and showing up any superficial green claims. Check out the updates on green innovations at CeBIT

on our blog.

Our survey also reveals that while no individual product could yet lay claim to being truly green, there are plenty of individual innovations by different companies in toxics reduction, energy efficiency, longer lifecycles and recycling. The key to making a comprehensively greener product is combining innovation in each of these areas.

We will continue to challenge electronics manufacturers to take responsibility for the entire lifecycle of their products - from production, through manufacture and to the very end of their products' lives - and to clean up their products by eliminating hazardous substances and replacing harmful ingredients through safer alternatives or design changes while producing energy efficient products.

Manufacturers need to embrace a truly comprehensive approach. Consumers should not have to choose between a toxic free product or an energy-efficient one. They should not need to ask if being recyclable is better than being durable.

When a product offers all those standards and is marketed with consumer-friendly services extending the lifespan as much as possible, then we can say there is a true green electronics product on the market.

Read the full ' Searching for Greener Electronics' survey and where companies stand in our Guide to Greener Electronics that ranks companies overall policies and practice.

Sign Up

Sign up and receive our free newsletter straight to your inbox.

Donate

Help us remove toxic chemicals from electronics.