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Buying Green Electronics

Think Green

To minimize the environmental impacts of electronic products, consider various product attributes before purchasing. Choose products that have reduced toxics content (i.e., reduced lead, mercury, and other heavy metals), greater recycled content, higher energy efficiency, longer life expectancy, and ease of upgradeability, and contain features that facilitate recycling at end-of-life. Consider whether leasing electronic equipment is appropriate for your organization. Also, consider purchasing refurbished or remanufactured electronic equipment.

When evaluating electronic equipment to determine if it can be upgraded or repaired, purchasers should look for products that:

  • Have modular designs that allow for easy installation and service of hardware or memory upgrades.
  • Utilize latches or snap construction to enable quick access to internal components.
  • Are manufactured without glue and/or fixing tape, because they are difficult to remove.
  • Do not require special tools for removing or replacing parts or batteries.

Purchasers also should look for product attributes that will, when the time comes, facilitate recycling through ease of dismantling and sorting. Select products that:

  • Minimize the use of different types of materials (e.g., plastic resins) because products containing diverse materials are more difficult and time-consuming to sort.
  • Use screws and fasteners that are made of the same type of material as the parent part so that they may be recycled together.
  • Don't contain foams, coatings, or paint that can contaminate parts and prevent recycling.
  • Have connections, such as breakaway joints and panels that allow plastic housings to be removed easily.
  • Eliminate labels by molding information directly onto parts, avoiding the need to use additional materials or chemicals that could contaminate plastic.
  • Use internationally recognized symbols for coding plastic parts for easy sorting.

Other questions to consider when selecting new electronic equipment include:

  • Is the product or its battery rechargeable?
  • Does the product use replaceable parts that are readily available from the manufacturer or retailers?
  • Does the product use remanufactured parts?
  • Does the product contain recycled-content material?

These characteristics can help extend the life of your electronic equipment, delay the need to purchase newer equipment, and reduce the cost of recycling at end-of-life.

Giving Electronics a New Lease on Life

Purchasers who do not want the responsibility of dealing with end-of-life equipment, but still prefer to use the most up-to-date products, should consider leasing instead of purchasing. This option allows them to return old equipment to the vendor for upgrades or credits toward future purchases. Leasing also eliminates consumer responsibilities for proper product disposal or management because they do not own the equipment. Another option involves selecting a dealer, retailer, or manufacturer that operates a product take-back program and allows consumers to return old equipment when purchasing new products or system upgrades.

Other Resources for Buying Green Electronics

  • Energy Star Office Equipment:
    • Information about energy efficient office electronics.
  • EPEAT:
    • An easy-to-use resource for identifying high-performance, environmentally preferable products.
  • iFixit:
    • A global community of people helping each other repair things.

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