Green Electronics Made Not So Easy: How Companies Are Marketing EPEAT
EPEAT, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, is like LEED certification for electronics; it monitors the environmental impact of electronics much like LEED monitors buildings. Products are ranked either bronze, silver, or gold, depending on how many of the 51 criteria they meet. Criteria include recycling programs for products, the labeling of plastic parts for recycling, the elimination of "environmentally sensitive" material, ENERGY STAR®, RoHS, and WEEE compliance, among others. Companies are taking a serious look at the certification now that at least 95% of federal agency electronic purchases must be EPEAT-registered.
Naturally, the EPEAT website has a list of all certified products on their site, but now Softchoice, a major IT provider, is including the EPEAT ranking within the technical specifications of all available products. Softchoice is making an important step here; increasing the visibility of EPEAT as well as explaining its importance.
Computer manufacturers are doing a great job of implementing the EPEAT standards. HP, Dell, Toshiba, and Lenovo all have EPEAT gold certified products. But much like the Eco TV, marketing does not seem geared toward these environmental efforts.
Take HP's 2710p. HP is quick to include ENERGY STAR® compliance, but fails to mention EPEAT gold certification. Dell, too, makes a significant note of ENERGY STAR® compliance. Dell even offers meticulously detailed environmental datasheets for all their products, but only if you go looking for them. And you'll have to look vigorously; the information is not easily searchable. However, neither Dell nor HP are making EPEAT a searchable criteria or listing the certification in the technical specifications.
Toshiba produces the most gold certified notebooks but says the least about it. Only on their green programs page was their any information on what the company is doing environmentally. While, RoHS, WEEE, EPEAT, and recycling are mentioned, what features appear in what computers is left up in the air.
Lenovo is the clearest about their computers. ThinkPad pages feature a compare section that includes EPEAT ratings and ENERGY STAR® compliance.
These companies have no doubt done their research. ENERGY STAR® is included more often because it is far more recognizable than EPEAT to the average consumer. There does seem to be a target EPEAT buyer: business. A majority of gold certified Dell and HP systems are in the business class. This makes sense; businesses are where energy savings will make the biggest difference since they are buying and operating multiple machines. As EPEAT becomes a recognizable selling point, companies will surely begin to include the standard in marketing efforts, much like Softchoice. But for now, while EPEAT may make buying green electronics easy, some companies are making it harder than it has to be.