Archive for the 'Green Consumer/Environmentally Preferable Purchasing' Category

5 Source Reduction Tips for Electronics Consumers

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by

SEI-LinkedIn-Logo-colorHappy P2 Week, from the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), GLRPPR’s partner in creating a sustainable future! P2, or pollution prevention, is defined by the U.S. EPA as “reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.” Source reduction is a key element in P2.

So let’s talk about source reduction as it relates to electronics, and more specifically, electronics consumers. Not everyone reading this post is an electronics manufacturer, electrical engineer, computer scientist, electronics recycler, or someone else who might be involved the design, production, or end-of-life management of electronic devices. But you are all certainly electronics consumers, scanning these words on the screen of your smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet, or other device. Given that, the following are five ways we can all practice source reduction in one way or another as we choose and use the gadgets that support our work and play.

1. Buy EPEAT registered products. Originally funded by the US EPA, Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, is a searchable database of electronics products in certain categories, which is administered currently by the Green Electronics Council. EPEAT criteria are developed collaboratively by a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, environmental groups, academia, trade associations, government agencies, and recycling entities. Criteria for current product categories are based upon the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known primarily by its acronym). The criteria include attributes from throughout the product life cycle–i.e. throughout the stages of design, manufacture, use, and disposal, including such relevant issues as reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, and product longevity/life extension. The EPEAT registry currently includes desktops, laptops/notebooks, workstations, thin clients, displays (computer monitors), televisions, printers, copiers, scanners, multifunction devices, fax machines, digital duplicators and mailing machines. New products may be added to the registry in the future as criteria are developed for them.

2. Buy refurbished devices. Maybe you’re concerned about the environmental and social impacts of manufacturing electronics, such as mining, use of potentially hazardous materials, labor issues, energy use (did you know that most of the energy consumption in the life cycle of a computer is in its manufacture, not its use?). You might also worry about the ever growing mountains of e-waste that society is generating. The surest way to reduce all of those negative impacts is to reduce the number of new devices that are produced to meet our consumer demand. No, I’m not suggesting that we must all turn our backs on technology and join a commune. But if you genuinely need another device, or  a replacement for one that finally gave up the ghost, remember you don’t have to buy something grand spanking new. And that doesn’t mean you have to take your chances shopping for used electronics, which may or may not end up functioning correctly, from some anonymous source on an online marketplace. Refurbished electronics differ from “used” electronics in a key way–they’ve been tested and verified to function properly. Often these are items that have been returned to a manufacturer or retailer because someone had a change of heart, or there was some defect found while the item was under warranty. In that case, the item could be like new, or is easily repaired, but it can’t legally be resold as new. So, once it has been checked for proper functioning and repaired if necessary, the item is designated “refurbished”–and sold at a discount. Refurbished items may also have been used as display units or even sent to an electronics recycler who determined that the device still functioned, or who returned it to full functionality through repair. Finding refurbished items is pretty easy. Ask the clerks at the electronics retail outlet if there are any refurbished items in stock. If you’re shopping online, most big electronics retailer web sites allow you to search for refurbished items in their catalogs, and may even designate them as “certified refurbished” devices, granting their personal assurance that they’ve thoroughly tested those items. And some independent electronics recyclers and asset management firms have their own online stores for selling items they refurbish. If you decide to go that route, start at the US EPA’s list of certified electronics recyclers to find responsible recyclers in your area, and check their web sites. You’ll rest easy knowing you extended the useful life of a device AND saved yourself some money compared to a brand new device.

3. Use multifunction devices. Another great way to reduce the number of devices you or your organization buy, and thus ultimately have to dispose of, is to use devices that can serve more than one purpose. Classic examples are devices that can perform various combinations of the following tasks: printing, copying, scanning, faxing, and emailing. Now  “2-in-1″ computers are also popular–converting between laptop and tablet configurations through detachable keyboards or screen flipping and folding gymnastics. Besides reducing the number of devices being used, there’s also potential space saving, power saving, and cost savings to consider in favor of multifunction devices.

4. Use networking to reduce the number of printers in your home or office. Odds are your office already uses networking to connect multiple devices to one printer, but at home you might still have separate printers for the kids’ bedroom and the office space the adults use downstairs, for example. You can set up networking at home too, and you don’t have to be “technologically inclined” to do it. Check out Microsoft’s guide to setting up a network printer or this guide from About.com that can address non-Windows devices as well. And at work, even if you have to print confidential information, you can still use a network printer and not have your own machine by your desk, by using confidential printing options available on modern printers. See the University of Illinois guide to confidential printing, or this guide from Office to learn how. If these don’t exactly address the make and model of printer you have, search the Internet for “confidential printing” plus the brand of printer you have, and you’ll probably find the help you need.

5. Repair instead of replace. Again, this is not something only the “technologically inclined” can accomplish. We’ve been trained to think of our devices as both literal and figurative “black boxes” which run on magic by the grace of fickle technological gods, never to be understood by mere mortals. Nonsense. Not only can you likely find plenty of computer/technology repair services in your area (which is great for your local economy), you can actually perform repair yourself–I know you can. Check out the iFixit web site for example. They provide an online community for sharing photo-filled, easy to follow repair guides, not just for electronics, but for all sorts of things. Did your smartphone screen crack? Search for it on the iFixit site before you replace it. You might not only find the guide to show you how to fix the problem, but the new screen and the tools you’ll need to do the work as well, which will likely be cheaper than the new device you might buy otherwise. The folks at iFixit also like to assign “repairability scores” to devices, which can help you purchase items that are easier to repair, and thus keep around longer. Of course tinkering with your device might affect the warranty, if one still applies. Be sure you understand the terms of your warranties first. There are some discussions on the iFixit site related to warranties, and you might also be interested in their commentary on some of the controversy surrounding what is known as “the right to repair.”

Do you have other source reduction suggestions related to electronics? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Earth Day Festivities Become Week Long Celebrations

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by

Happy Earth Day, everyone!

Every year, schools and universities across the nation participate in Earth Day activities. Many of the ‘Big Ten’ universities have extended Earth Day into a week-long series of events to create sustainable awareness across the student population.

INDIANA UNIVERSITY

Indiana University is hosting a week full of events and activities  to involve students  in the Earth Week Celebration. The Environmental Management and Sustainable Development Association (EMSDA) has planned an event each day, including presentations about sustainability and renewable energy, a documentary viewing about sustainable agriculture, and a bike ride to a  farm to learn about local organic farming practices, while promoting green transportation as well! To learn more about how Indiana University promotes Earth Week, please visit http://www.indiana.edu/~iuemsda/earthweek.php .

MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY

One of the main events hosted by Michigan State University for Earth Week is the Greening the Supply Chain Conference 2014, which took place on Monday, April 21, 2014 at the Jack Breslin Student Events Center.  In addition to the conference, the annual Tri-County Environmental Leadership Awards will take place on Wednesday, April 23 to honor the sustainability leaders from Eaton, Clinton and Ingham counties. The University has also hosted a Spring Bike Sale to promote sustainable transportation and has several Community Reuse Days planned to encourage the community to reduce, reuse and recycle. A full list of events can be found here.

OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY

To celebrate this planet that we all share, Ohio State hosted many events in the past week leading up to Earth Day. The celebration has been a huge success,  with the popular Green Lunch Series events and the Sustainability Summit. Whether it was the Community Recycled Art Project, the Environmental Film Screening, or the many seminars about recycling and sustainability, there was something for every member of the Ohio State community to become involved in to celebrate Earth Week. More information and a full list of events can be found here.

UNIVERSITY OF IOWA

In efforts to accommodate all students’ busy schedules, the University of Iowa celebrates Earth Day with an entire month of sustainability and environmental activities, with events almost every day throughout the month of April. Although the month is coming to an end,  Earth Month has been a great success, and there are even more  excellent events to come! For a full list of upcoming events or to submit your own event, visit the University of Iowa sustainability page and check back often for updates!

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign  is currently celebrating Earth Week this week to promote awareness for the sustainable living and environmental appreciation. With a variety of events and activities, the students of the University, as well as the members of the surrounding community, are given a plethora of opportunities to become a part of Earth Week. From a Clothing Swap held at the University YMCA to the Sustainability Symposium held by the Institute for Sustainability, Energy & Environment, there is something for everyone to attend! More information and a full list of events can be found at the sustainability website.

Join Us for a Webinar on Sustainable Electronics Wednesday, Sept. 19

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 by

Join us tomorrow, September 19 at noon Central time, when Dr. Callie Babbitt of the Rochester Institute of Technology presents “Adapting Ecological Models for Linking Sustainable Production and Consumption Dynamic in Consumer Electronic Product Systems.” Registration for the webinar is available at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/541176247.

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Green Gestures: Thinking Outside the Gift Box

Thursday, September 8th, 2011 by
Earth in hand

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I’ve seen many guides to green gifts, both generic and occasion-specific. But I realized recently that there are not many, if any, guides focused on green gestures. This is the phrase I use when thinking of gifts related to sustainability that do not involve giving a tangible item to the recipient. Instead, green gestures are more symbolic for the recipient or honoree, but they may indeed have tangible benefits for the environment or for society in general. Green gestures are good to keep in mind for the person who seemingly has everything, or for acquaintances or colleagues for whom you do not have a good sense of interests and preferences. Green gestures are also a good solution to expressing appreciation when ethical considerations can make giving or receiving tangible gifts undesirable or inappropriate. An example would be thanking an elected official for speaking at your event. Such gestures are often also used as memorials or to celebrate special occasions like a birth, a wedding, or a retirement. This list is by no means exhaustive (feel free to share your ideas in the “Comments” section of this post), and should not be construed as an endorsement of any of the items or organizations listed by GLRPPR or its host agency, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. This list is for informational purposes only, and is meant to help you start thinking outside the gift box.

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Refund for Rethinking: Green Tax Credits

Tuesday, April 12th, 2011 by

For those of us in the U.S., the deadline (April 15) approaches to submit taxes for 2010. Whether you’re still scrambling to fill our your forms, or feeling the satisfaction of having turned everything in on time, take a minute to read this informative post on Earth911‘s web site called Green Tax Credits You’re Missing. Author Alexis Petru provides information on incentives for home energy efficiency, renewable energy systems, credits for purchasing greener vehicles, and deductions you can take for donating to your favorite charitable organization or non-profit. Even if these incentives don’t apply to you for this round of taxes, consider what’s available as warmer weather approaches and you begin planning home improvement projects. You might be able to take advantage of incentives next year at tax time and make your choices “greener” in more ways than one.

Earth Day 2010: 40 Years of Environmental Learning

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 by

Celebrate Earth Day with a CyberExhibit (originally curated in 2000 on the 30th anniversary of Earth Day) by the University of Buffalo Libraries, which commemorates the anniversary of Earth Day.

It includes: a brief history of Earth Day, a listing of selected international, national, state, local, and campus Internet resources, and other materials. A special feature on education is added for the 40th Anniversary with expanded resources for kids, and teachers/educators in formal K-12 and non-formal (nature centers, museums, parks, camps, zoos, etc.) settings.

SEI "Ask an Expert" Service Provides Information on Electronics and the Environment

Tuesday, September 8th, 2009 by

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), hosted by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), is pleased to announce the availability of its online “Ask an Expert” service for the submission of questions related to electronics and their environmental impacts.

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Red, White, Blue & Green: Independence Day P2

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009 by

fireworksThe Fourth of July approaches. For those of us in the U.S. portion of the Great Lakes region, thoughts of Independence Day fireworks displays, parades and outdoor parties beckon from the weekend. While preparing for the festivities, you may want to consider how pollution prevention (P2) relates and include a little green with your red, white and blue.

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Summer 2009 GLRPPR/Region 7 Conference Presentations Online

Thursday, June 25th, 2009 by

The presentations from the recent Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR)/Region 7 Pollution Prevention Roundtable conference are now available on the GLRPPR web site.

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New GLRPPR Sector Resource on Electronic Waste

Friday, May 22nd, 2009 by

Recently Indiana became the 19th state in the U.S. to enact electronic waste regulations with the signing of HB 1589. The group of states with such regulations also includes Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois in the Great Lakes region. According to the Electronics Take Back Coalition, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and New York will be considering e-waste legislation in 2009. At the local level, New York City also has electronic waste regulations. At the federal level, H.R. 1580, the Electronic Waste Research and Development Act, has been voted upon by the U.S. House of Representatives and been received by the Senate.

Given this trend, it seems appropriate to launch a resource collection on the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) site focused specifically on e-waste issues. The GLRPPR Electronic Waste Sector Resource will include links to relevant legislation, news, events, funding opportunities, and contacts. This resource list is under development, so if you are aware of resources for e-waste programs in your state, please feel free to send links to Joy Scrogum for potential inclusion in this new resource list. An RSS feed is available for the Electronic Waste Sector Resource so you can be aware of new resources as they are added.

GLRPPR is a member of the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) a national network of pollution prevention information centers. Another P2Rx center, the Western Sustainability Pollution Prevention Network (WSPPN) has also developed a P2Rx Topic Hub on Electronic Waste. This is linked to within the new Sector Resource on the GLRPPR site and is also available on the main GLRPPR Topic Hub page.