The Importance of Electronics Recycling and e-Stewards Certification

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), TVs, computers, computer accessories, and cell phones equaled approximately 2.37 million short tons of U.S. waste in 2009. The problem is compounded by both the toxicity and the accessibility of materials used in electronics–lead, nickel, cadmium, and mercury, for example. When disposed of improperly, such materials leak toxins into air, soil, and water. Additionally, mining the elements for new production depletes natural resources.

Even so, your business relies on properly functioning and up-to-date technology. “Out with the old; in with the new” is part of operations. By reusing, repurposing, and recycling your office electronics, you help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution, save energy, and use fewer raw materials from the earth. For good reason, electronics recycling is an important consideration in green business operations.

e stewardse-Stewards is an important resource for any business wishing to conscientiously dispose of outdated electronic equipment. The e-Stewards Initiative originated in 1997 with the Basel Action Network (BAN), a non-profit organization committed to stopping international trade for toxic waste. Through advocacy and investigations, BAN revealed that much of U.S. toxic waste, including that of electronic waste, was sent for “recycling” only to be illegally (and cheaply) dumped in poor communities and developing countries ultimately polluting soil, water, and food supplies.

In 2008 the e-Stewards Certification for electronics recyclers was developed. Today, this stands as a rigorous, internationally recognized certification program that enforces best practices in electronics recycling.

It is important to keep your business on-pace with developing technology. It is equally important to dispose of outdated electronics responsibly. Several businesses, large and small, rely on trade-in and buy-back programs to dispose of old office electronics. To be certain your e-waste will be recycled properly, look for an e-Stewards certified recycler that operates by the Electronics Recycler’s Pledge of True Stewardship. The e-Stewards website features an interactive map locating e-Stewards certified electronic recyclers in your area.

For more information about environmentally responsible electronics disposal, contact us.



Purchasing Electronic Equipment Responsibly: Check for Certifications

When purchasing new electronic and computer equipment, one way for companies to be more conscientious is to choose vendors that have sustainability certifications. The following are certifications used for electronic equipment and ensure that the product has met or exceeded certain requirements for energy, resource and toxic chemical use.

Energy Star is by far the most well-known environmental certification. It is essentially a energy starcooperative effort of the EPA and the DOE. Many think of refrigerators when they think of Energy Star ratings. However, the system extends to notebooks, desktops, monitors, all-in-one devices, and scanners. These electronic devices must usually meet two standards. First, they must automatically go into a “low-power” mode when they are not being used. Second, they can only use a certain maximum of power when they are being used. The DOE is promoting energy savings and the EPA wants to decrease greenhouse gases.

epeatElectronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is an online tool that assists buyers to evaluate products using environmental criteria. It looks at 51 elements in eight different categories. It is derived from IEEE Standard 1680-2006. There are rating levels named Gold, Silver, and Bronze. A bronze rating is awarded when all 23 required standards are met. The upgrade to silver occurs when those criteria are met, along with at least half of the other 28 optional standards. Finally, the Gold award goes to products that meet the required standards and 3/4 of the optional ones. At the EPEAT website one can scroll to the product that they need and quickly determine specific items that are EPEAT certified.

Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) is a set of standards regarding roHSdangerous substances in electronics that comes from the European Union (EU). These standards do allow for “trace amounts” in some cases. It does set specific standards for limiting the amount of cadmium, mercury, lead, etc. that can be present in a product. Today, one can select the certifications that your organization wants to meet, and then locate the products that meet the standards.

Our consultants can guide you further in your pursuit of green products and how to choose them. Please contact us for further information.

FTC Revises Green Guides on Sustainability Marketing Claims

FTC logoIn response to businesses making unsubstantiated claims, the Federal Trade Commission attempted to level the playing field for the honest businesses by implementing revisions to their Green Guides on marketing claims, toughening standards for marketing products as green.

Looking around, it’s easy to find companies using broad, unqualified general environmental benefit claims such as “green” or “eco-friendly”. The FTC is encouraging businesses to avoid such broad statements as they can be difficult, if not impossible, to substantiate.

When marketers do make product claims, the FTC is requiring marketers to substantiate those claims. For example, if a product is marketed as “degradable”, evidence must be provided that it will indeed entirely break down and return to nature within a year after disposal.

The new Green Guides revisions also include sections on certifications and seals of approval, carbon offsets, free-of claims, non-toxic claims, made with renewable energy claims, and made with renewable materials claims.  On the other hand, they have declined to take any stance on the use of the terms “sustainable”, “organic” or “natural”. For example, in the case of “organic“, guidance for use of the term has already been provided by U.S. Department of Agriculture.

By marketing with these new guidelines in mind, you are taking part in the promotion of honest business practices at the same time. Please contact us if you want more information on how the FTC’s new Green Guides will impact your business.

Benefits to Eco-labeling for Green Products

Ecolabels set minimum environmental and health standards for specific product categories. Eco-labeling relates to environmental protection factors, such noise, water, and energy used in production, use, and disposal. Eco-labels allow businesses to label their products and services as being environmentally sound and help businesses to:

  • Demonstrate their products meet pre-determined green performance criteria and standards
  • Differentiate their products or services from competitors’ products and services
  • Inform green consumers and aid in their decision-making on green products
  • Aid in purchasing decisions for businesses that want green products and services

In the Spring 2010 community essay “Toward greater ecological intelligence in the United States: ten statements with statistics and commentary regarding ecolabels,” author Christopher Wedding suggests the importance and benefit of eco-labels. Specifically:

  • 83% of Americans reported that sustainability commitments were “very important” or “somewhat important” in their buying decisions
  • Experts believe 70% of American consumers could be motivated to purchase green products if labels were clear and product prices were competitive
  • 76% of the largest firms in the U.S. reported sustainability efforts and commitments that exceed what is required by law
  • By 2030, 50% of buildings in the U.S. will have been built after the year 2000
  • 98% of 2,219 products reviewed were guilty of greenwashing (deceptive green marketing)

Wedding’s conjecture is that eco-labels…

…can harness some of the most powerful forces in the United States — consumer, business, and institutional spending — to serve as a force for good rather than continuing to facilitate overconsumption and waste.

For specific information about U.S. domestic eco-labels that may apply to your small business, the Small Business Administration offers this list.

For more information about all things ecological, sustainable, and green for your business, read our blog or contact us.

Better Paper Project by Green America: Helping the Magazine Industry to be More Sustainable

The Better Paper Project was launched in April 2012 by Green America. This paper project empowers the magazine industry, including publishers, retailers and printers, to go green by using sustainable paper both recycled content and FSC certified. Green America will provide consulting and advice to its members to make the paper switch.

Once they have completed the program, they can use the logo of the Better Paper Project on the magazine itself or promotional materials.

Eco Label Resource: 2010 Global Ecolabel Monitor

Eco-labels were designed to help the consumers choose more environmental and social conscious products. Today there are literally hundreds of eco-labels. Although the intent is good with eco-labels with so many on the market with various meanings, it has essentially confused the consumers.

A free downloadable report by the  World Resources Institute and called the 2010 Global Ecolabel Monitor essentially is a comprehensive survey on the performance and organizational structure of all eco-labels found throughout the world. They surveyed over 340 labels from 42 different countries.

Ecolabel Index is another terrific site that is a database of all ecolabels which provides meaning and context. Another site is Global Ecolabelling Network that has good information and reports on eco-labels.