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e stewardse-Stewards is an important resource for any business wishing to conscientiously dispose of outdated electronic equipment.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 It is equally important to dispose of outdated electronics responsibly.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.

 

 

Why are Electronics Toxic to the Environment?

How many chemicals does your cell phone expose you to on a daily basis? A study by healthystuff.org found toxic chemicals in 36 of the most popular phones on the market, including all versions of Apple’s iPhone. Among the 12 different chemicals tested for, the cell phones tested positive for lead, cadmium, and mercury –some of the most harmful and carcinogenic to humans.

The problems begin when products are manufactured with combinations of many heavy metals and continue to inflict severe environmental damage long after they are discarded. According to Greenpeace International, these chemicals also pose risk to the workers who dismantle and dispose of these products.

Greenpeace has outlined some of the most harmful chemicals found in electronics and their effects all of which can and do bio-accumulate in the environment. These are not limited to, but include:

  • Lead- particularly harmful to e wastepregnant women and children, causing birth and developmental defects.
  • Cadmium- causes damage to the lungs and kidneys.
  • Mercury- Also specifically harmful to pregnant women and children, impairing neurological development and birth defects.
  • Polyvinyl Carbonate (PVC)- releases harmful and toxic chemicals especially when burned, as it would be in a disposal plant.
  • Bromated Flame Retardants- Disruptive to hormone systems and causes learning and memory impairment.

How can you protect your personal health along with the well-being of the planet? Proper disposal of electronic devices is essential. Even when electronics leave our homes and go into the garbage, they can get back into our bodies through water, food, and exposure to outdoor elements.

Learn more how to safely dispose of toxic electronics and keep chemicals out of the environment through our extensive recycling resources on our website.

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.

Green Tech Companies in Boulder Area

Boulder, Colorado leads the way in high tech startup companies according to a recently released study from the New Engine/Kaufmann Foundation. Three of these tech companies based in the Boulder area provide energy saving services that most organizations could benefit from immediately.

tendril  Tendril offers smart energy technologies for both energy providers and consumers. Businesses may monitor and control energy usage in a variety of ways using Tendril’s efficient Cloud based technology. It is much easier to conserve and reduce energy when a company has more control and knowledge.

green garageGreen Garage services vehicles so that businesses and consumers save money and decrease their environmental impact. They go beyond traditional auto maintenance by offering technologies including nitrogen tire fills and silicon based windshield wipers. With a fleet maintenance program and employee discount offers, Green Garage offers businesses with vehicle fleets a real eco-friendly and money saving alternative.

Boulder Hybrid Conversions  converts Prius automobiles into plug-in electric hybrids, boulder hybrid conversionswhich curtails gas consumption. Colorado taxpayers get a generous tax rebate that increases the financial attractiveness of this innovative conservation technique. Eco-officiency converted their Prius hybrid to add a 10kw battery pack and was thrilled with the service of Boulder Hybrid as well as the reduced visits to the gas station.

For more information on how we help you navigate and implement energy conservation options contact us.

Green IT: What Does it Mean?

green itGreen IT is defined to create more environmentally friendly ways to manufacture, use and dispose of computer equipment in our homes and offices around the world. The steps toward minimizing the environmental impact from our digital world is one that’s not as easy as it appears. When you realize how much computers are relied upon today and made in specific ways, it becomes complicated in changing their environmental footprint.

While the manufacturing materials of our computers probably won’t change in the immediate term, computers can still be recycled so the materials used in them can be used in new products. Unfortunately, the metals of gold and copper used in computers aren’t recovered as much as they should be. On Greenitweek.org, it’s noted that computers contain more chemicals than you likely ever knew, and those can end up in the environment when a computer isn’t recycled responsibly.

Here are some simple and easy steps businesses can do to support the Green IT movement:

  • Purchase electronic equipment that is energy star compliant.
  • Support electronics vendors who have a sustainability focus and program.
  • Turn off all computers and electronic equipment at night. This can save over $100 per piece of equipment per year.
  • Support electronics vendors who take back their equipment and recycle responsibly.
  • Use an e-waste vendor to recycle electronics responsibly. You can find a national database of proper recycling centers for computers through the General Services Administration.

Water ScoreCard – A Data Tool for Businesses

When it comes to accessing the effectiveness of a water management strategies the Water ScoreCard – Tools for Businesses can be a useful tool for businesses.

The Water ScoreCard was initially created as a tool to help governments ensure better water quality, but many businesses are successfully using it to ensure their water management program is optimal. It is useful for any business that implements a water management program for sustainability and operates several different facilities.  The scorecard is a hosted program into which data about water usage is compiled and a company score is assigned based on the given information.  The Water ScoreCard can be used to:Water Score Card Guide

•  Create a snapshot of overall water usage across various facilities.

• Highlight facilities where water usage efficiency has been improved

• Easily locate facilities where improved efficiency in water management is needed.

• Compile data about water usage in cooling towers

• Quickly spread principles of water practices through staff

A guide to the Water ScoreCard was created in a joint venture between AT&T and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) in order to help companies better understand how to create, understand, and manage the program.  The Water ScoreCard system has served to not only lighten the ecological footprint of business, but has allowed several companies to enjoy cost savings from reduced water usage.

The toolkit also contains easy-to-understand visuals about the importance of water and best practices in water efficiency at facilities.

To learn more about water reduction strategies and tools like the Water ScoreCard, please contact us at eco-officiency.

Green Building: Geothermal Heating & Cooling Options

geothermal-heating-and-coolingAs we continue to seek out more efficient and more environmentally friendly ways to heat and cool our office buildings, the geothermal heating & cooling systems available today are paving the way.

If you have been thinking about one of these solutions, you may have a few questions.

Is the Geothermal System Efficient?

Yes. Geothermal has 50% efficiency rate in heating and 20% to 30% increased efficiency in cooling. These percentages are in comparison to typical heating and cooling systems on the market today. This percentage of efficiency also translates directly into cost savings on the energy bills.

Are They As Comfortable As Typical Systems?

Yes. Using your existing ductwork in most cases, these systems utilize heated (90 to 100 degrees) air in greater volumes which results in more even heating.  You may be familiar with traditional systems and the occasional cold air spots in buildings. Geothermal systems will remove that problem completely as heating is more thorough.

Are Geothermal Systems Expensive?

Yes. Geothermal installations are expensive. However, they can bring significant savings over a period of time.  The International Ground Source Heat Pump Association’s website informs us that the Geothermal systems usually provide 25-50% savings on energy consumption and offer lower peak demand resulting in lower operating costs.

Are Geothermal Systems More Environmentally Friendly?

Yes. By using a naturally sustainable heat source it lowers the carbon footprint of operations.

As you search for energy efficiency in your business practices, we can help you determine if Geothermal system might benefit your situation. We can also recommend other ways in which you can lower the carbon footprint of your small business. Please contact us for more information.

Green Building: Funding Options for Renewable Energy Projects

Few business owners would argue that green building practices are ethically the right step and will prove to be cost effective in the coming years. However, funding a green building project up-front can prove to be a challenge for many entrepreneurs and small to mid-size companies.  energy-efficiency

Consider the following funding options for your green building project:

  1. Research grant opportunities.  Grants for green projects are available at both the state and federal levels.  The Department of Energy, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Veteran’s Affairs and the Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development branch make funds available to both business owners and homeowners. The Environmental Protection Agency also has a list of funding sources for homeowners, industry and non-profit organizations. Grants.gov and mrsc.org are additional grant-finding resources.
  2. Rebates from the local utility company.  Utility companies often offer rebates on energy conservation and green building projects.  There is also a host of rebate programs available through Xcel Energy that can defray costs for energy conservation efforts.
  1. Energy Efficient Mortgages.  If you are taking out a mortgage on your business property, ask about an energy improvement mortgage. This special lending arrangement allows you to borrow a larger amount of money to fund green improvements, without having to increase your down payment.
  2. Federal Tax Credits. Similar to homeowners, business owners can get tax credit for qualifying energy-saving purchases, including air conditioners, furnaces or construction materials. The Business Energy Investment Tax Credit, is the corporate tax credit enacted in 2013 and provides up to 30% tax rebate for solar and wind and PTC renewable technologies.
  3. State and Local Tax Credits.  States and local municipalities often provide incentives for business owners to build green. In Colorado there are many opportunities with the Governor’s Office of Energy Management as well as other organizations.

Don’t let cost of renewable energy prevent you from building green.  Investing in renewable energy will save your business money over time and leave less of an environmental footprint.

Keep the Office Clean Using Green Cleaning Products

Green business operations is a growing trend in commercial businesses, this includes the products used to keep the office clean. Utilizing green products and equipment can reduce the number of health problems from fumes, allergies, and rashes in employees who work in the office. It is important to understand what chemicals to look for so they can be avoided. Only purchase products that have a complete list of ingredients. Here are some tips to help in choosing the best green cleaning products for a business environment.

Read the Label

This may sound pretty obvious, but not all cleaning supplies that are supposed to be green even list all of the ingredients. It is important to read the label and understand what it means. Avoid cleaners that have ammonia, chlorine or any other caustic chemicals. These create fumes that can irritate eyes and throat. The fumes linger so the people who work in the office are also being exposed. Green products should be PH neutral. All-purpose cleaners should be plant based solvents instead of chemical based solvents. When reading the label if there is a word or name that looks unusual be sure to ask what it is and why it is in the product

green-seal-350Look for Green Seal Certification

Look for the Green Seal certification on labels. This certification means the product has been tested and evaluated by a laboratory that is not connected to the manufacturer or seller, similar to a Consumer Reports style testing lab. To earn this seal the product must meet specific environmental standards, undergo rigorous testing and a visit to the plant where the product is manufactured. Once earned this certification can be displayed on the packaging, in promotional material and in advertising. These products have proven they are environmentally better than the competition.seventh-generation

Purchase from Reputable Companies

Only purchase green products from reputable companies, such as Seventh Generation and Simple Green, and make sure they can provide a complete list of the ingredients for the product. Just because the packaging says “green” doesn’t mean the product doesn’t contain any harmful chemicals. Be sure to check.

These are just a few tips to help choose green cleaning products. For more information contact us.

Consider Renewable Energy for Your Small Business

solar-power-generatorWith the cost of fuel rising higher each year, many companies have started to look towards renewable energy to reduce expenses. However, many of the smaller enterprises are often lagging behind in adapting to greener energy resources because of the associated costs to invest in renewable energy.

Cheaper Than You Think

One of the most common let-offs for many small businesses when trying to switch to renewable energy sources is the purported high cost. Technological innovations in recent years have resulted in reduction of the cost of renewable energy systems. Also, more investment and partnership opportunities for small businesses. Clean Energy Collective, a community-owned solar program, is one of those organizations making renewable energy cost effective for small businesses.

Small businesses can buy wind energy to support renewable energy programs without the cost of building the infrastructure. There is also a host of rebate programs available through Xcel Energy that can defray costs for energy conservation efforts.

Choosing the Right Renewable Energy Systemwindturbines2

Of course, all of these would be useless if you don’t choose the right energy system for your particular needs. Here, knowing the kinds of renewable energy resources available in your given area will definitely help a lot in selecting the actual system. The Colorado Renewable Energy Society provides a clear and short overview of the types of energy resources available for small business enterprises.

Contact us and learn more on how you can effectively use renewable energy for your business needs.