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.

Gift Giving Ideas that are Eco-Friendly

One of the ways to be more Eco-conscious is purchasing Eco-friendly holiday gifts. Here are a few ideas and some things to consider when purchasing Christmas presents ;

  • Look for gifts that are ‘experience gifts’ or gift certificates rather than products. Reduce the product impact altogether and give someone an experience.  Consider movie, theater or restaurant gift certificates. Or for more fancy options, plan a holiday tea, spa packages or weekend getaways. These are easier to wrap too!
  • Consider purchasing products that are durable, not over packaged, energy efficient, made with recycled materials or recyclable. All of these are standard criteria for choosing more sustainable made products.
  • Purchase green gifts from green-minded companies. There are a host of Internet based companies that already have done the selecting for you on green and sustainable products. They have an array of different types of gifts for all ages.  Here are some recommendations; Organic Bug, Buy Green, Eco Choices and ReuseIt.
  • Donate unwanted gifts to charity. We all receive gifts that we don’t need or don’t want. Instead of hiding them in your closet or garage, consider donating them to local charities that can use them. Go to eco-officiency’s recycling and donation page to learn more about where to donate these items.
  • With battery operated gifts, consider choosing rechargeable ones. If you do purchase toys or products that do have batteries, consider also purchasing rechargeable batteries to reduce the waste impact.
  • Be mindful of wrapping gifts in re-useable bags or recyclable wrapping paper. Wrapping waste is a huge contributor to our landfill waste. Much of it can’t be recycled or composted. Be mindful of the packaging and wrapping you purchase. Come sustainable wrapping choices are re-useable bags, re-used wrapping paper, comics from the Sunday paper, or paper bags decorated with stickers. According to Eco-Chick.com, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

As a helpful reminder, download eco-officiency’s conscious consumer pocket guide that has the 10 questions listed to help make a sustainable purchase.

  • According to Eco-Chick.com, if every American family wrapped just three presents in reused materials, it would save enough paper to cover 45,000 football fields.

Measuring Your Success with Sustainability

As companies start sustainability initiatives, how will they know they are successful? One of the ways is to develop a metrics plan to measure the improvement. The complexity comes in what data do you track and measure. Data is not always available and/or time consuming to collect, track and maintain for limited staff resources.

Here are some options to consider in three of the more common areas for companies:


  • % of total KWH energy reductions (via utility bill)
  • # of energy star equipment or appliances purchased or used

Purchasing and Supply Chain

  • % of recycled or post-consumer waste products purchased
  • % of local based products or vendors used
  • % of revenue of total purchases used with sustainable vendors
  • # of vendors who ‘sustainable’


  • # of bus passes (used and/or purchased)
  • # of miles driven to and from work for all staff
  • % of products purchased within (# of miles) of company location
  • # of employees who use alternative transportation (days per year)

For more information, the International Sustainability Indicators is an organization that provides information to measure progress toward sustainability for communities and companies.