Pocket Guide | Conscious Consumer Guide

It’s hard to remember to be a conscious consumer each time you go to the store, restaurant or mall. Here are some reference tools to help you make mindful choices when making purchases.

The 10 key questions to say “yes” to before purchasing a product:
  1. Is this product needed?
  2. Is this product non-toxic and safe to use?
  3. Is the product practical, durable, well made, and of good quality?
  4. Is the product made from renewable, recycled or post-consumer materials?
  5. Does the manufacturer practice sound sustainable manufacturing and fair trade practices?
  6. After the products useful life can it be recycled, composted, re-used or donated?
  7. Is the packaging recyclable or biodegradable?
  8. Is there a low carbon and energy use from transporting the product?
  9. Will it be easy to maintain by being low maintenance, cost, time and energy?
  10. Can the product be purchased used, borrowed or rented instead of purchased new?

Download the free Conscious Consumer Guide by eco-officiency.

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.  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 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.

Top 3 Recommended Sustainability Resources for Company Examples

The following three recommended resources are international organizations that offer broad information on sustainability to assist organizations, businesses, governments and communities in being greener. Keeping your business updated with sustainable practices starts at being informed of what other companies and organizations are doing to minimize resource use. Each organization has good information on company examples and application to various industries.

WRIThe World Resources Institute is a think tank that gathers information on critical areas of environmental need throughout the world. Using this research to employ experts, volunteers and WRI members, the organization forms integral partnerships that work on sustainable projects throughout the world. The resources available to the general public include the ability to create Strategic Relationships and becoming a member of a Corporate Consultative Group.

More details on WRI collaborations are available here: http://www.wri.org/corporations

The Global Footprint Network provides cities, businesses and institutions with the ability to Global footprint networkasses their ecological global footprint. The first step towards finding out your ecological footprint is to go to the “Footprint Basics” tab, which includes a wealth of information for different groups on how to assess their contribution to environmental degradation. This website relates your footprint to that of other nations and organizations in the world, contrasting the differences created by levels of consumption and affluence.

For more information on how partnering with The Global Footprint Network can benefit you, see this informational page for organizations and how to join. https://www.footprintnetwork.org/

 

nbis logoThe Network of Business Innovation and Sustainability is essentially a giant encyclopedia which links companies and organizations to all of the knowledge that they need to stay updated on the future of sustainability. Their network includes partners from governments, non-profits, individuals, professionals and even students. All of these people work together to teach, learn and innovate techniques and ideas about sustainability through events, workshops and discussions.

To see how your business matches up with other NBIS partners, see this page on current partnerships and events https://nbs.net/