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.

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.

Boxed water packaging – is it a better solution than plastic?

Here’s a statistic that you can’t water down: About 67 million plastic water bottles get tossed out each day, and, according to a piece by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “only 10 percent of these water bottles are ever recycled.”  The remaining 90 percent end up in landfills, and plastic takes thousands of years to decompose.

According to Dr. Mercola, drinking boxed waterwater from a plastic container “poses serious risks to you and your family.” Choosing plastic exposes you to chemicals like BPA and phthalates that have been linked to, among other things, to a wide range of developmental and reproductive problems.

What resources go into producing all that waste? According to treehugger.com, about “1.5 million barrels of oil – enough to run 100,000 cars for a whole year – are used to make plastic water bottles.” That does not include the fuel burnt in transporting the empty bottles to the water source and the filled bottles to the consumers.

One Grand Rapids, Mich., company, with the eponymous title, “Boxed Water Is Better LLC,” manufactures and sells boxed water containers.  Their claim is that their container is far more eco-friendly: “About 76% of the box is from a renewable resource, trees.”

They harvest their raw material from “certified, well-managed forests,” and their boxes are recyclable. The Carton Council, a group of carton manufactures, whose goal is to keep valuable carton empties from ending up in landfills, would welcome wider use of boxed water, because over 74 percent of most cartons are made from recyclable paperboard. Given these facts, boxed water is a more environmental friendly packaging material than plastic bottles.

LED Lights: The Good and the Bad

More and more companies (as well as homes) are converting lights to the LED bulb (LED stands for Light Emitting Diode) for their benefits. These light bulbs offer similar light with substantially less power, saving between 50-90% of lighting energy costs. LED’s are extremely durable and require very little maintenance once installed. Although expensive, they also last a very long time up to 12-25 years depending on use and therefore are considered more cost-effective over the full life cycle of an LED. LED’s have also been touted as superior to CFL’s because they last longer, are more efficient and don’t contain mercury. If a CFL breaks and the mercury is exposed it is considered a hazardous waste issue.

However, LED’s aren’t all good and have waste challenges. They do contain lead, arsenic and a few other substances known to be dangerous. They are not a health hazard in a home or office encased, but if they do break it is important to treat them like hazardous waste. Currently LED’s can be disposed of in regular landfills and are not considered hazardous waste legally. However, because of the toxic contents it is strongly recommended when disposing of LED’s to treat them similar to hazardous waste. (To learn more visit E-magazine article, Dark Side of LED Light bulbs)

For more information on LED lighting visit these websites

LED Lighting Facts: A program of the U.S. Department of Energy that provides information on LED products and performance rating.

LED’s Magazine: A magazine dedicated to LED lighting information.

LED Journal: Provides an online resource guide, a buyer’s guide, industry directory and other resources on LED lighting.

Energy Efficient Lighting: LED reference information provided by EarthEasy, a green product online retailer, which provides basic information for the consumer including an overview of benefits, terminology, and how to choose an LED.

Going Plastic Free

What would your life look like if you were plastic free? It is hard to imagine with all the plastic packaging and consumer goods that are in our daily lives.

Plastics are not good for us. They have filled up our landfills. The EPA estimates that over 12% of our current waste stream is made up of plastics and of that the largest category of materials is food containers and packaging. Plastics are now in our ocean  and have created their own island called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. And the health studies coming out about plastics, especially those that come into contact with food or beverage, have indicated initially they might be cancer-causing according to a Scientific America article.

A new trend is emerging to go plastic free. Essentially that means no product or good purchases that are made from or come in plastic packaging. If it sounds like this might be difficult, it is!

Here are a few resources that provide some tips and tricks on kicking the plastic habit!

  • My Plastic Free: A blogger who is blogging about how she is going plastic free. She is in the process of publishing a book called ‘Plastic Free’.
  • Life Without Plastic: A site that provides products that are all plastic free to help those who want to rid plastic from their lives.
  • Life Less Plastic: A blogger, Jeanne Haegele who has been plastic free since 2007 and has her own journey described in her blog.