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.

Consider Using Natural Pesticides and Fertilizers

In spring, there is a high volume of pesticides and fertilizers being used to keep lawns green and weed free. Before using your normal chemicals, consider using green or natural alternatives.

Chemical fertilizers and pesticides are known carcinogens and have also been linked to asthma, birth defects and neurological disorders. These chemicals are also affecting our wildlife too. Particularly our bee population which chemical pesticides have been proven to be one of the primary reasons we have had such decline in our bee populations. (To learn more visit E-Magazine’s article on Pesticide Linked to Honey Bee Deaths)

Here are some resources for natural pesticide and fertilizer use;

OrganoLawn is a Colorado based lawn care service that only uses natural and organic pesticide and fertilizer products.

Natural Pesticide Recipes Provides a list of ingredients to make your own green pesticide products.

Plant Talk Colorado: A robust site on garden and lawn care by the Colorado State University.

Clean Air Gardening: Provides a comprehensive list of all the environmentally friendly lawn care products including organic fertilizers and pest control products.

Five Tips to Reduce Food Waste in Your Home

  1. Create a Shopping List and Menu Plan: Plan out the week of meals and figure out how much you need to purchase for your family. You will reduce food waste by only buying what you need.
  2. Make Smoothies: instead of throwing away wilted veggies or fruit, convert them into a smoothie. Go to Smoothie Recipes for some ideas.
  3. Buy Only What You Need: consider purchasing in bulk, when possible, and only buy the quantities of food that you need. You can also freeze un-used fruit and vegetables and use them at a later time.
  4. Compost: The best way not to feel guilty about throwing away unused food, is to compost it. Consider getting a home-based composter for your yard. Go to composters.com which has a broad range of composters plus information on how to get started.
  5. Portion Control: Start with smaller portion helpings on plates and let each family member take more if they want. This is the quickest way to reduce food waste.
DIVE! is an excellent movie on food waste. Learn more about it on our past blog post DIVE!.

Unpackaged: A grocery store with no packaged goods!

Imagine a grocery store with no packaged goods– no jars, no cans, no plastic packaging—just food. Well a new store opened in London that is just that, a store with no packaged goods called Unpackaged. Customers bring in their own reusable containers and have them weighed before shopping. Then, consumers fill up their containers with the products they need in only the amounts they desire.  No more packaging to throw away, less food waste and no need to worry about the plastic BPA issue in your food.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, packaging waste contributes to about a 1/3 of our waste in our U.S. landfills. They also show that over 10.4 million tons of plastic packaging is thrown away annually by Americans. With 95% of the ecological damage of packaging is from the energy used and the toxins created in the package manufacturing and delivery process. If packaging waste could be reduced, it would be a considerable impact on our waste stream, energy use and toxins in our environment.

Unpackaged was voted as the #48 best shop in London, to take a virtual tour visit the CNN video, Shoppers Weight Up Green Premiums.

We hope it might catch on here in the States!