Greenpeace still hunting for truly green electronics
see also the Greenpeace report
New consumer-electronics products are a little greener than those on sale a year ago -- but manufacturers could do much better, according to a study by environmental campaign group Greenpeace International.
The report, "Green Electronics: The Search Continues" evaluated 50 products that 15 companies identified as their most environmentally friendly models, but it found that none of them performed well against all criteria. Greenpeace will hold a news conference at the International CES in Las Vegas on Friday to discuss the report's details.
In general, the consumer electronics industry is far better at making green claims than green products, prompting skepticism on the part of consumers. Earlier this week, researchers at CES presented the results of a survey that found, among other things, that 65% of consumers think some companies overstate their green credentials to sell more products.
In its own tests, Greenpeace found that fewer of the products contained PVC (polyvinyl chloride) plastic and other hazardous chemicals than those tested a year ago. In the past, it has campaigned vigorously against the use of toxic materials in products.
One thing that changed for the better in 2008 was the increasing use of LED displays, which avoid the use of backlights containing mercury and are also more energy efficient, Greenpeace said. Companies are also using recycled materials -- in TV and monitor casings, for example -- and are increasing the volume of old products that they take back for recycling.
Despite all these improvements, the best-rated product, Lenovo's L2440x computer monitor, scored only 6.9 out of 10. The second-place product was also a monitor, Fujitsu Siemens Computers' ScenicView P22W-5 Eco, with 6.33.
Lenovo's weakest link was energy use. It lost points for not tracking the energy used to manufacture the monitor, and it could have done better by providing more information about the monitor's energy-saving mode. It could have scored an easy point by including an off switch that physically cuts all current. Instead, like many devices, it has a standby switch that contributes to so-called phantom power consumption by maintaining power to some of its circuitry even when it is apparently turned off.
Lenovo also lost marks for exploiting exemptions in the European Union directive on the reduction of hazardous substances, which allows companies to continue using banned toxic chemicals in their products in certain circumstances.
Other companies have shown that they can do better in the categories where Lenovo fell down. If a manufacturer were to follow the best practices of any of the companies seen by Greenpeace in each category (energy use, reduction of toxic chemicals, recycling and so on), then it would score 8.6 out of 10.