Clarification 29 has been posted for 1680.1, which provides advice regarding what an acceptable age would be for data provided during a Verification Round.
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LONDON — From solar-powered Christmas lights and cellphone chargers to smart home thermostats, there are plenty of gifts available for technology lovers interested in saving energy.
And since upgrading your favorite device less frequently might be the best conservation measure, some designers, companies and environmentalists are also looking for ways to ensure that more old electronics are reused or recycled, hoping to reduce the environmental impact of the gadgets that are so central to modern life.
That includes encouraging technology manufacturers to design products so that their most valuable components can be retrieved easily when their useful life is over.
“It’s really important as the number of these devices multiplies geometrically that we figure out ways that these aren’t just products that are created out of an immense amount of diverse resources and then are just thrown out a few years later,” said Sarah O’Brien, spokeswoman for the Green Electronics Council, in Portland, Ore.
That is a challenge for the personal technology industry, whose profitability is based on selling more devices each year, many of them during the holiday season, and convincing people to replace them frequently.
Whether that model can ever become sustainable “is the elephant in the room, it’s the big question,” Ms. O’Brien said.
Her group manages EPEAT, an environmental rating system for computers and other electronics that lets people check how well manufacturers have complied with criteria that include the removal of toxins and making devices easier to recycle. Greenpeace has a similar list.
In Britain, the Waste and Resources Action Program, or WRAP, is working with big retailers to encourage them to expand trade-in and resale options, so that people can get credit for returning a used phone, tablet, laptop or television, which the company could then refurbish and resell, said Gerrard Fisher, WRAP’s special adviser for electrical and electronic products.
Some manufacturers and stores already offer trade-in rebates, but they are not widely used, Mr. Fisher said.
“We see our goal as trying to get that to be a mainstream activity, so as a consumer, if you fancy upgrading your device, you start thinking, ‘What can I get for my old one?”’ he said.
WRAP research found that Britons reacted positively to the ideas of trading in and buying used, as long as the refurbished devices were sold by a trusted company, he said.
“Retail is a one-way operation at the moment,” he said. “We think there’s a great business case for making it two-way.” Devices a year or so old are likely to find eager buyers domestically, while older ones could be sold in emerging markets, he said.
“A lot of those products are working perfectly well; they may not be top speed, but not everyone needs top speed,” Mr. Fisher said.
Rick Goss, senior vice president at the Information Technology Industry Council, a Washington trade group representing many major brands, said all of its members had strong takeback, recycling and refurbishment programs, and many had adjusted product designs to make it easier to retrieve the materials inside, he said.
Critics of frequent upgrading, Mr. Goss said, failed to note the strong existing market in used electronics. “Devices go through two, three, four, five owners before they’re put into the recycling stream,” he said.
Nonetheless, the logistics of collecting old devices for recycling, particularly large ones, can be difficult, he said, and the burden of doing so should be shared by retailers, distributors and government, not just manufacturers.
A Dutch designer, Dave Hakkens, has a more radical approach to reducing waste. His video about Phonebloks, a blueprint for a mobile phone made up of pieces that can be easily taken out and replaced, captured attention on YouTube this autumn. He has now teamed up with Motorola, which was working on a similar idea.
In Mr. Hakkens’s vision, people would be able to buy a preassembled phone and upgrade parts when necessary, or customize their own phone from the start, for example by choosing an extra-large battery, a sharper camera or a quicker processor, depending on their preferences.
People could keep up with technological change by getting better components as they became available, he said.
“Instead of throwing away 100 percent of your phone every two years, you might throw away 5 percent because that’s the part you want to upgrade,” he said.
Mr. Hakkens said he hoped to see a module developer’s kit released this winter, so that people could start designing parts for the phone. It will probably be about two years before consumers are able to buy Phonebloks, he said.
Improving recyclability is key to making the sector greener, said Ms. O’Brien, and it is an important part of the EPEAT ratings. Manufacturers should make devices that are easier to disassemble so that the valuable metals and other materials inside can be retrieved more easily, she said.
Many discarded electronics end up in China, Vietnam, Ghana, Pakistan and Nigeria, where crude recycling processes expose workers to toxic chemicals and pollutes the environment, said Tom Dowdall, a climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace in Amsterdam.
“Just looking at the amount of energy and metal and resources, plastics, that goes into these electronics, that’s a huge amount of embedded environmental impact,” he said.
It is not all about purchasing less, though. Personal technology can have a positive environmental impact, with apps available to help manage home energy use, find food in supermarkets from sustainable sources, and save gasoline while driving, among other green goals.
The offerings this holiday season range from the frivolous to the down-to-earth, and include solar-powered Christmas lights and chargers for small devices, both of whose novelty value may outweigh their actual impact.
One popular device is the Nest, a thermostat that learns your schedule and adjusts a home’s heat and air-conditioning accordingly. It can also be controlled remotely, from a smartphone.
“I think I might have one under my tree, from my husband,” said Catherine Wolfram, co-director of the Energy Institute of the Haas School of Business, at the University of California, Berkeley.
Energy geeks may also enjoy the Kill A Watt, which can measure the power used by individual devices, she said.
The Wattson Solar Plus energy monitor, for those who generate electricity at home, tracks how much power they are producing and using, and can be programmed to turn on appliances like a washing machine when there is a surplus of energy, said Nigel Berman, founder of Nigel’s Eco Store, an online retailer based near Brighton, England.
The Chop Cloc, he said, turns a home’s heating system off for a short time every hour, and timers can shut down power to a plugged-in device when its battery is full, avoiding the waste of charging it all night. The Ecobutton is quick way of putting a computer into energy-saving sleep mode.
Mr. Goss, of the technology trade association, said the industry’s largest manufacturers “actually compete against one another in the marketplace on sustainability.”
Mr. Dowdall, of Greenpeace, agreed that there had been significant progress, citing the efforts of companies like Google, Facebook and Apple to convert their power-hungry data centers to renewable energy sources. He said Apple also deserved credit for removing many toxic substances from its products and for buying devices back from consumers.
Still, he said, “the way the business is structured is not ultimately sustainable.”
“Rather than just little sustainability things on the side for just a small portion of their audience, they need to be thinking about how do we offer this to everyone, so its something that happens across the board,” he said.
The Green Electronics Council is teaming up with UL Environment to add a mobile device category to the EPEAT green electronics registry.
Given the rate at which individuals purchase new mobile phones, commonly as often as every two years, EPEAT decided to make the new list a priority.
“Mobile products evolve quickly and have a short lifecycle, presenting us with a clear opportunity to significantly reduce their environmental impact,” said Robert Frisbee, CEO of the Green Electronics Council (GEC), the Portland, Ore.-based organization that manages EPEAT.
For now, the list includes phones and smartphones that are already part of the UL 110 standard of sustainability for mobile phones. However, items such as tablet computers will be considered in the future as either part of this group or as an entirely separate list, he said.
The partnership signals a big shift for EPEAT, as it will collaborate more closely with other standards bodies across the consumer electronics and IT industries.
“This represents a new chapter for us because we will be pursuing a number of standards with a broader range of organizations,” Frisbee said. “It allows us to go out into the world of standards and chose from the best of the best.”
That strategy was already under way. In fact, the council also is developing a new initiative for computer servers in conjunction with NSF International. A call for participation in that process is due to go out in August.
But the new model gained even more urgency in early July when the International Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) standards group – which developed the three original EPEAT lists centered on personal computers, displays and workstations – voted to abolish the committee set up to spearhead and administer environmental standards, Frisbee said.
“We understand that IEEE struggled with the diverse stakeholder input necessary to create sound environmental standards,” he said. “This was particularly challenging for engineers accustomed to making electrical decisions on a technical basis. Nonetheless, we are disappointed. IEEE’s abandoning stakeholder-based governance of environmental standards development is a loss to the community.”
The IEEE 1680.1 standard used for the computers and displays listed on EPEAT is actually getting pretty long in the tooth, as evidenced by a big dustup involving Apple’s MacBook Pro notebook design in fall 2012. So the development actually gives GEC an opening to move forward with an update. For now, though, 1680 in its current form will remain as the centerpiece of those categories.
“Whether IEEE would try to refresh it and have the new one added to our registry or whether another [standards development organization] would create a more modern PC standard is uncertain,” Frisbee said. “It is possible GEC could partner with another SDO to create a more modern PC standard.”
In a statement, the IEEE said the shift reflects the need to keep the technical standards upon which EPEAT is based “open and inclusive,” representing key stakeholders across the technology industry.
“To ensure openness and global participation, IEEE has decided to transition the IEEE 1680 work under a new sponsoring committee that will oversee the standards development work of the 1680 family of standards for environmental assessment of electronic products,” the organization stated.
Mobilizing around phones
The UL 110 standard chosen to shape the EPEAT mobile phone category originally debuted in 2011. It currently covers 41 devices from eight manufacturers including HTC, Kyocera, LG, Samsung and ZTE. (Three more companies are going through the certification process.) Wireless carrier Sprint was instrumental in its development.
“This new partnership is an important step toward industry-wide adoption of the UL 110 standard and after working with UL Environment to develop the standard,” said Amy Hargroves, director of corporate responsibility for Sprint, in a statement. “We are gratified to see it is well on its way to becoming the global standard we envisioned four years ago, as well as the opportunities it will bring as the carrier with the most UL Environment certified devices in the marketplace.”
UL Environment has been working with GEC since June 2012, when it became one of the organization’s Product Registration Entities.
Sara Greenstein, president of UL Environment, said she does not anticipate changes to the existing standard as a result of the EPEAT partnership, or any changes to how it certifies products.
“However, as part of the listing process, the Standards Technical Panel (STP) is working to create a consensus standard using UL’s ANSI-accredited standards development procedures,” Greenstein said. “The result of this process will reflect the collective work of that STP. As a stakeholder in the consensus process, EPEAT is engaging in the standards development dialogue. The specifics of any change are not yet known since the process is still ongoing and fluid. When a product is reviewed for re-certification, or applies to be listed on EPEAT, it will be assessed to the updated standard in force at the time.”
The process of certifying a phone for UL 110 consists of four steps, including a desktop audit of documentation provided by the manufacturer; visual inspection and disassembly of the device and packaging; testing (if necessary); and on-site audits of manufacturing facilities. Manufacturers submitted to the UL 110 standards processes must agree to have their facilities re-inspected every three years.
EPEAT’s goal is to have the mobile phone category approved by the end of 2013. It will take approximately four to six months after that for the first products to be listed, Frisbee estimated.
The EPEAT information database is used by eight national governments, educational agencies, healthcare system and businesses. It evaluates technology along a number of metrics including materials used in the components, energy consumption, supply chain policies and waste disposal and recycling considerations.
More than 50 manufacturers have products listed; more than 533 million registered products have been sold globally since 2006. The environmental benefits realized from products adhering to the IEEE 1680 standard include energy savings equivalent to the amount of power needed to power 963,000 households for a year, and greenhouse gas emissions reductions equivalent to removing 1.6 million passenger cars from the road for one year, according to the IEEE.
In addition to the categories already mentioned, EPEAT also covers TVs and imaging equipment.
By Sarah O’Brien, Director of Outreach and Communications, EPEAT and the Green Electronics Council
The worldwide adoption and proliferation of ICT products is having a rapidly increasing environmental impact. Making ICT more sustainable requires a rethinking of processes, materials and supply chain management.
Information and Communications Technology (ICT) is at the centre of modern life, from work functionality to social communication and entertainment, and its penetration of every aspect of life shows no sign of slowing. Handheld devices now do the work formerly performed by supercomputers, and ICT tools have moved from luxury items for consumers in the developed world to basic tools for a broad swath of people around the globe.
Demand for ICT devices and services will grow exponentially as education, commerce, government and other sectors increasingly rely on electronically mediated communications, as products become less costly, and as a larger share of a growing global population obtains the material wealth to afford them.
Information technology can significantly contribute to global sustainability through support for increased efficiency and electronic substitution for physical processes (telepresence instead of travel, for example) across multiple sectors. However, without fundamental rethinking of the current business model based on continual creation and disposal of short-lived products, the environmental impacts of ICT-related resource extraction, production, shipping, energy consumption and disposal will rapidly increase. This rapid increase in impact reduces the net sustainability gains from ICT.
The fundamental challenge to ICT manufacturers is how to meet burgeoning market demand in the face of increasing resource constraints, and how to reduce the environmental impacts of products at all stages of life. In brief – how can the ICT sector be transformed to supply vital services to several billion humans over future decades, without deleterious impact on the environment and on the health of manufacturing workers, and end-of-life processors of e-waste?
Presuming that the ICT industry remains reliant on a widely distributed global supply chain, the impact of improvements in the production and recycling of electronics can have a worldwide positive or negative effect on social and economic development, and reduce or increase potential environmental degradation. Resolving these questions and establishing norms and mechanisms to support best practice can benefit countries and individuals around the globe.
The ICT industry has reached an advanced level of maturity in addressing many issues relative to environmental and social sustainability. That is not to say that the issues have been resolved, but they have been well defined by industry and interested stakeholder groups, and many active programmes have been established to address them.
Legislative and regulatory initiatives around the globe have proliferated in recent years to address:
Importantly, significant ICT purchasers have supported these positive steps through widespread adoption of purchasing requirements to address the triple bottom line of environmental, social and economic sustainability. Such purchasing initiatives have been supported by a broad array of national ecolabels, and more broadly enabled by transnational product certifications such as the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO), that address product attributes, resource efficiency and end-of-life (EOL) environmental impacts.
The sector has put significant effort into slowing the growth of environmental impact through design and engineering innovation and environmental initiatives, even as production increases. In the future, that effort must be intensified to achieve real reductions in the worldwide impact of the ICT sector. Laudable though they are, current efforts rely on addressing known problems and eliminating well-understood risks. Even within the R&D functions of manufacturing companies, where great effort is put into development of safer products and processes, the focus often remains relatively near-term and looks to substitutions and modest changes to reduce environmental and human impacts.
A much more future-oriented approach will be needed to develop a truly sustainable ICT sector. Such an approach must involve broad and challenging questions that go well beyond the content of products to consider aspects of the sector’s business model and value chain management. Such questions are summarised in the following section.
How can we manage the product life cycle to optimise resource efficiency? ICT devices contain a wide variety of materials, some of which are, or may become, scarce or otherwise critical. The embedded resources in ICT devices will need to be managed intelligently across the entire product life cycle, rather than used once and then wasted.
How to enhance product longevity and life cycle extension? Products need to last longer in use, while also meeting end user demand for improving technologies, to reduce the overall impact of the ICT sector. A widespread infrastructure will be necessary to support ongoing repair, refurbishment, redeployment of equipment – how do manufacturers and the broader society support rational development of such infrastructure?
Sustainable, safe and benign materials. Some materials in ICT devices are known to be toxic to people or ecosystems; the hazards of other chemicals are unknown. The removal and replacement in manufacturing and recycling of hazards known to be harmful to workers and to impact the environment is imperative. Effective alternatives assessment for replacement materials is critical, to avoid a continual cycle of replacement as new harmful effects are discovered later.
Energy efficiency. The efficient use of energy is a critical dimension for these energy-using products. Technological evolution and customer demand will drive towards ever increasing efficiency in both the use phase, and in production processes that affect embedded energy.
Corporate transparency and supply chain management. The supply chain for ICT products is vast, spans several continents and includes companies with disparate ability to manage and report on their environmental and health/safety performance. Brand manufacturers must assure that the suppliers, who do the bulk of the manufacturing of the products they sell, improve their performance in many dimensions.
To find a way forward to a more sustainable electronics sector, stakeholders around the globe must begin to engage with fundamental issues that create barriers to progress. A series of forums, sponsored by the non-profit Green Electronics Council, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and others will bring together key business leaders, technology and environmental researchers, purchasers, and environmental and social advocates to discuss root causes and identify targets for concerted effort.
The goal of these forums is to develop guidance well beyond generalised high level discussion. Thanks to its extensive efforts at redesign and responsibility, the ICT industry is beyond that conversation; the challenge now is to refine specific questions and approaches to the most knotty issues as a way forward for research and development. Open and detailed discussions must address how technological changes, and their environmental implications, can be factored into manufacturing and EOL systems – and into standards and eco-label requirements – to drive real change at a fundamental level.
It’s easy to agree that designs and systems should be optimised for efficient use and recovery of resources. But in order to move forward in this task, we will need to consider such questions as:
As expert stakeholders begin digging into the topic at this level of specificity, the resulting analysis can reveal unexpected gaps that block progress forward. For example, in a discussion convened by the Green Electronics Council at the Electronics Goes Green (‘EGG’) conference in Berlin, one of the signal points made by participants on recovery of critical materials was that top level ‘manufacturers’ – global companies whose names are on the final products – often simply do not know the full array of materials in their products.
So the discussion of materials recovery reveals a much more fundamental need for tracking and reporting of materials use throughout the value chain – and moves the discussion to practical questions of how to best establish such systems, and away from simple assumptions about what is currently within the purview of manufacturers.
Over the past decade, the ICT sector has been commendably alert to the impacts of their operations around the globe. Design efforts have incorporated environmental as well as performance goals, materials and technology choices have been conditioned on warnings from environmental and health advocates, significant EOL infrastructure is under development to try to address the dangers of unregulated EOL processing. And importantly, purchasers are making use of a number of tools and systems to select products with lower environmental impact and reward manufacturers whose efforts are most groundbreaking.
But even in this forward-looking sector, the fundamental issues endemic to the current model of production and consumption remain to be addressed. Remarkably, as with the issues of critical materials above, basic understanding of the complex products we rely on is lacking, not yet incorporated into the overall flow of commerce. And the product designs and business models that will allow for reduced overall consumption, while still supporting a thriving industry to drive innovation, are as yet underdeveloped or lacking. Concerted effort to excavate and pursue the fundamental issues is still needed to provide direction towards a more sustainable ICT sector.
The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a rating that helps identify “greener” electronics, has been expanded to include printers, copiers and other imaging equipment, EPEAT has announced.
Initially intended for PCs and displays, the EPEAT rating system was created more than six years ago and is today used by eight national governments, including the U.S., a news release indicates.
A device must meet at least 33 environmental performance criteria to be registered, and can achieve a higher rating by meeting up to 26 additional criteria, the release indicates. Rating points include the use of recycled and recyclable materials, design for recycling, energy efficiency, packaging and corporate performance.
Seven imaging equipment manufacturers currently have EPEAT-registered products: Canon, Dell,Epson, HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox. Two more – Konica Minolta and Samsung – are in the process of registering, according to the release.
“World markets will now be able to easily and reliably identify and purchase greener printers, copiers and scanners based on EPEAT ratings,” Robert Frisbee, EPEAT CEO, said in a statement. “I applaud the leadership of everyone involved with achieving this important milestone.” Original here.
EPEAT, the green electronics rating system based on the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards, has now added printers, copiers and other imaging equipment to its list of green PCs and Displays.
EPEAT stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, although now that the organisation is well established the full name is rarely used. For more than six years, EPEAT ratings have helped companies, governments and consumers compare and purchase greener PCs and monitors.
To be added to the EPEAT registry of products, an imaging device must meet at least 33 required environmental performance criteria. Products are rated Bronze, Silver or Gold depending on how many of the 26 additional optional criteria it meets.
Assessment is made on a lifecycle basis, addressing the elimination of toxic substances, the use of recycled and recyclable materials, their design for recycling, product longevity, energy efficiency, corporate performance and packaging, among other criteria. The rating criteria were developed through a consensus of representatives from the environmental, research, governmental and manufacturing sectors.
The EPEAT registry now includes imaging equipment from seven manufacturers: Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox, and two others – Konica Minolta and Samsung – have begun the process of registering products. These nine manufacturers represent at least 80% of the global market for copiers, printers, scanners and multifunction devices.
The potential impact of this extension to imaging products is clear from EPEAT’s success to date with PCs and displays…. Full article here.
The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), a global registry for greener electronics, has expanded to include printers, copiers and other imaging equipment.
The registry’s initial focus has been on PCs and displays and has been used by companies, government entities and consumers to make more environmentally-friendly decisions when purchasing electronics. Included in the criteria considered when adding a product to the registry is the use of recycled and recyclable materials, a product’s design for recycling, product longevity and other factors.
The EPEAT registry now includes imaging equipment from seven manufacturers: Canon, Dell, Epson, HP, Lexmark, Ricoh and Xerox. Two additional manufacturers, Konica Minolta and Samsung, have begun the process of registering products with EPEAT. According to EPEAT, the nine manufacturers represent at least 80 percent of the global market for copiers, printers, scanners and multifunction devices.
“Increasingly, people want to purchase products that have strong environmental attributes, and EPEAT does a nice job of summarizing those attributes in PCs, monitors, and now printers, copiers and scanners,” said Judy Glazer, Senior Director of HP’s Printing and Personal Systems Social and Environmental Responsibility Organization, in a prepared statement.
To be added to the EPEAT registry, an imaging device must meet at least 33 required environmental performance criteria. Products may achieve higher ratings by meeting up to 26 additional optional criteria. The rating criteria were developed during a four-year stakeholder consensus process that involved hundreds of representatives from the environmental, research, governmental and manufacturing sectors. Link to original article here.
4. Don’t underestimate consumer power in enforcing corporate sustainability: Apple u-turns on EPEAT after public criticism
Last year once again revealed the power of consumers, supercharged by social media, to hold even the biggest, most powerful brands to account.
In July, Apple announced that it would no longer register its products withEPEAT, the Electrical Products Environmental Assessment Tool – assumed to be linked to its new products being unlikely to meet EPEAT criteria. The decision prompted a ban of Apple products by San Francisco procurement city officials. On the face of it, with local officials spending a mere $45,579 on Apple technologies, a boycott represented a drop in the ocean compared to $65bn in annual sales, and Apple stood its ground.
But the company misunderstood the statement they were making by ditching EPEAT certification – which many took as a sign that Apple was parting ways with green principles.
The ensuing backlash was huge and, although green groups such as Greenpeace added to the frenzy, was markedly consumer-driven.
After just three days, the company was forced into an embarrassing u-turn, citing the disappointment of “many loyal Apple customers” as critical to correcting their “mistake” and getting back on to the register.
If brands take one moral from the story for next year it should be that consumers do care about sustainability, and they are more than prepared to say so directly.
Is your organization using EPEAT (aka the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) to gauge the toxicity or energy efficiency of the technology it buys?
If so, you have helped eliminate the use of enough mercury to fill more than 1 million household fever thermometers.
If that stat doesn’t impress you, how about this one: You have helped avoid the disposal of close to 74,100 metric tons of hazardous waste – roughly the equivalent of seven Eiffel Towers.
The environmental benefits of EPEAT-rated technology is further explored in the organization’s latest annual report, which shows that sales of EPEAT-registered products grew more than 30 percent in 2011 (the last period for which full-year figures were available) Full article
America is on the brink of one of the biggest shopping days of the year. While many of us look for creative ways to avoid this rampant consumption, the fact remains that a large portion of technology purchases are made during the holidays. While we may not be able to eliminate this shopping frenzy entirely, there are ways to reduce its negative impact on our planet.
EPEAT, one of the largest global registries for greener electronics, recently released its 6th annual report detailing the benefit of purchasing products that meet its strict environmental criteria. Results showed that demand for EPEAT rated products, both here in the U.S. and around the world, continues to grow, resulting in a significant reduction of hazardous solid waste and energy consumption. More
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