The Many Shades of Green
You shouldn't have to make a choice between saving money and saving the environment when you buy new computer equipment. In fact, the two ideals should go hand-in-hand-and today they do thanks to updated ENERGY STAR standards that help you save money on electricity costs.
"This past July the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) changed its computer-related ENERGY STAR specification--a designation that means a product helps reduce energy use and the release of greenhouse gases-making it more stringent," says Maria T. Vargas, communications director for the EPA's ENERGY STAR program.
"Computers are an especially exciting story. To have ENERGY STAR remain relevant to consumers and businesses we keep raising the bar. As of July 20 the ENERGY STAR designation on a computer means that the unit is efficient in all modes-not just when powered down or in standby. An ENERGY STAR PC can now be as much as 65 percent more efficient than a conventional PC," says Vargas.
According to Vargas, this change in standard will result in a $1.8 billion energy savings over the next five years and-just as important-it will result in a reduction of greenhouse gases that's equivalent to what 2.7 million vehicles produce each year.
The best part? ENERGY STAR-compliant PCs, monitors, and printers often don't cost any more than non-compliant units, she says.
Double Your Savings
Saving electricity and lowering greenhouse gas emissions is only part of the equation, though. Computers and electronics also affect the environment because many of the conventional materials used to manufacture them aren't necessarily biodegradable. That's where the EPEAT--a system to help PC buyers choose the most environmentally-friendly products out there--comes in. Products that score high on EPEAT, or Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, contain either very few or no toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury. They are also manufactured with recycled materials, are at least 65 percent recyclable themselves, meet ENERGY STAR requirements, and ship with less packing materials, among other criteria.
There are three levels of designation-Bronze, Silver, and Gold. Bronze EPEAT products meet all 23 required criteria; the silver and gold designations go farther, meeting all of the mandatory criteria and either 50 or 75 percent, respectively of optional criteria such as shipping with lead-, cadmium-, and mercury-free batteries, and being manufactured with a minimum of 90 percent reusable or recyclable parts.
Buying systems that fall into bronze, silver, or gold EPEAT categories go a long way towards conserving energy and helping to stem global warming, says Tim Sanchez, communications director with the Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit environmental organization based in Washington DC.
"Choosing systems or individual components that are EPEAT-certified is another way for businesses to help mitigate climate change and be part of the solution," explains Sanchez. "One great example of leadership is the Transportation Security Administration's decision to refresh 450 airport security systems with Dell products that meet EPEAT silver-level standards. This shows that cost-savings and environmental stewardship are no longer mutually exclusive ideas."
One PC at a Time
Indeed, ENERGY STAR and EPEAT are helping Dell move towards its goal of becoming the greenest company in the world, says Todd Forsythe, Dell's Vice President of Commercial Marketing. "It's good business sense. Buying energy-efficient products ends up saving the customer money in electricity and replacement costs," says Forsythe. "ENERGY STAR products like our OptiPlex desktops have the lowest cost to operate, and have a lesser impact on the earth. Dell has more than 70 products that meet EPEAT, and even more that are ENERGY STAR-compliant."
Dell isn't stopping with its products, though. The company is going even further in its efforts to remove carbon dioxide from the air, this past spring implementing a "Plant a Tree for Me" program, a global carbon-neutral agenda that lets consumer and small business customers-for a $2 or $6 donation-plant trees to counteract their own energy use. The company added a "Plant a Forrest for Me" program in Sept. for larger organizations worldwide to join together with Dell and share best practices, partner and facilitate the planting of millions of trees in sustainable managed reforestation projects.
It is small steps like this, says ENERGY STAR's Vargas, which can collectively make a big difference for our environment.
"Something as simple as--when you're buying a new computer--making sure that you ask for an ENERGY STAR-qualified model, and once you have it home turning it off when you're not using it can really help," she says. "So many people think to use less energy they have to do without something, but that's not the case. It isn't about doing without; it's about using technology to do more with less."
Center for a New American Dream's Sanchez agrees
"By conserving energy you're engaging in the simplest way to reduce green house gases, and therefore helping to stem the tide of global warming," says Sanchez. "Small businesses can make a difference because every purchase matters. Every purchase and every dollar spent has an environmental impact. And that's what everyone has to remember: change starts on the individual level."
To learn more about Dell's green initiatives and how your can make an impact, visit www.dell.com/earth.
Get more tips on starting a business and growing your sales at AllBusiness.com. AllBusiness has been helping small business owners start, manage and grow their businesses since 1999. Copyright 1999 - 2009 AllBusiness.com Inc. All Rights Reserved.