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Green IT, Electronics Purchases Increase in 2008

epeattableFederal government agencies and consumers are both increasing their purchases of “green” electronics. Federal agencies recently reported major steps towards “greening” their IT purchases, while more consumers are basing their green electronics buying decisions on energy efficiency.

Federal agencies have significantly increased their green IT purchases thanks to the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) system that ranks desktop computers, notebook computers and monitors based on their environmental attributes. The registry includes more than 1,000 products from more than 30 participating manufacturers.

The 2008 progress reports submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of the Federal Environmental Executive (OFEE) reflect a commitment across the government for green IT purchasing using the EPEAT system. The new Federal Acquisition Regulation’s (FAR) clause requires agencies to prioritize the purchase of EPEAT-registered IT products.

Thirteen of the 22 federal agencies reported meeting the goal of 95 percent or higher EPEAT purchase level. These 13 agencies purchased more than 500,000 EPEAT-registered desktops, laptops and monitors in 2008.

The EPEAT system rates electronic products according to three tiers of environmental performance: Bronze, Silver and Gold, based on a total of 51 environmental criteria. Key benchmarks include elimination of toxic materials, design for recycling, extended product life, energy efficiency, and availability of takeback and recycling services.

Two new studies also indicate that consumers are buying more green electronics, with energy efficiency high on their list of buying criteria.

To reduce home energy costs, consumers are factoring energy efficiency into their buying decision of consumer electronics, according to a new study from the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA). The study, “Home Technologies and Energy Efficiency: A Look At Behaviors, Issues and Solutions,” finds increasing consumer interest in the energy efficiency benefits of consumer electronics products.

A key finding indicates that consumers are more likely to turn to smart energy meters than home energy audits to reduce energy consumption. Fifty-six percent of consumers show interest in “smart energy meters” that provide information on optimum times to run appliances for utility bill savings.

The study also reveals that 57 percent of consumers believe an equal mix of behavioral changes and the use of new technology will help them conserve household energy. On average, consumers said they would need to see a 31 percent increase in their monthly home energy costs before they would seek out technology options to improve energy efficiency within the home, according to CEA.

Similarly, a study, conducted by GfK Roper for Sharp Electronics Corp., reveals that American consumers are three times more likely to pay more upfront for eco-friendly products that will save them money on electricity bills in the long run despite tighter budgets and less discretionary income.

The survey, which was conducted in March 2009, indicates that when consumers shop for new consumer electronics products such as flat-screen TVs, energy-saving features are at the top of their priority list, edging out traditional buying factors such as brand and design.

The survey found that nearly half of American consumers look for green features during the purchase decision, and more than one-third of Americans say they definitely look to make sure a consumer electronics product has energy-saving features.

An earlier CEA study also indicated that green features — a product is recyclable and energy efficient — are more important than the brand name.

In addition to energy-saving features, Americans are looking for other eco-conscious features, showing a preference for an end-of-life recycling program. When consumers were asked to rate, on a scale of 1-10, the importance of several environment-focused aspects, an end-of-life recycling program received the highest average rating, with 7.4 out of 10.

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