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New Standard Helps Purchasers Buy Greener Computers

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association, has announced a new voluntary environmental performance standard to help large computer buyers make environmentally sound purchases.

The announcement was made last week at the annual International Symposium on Electronics and the Environment in Burlingame. The new IEEE standard -- IEEE 1680TM, "Standard for Environmental Assessment of Personal Computer Products" -- was initiated by a group of manufacturers, environmentalists, and purchasers, and developed with support from the EPA.

"Determining which computers are environmentally preferable is a challenge for companies, government agencies and other organizations," said Jeff Scott, the EPA's waste division director for the Pacific Southwest region. "This standard will change the marketplace and measurably reduce the environmental impacts of computers. It is an excellent example of government, industry, environmentalists and academics collaborating to address an issue and improve the environment."

IEEE 1680 is the first U.S. standard to supply environmental guidelines for institutional purchasing decisions involving desktop and laptop computers and monitors. It offers criteria in eight categories -- materials selection, environmentally sensitive materials, design for end of life, end-of-life management, energy conservation, product longevity and life-cycle extension, packaging, and corporate performance. The new standard will encourage manufacturers to design their products to be used longer, be more energy efficient, easier to upgrade and recycle, and contain less hazardous materials.

"IEEE 1680 will foster green product design by setting challenging, yet realistic criteria for environmental performance," says Larry Chalfan, co-chair of the IEEE 1680 Working Group and Executive Director of the Zero Waste Alliance, which ran the process to develop the standard. "It creates mechanisms for identifying and verifying that computer products meet these criteria without delaying time to market. It also rewards leading product designs by giving manufacturers a low-cost way to promote product environmental performance."

“This standard will provide institutional purchasers with a critical tool to help ensure their IT needs are met while at the same time making the IT marketplace more environmentally smart and economically sound,” said Ed Pinero, the White House's Federal Environmental Executive.

The standard was developed by a working group composed of representatives from the electronics industry, environmental advocacy groups, state and local purchasing officials, electronics recyclers, and academics. It was approved through the consensus-based IEEE standards development process, recognized by the American National Standards Institute.

IEEE 1680 and its product registration and verification system are part of the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool or EPEAT, which is managed by the Green Electronics Council under a grant from the EPA. The council will maintain a registry of computer products that meet IEEE 1680 criteria online starting in June 2006. The Council will verify that the information provided by manufacturers is accurate and up to date.

“This comprehensive standard responds to a strong call from purchasing agents who want consistent environmental criteria for comparing and selecting computers and monitors,” says Jeff Omelchuck of the Green Electronics Council. “The standard provides for a registry of products that comply with IEEE 1680, and the means to verify compliance, so purchasers can find computer products that meet their IT needs and have less of an effect on the environment.”

Federal agencies and private purchasers have already referenced the new standard in more than $21 billion of IT equipment contracts or requests for proposals. Most state an intention to buy EPEAT registered products as soon as they become available.

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