Earth Talk: Where can I find a 'green' computer?

Pressure from interest groups has made computermakers better ecocitizens, but more needs to be done.

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Q: My old computer finally bit the dust and I am in the market for a replacement. Are there any particularly "green" computers for sale these days?

Brian Smith, Nashua, N.H.

A: Thanks in part to pressure from non­profits like Greenpeace International – which has published quarterly versions of its landmark "Guide to Greener Electronics" since 2006 – computermakers now understand that consumers care about the environmental footprints of the products they use.

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The latest version of Greenpeace's guide gives high marks to Toshiba, Lenovo, Sony, and Dell for increasing the recyclability of their computers and redu­cing toxic components and so-called "e-waste" (refuse from discarded electronic devices and components). The group also credits Apple, HP, and Fujitsu for making strides toward greener products and manufacturing processes, but adds that even top-ranked companies have lots of room for improvement on the environment.

PC Magazine recently assessed dozens of personal computers according to environmental standards it developed in-house based on energy efficiency, recyclability, and the toxicity of components. The publication also factored in various "green" certification schemes such as the US Environmental Protection Agency's Energy­­Star program, the European Union's Restriction of Haz­ardous Sub­stances directive, Taiwan's Green­mark, and the computer industry's own Electronic Products Environmental Asses­­sment Tool.

The top choices for green desktop computers, according to PC, are:

• Apple's Mac Mini

Zonbu's Desktop Mini,

• HP Compaq's 2710p and dc7800

• Lenovo's ThinkCentre a61e

• Dell's OptiPlex 755

As for laptops, the greenest current models include:

• Dell's Latitude D630

• Everex Zonbu

• Fujitsu's LifeBook S6510

• Toshiba's Tecra A9-S9013

Perhaps more important than the greenness of your new computer is what you do with your old one. Putting it in the trash may be the worst thing you can do, as heavy metals and other toxins inevitably get free and migrate into surrounding soils and water. If the machine still works, give it to a local school that can put it to use, or to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, either of which can resell it to fund programs. Another option: Donate it to the National Cristina Foundation, which places outdated technology with needy nonprofits.

CONTACTS: Greenpeace International, www.greenpeace.org; PC Magazine, www.pcmag.com; National Cristina Foundation, www.cristina.org.

Do you have an environmental question? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881; submit it at: www.emagazine.com/earthtalk/thisweek/ , or e-mail: earthtalk@emagazine.com.

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