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Entertainment (March 2009)

Greener Standards
by John R. Quain
What's the point of all those labels?

How can you tell which gadget is energy efficient and what’s environmentally friendly? One way is to check the label.

Energy Star: This is the EPA’s rating system to identify products that consume less energy. Several years ago it started as a way to save money; now it’s touted as a way to identify products like air conditioners, fridges and even computers that will contribute less to greenhouse gas emissions. The ratings found on some Energy Star labels are a handy way to compare different models when you’re shopping; energystar.gov.

EPEAT: A newer European certification, it stands for Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool. In short, it’s a tougher standard than the Energy Star rating because it not only encompasses energy efficiency but also how much recycled (and recyclable) material is used, how big the packages are (bigger packages waste shipping space), what toxic materials might be used, even the kind of ink on the box. Not many products meet such rigid criteria, but expect to see it touted more in the future; epeat.net.

RoHS: The Restriction of Hazardous Substances or RoHS standard is actually a European Union directive that prohibits any new electronic equipment from containing more than mandated maximum levels of toxins such as lead, cadmium, mercury, and certain flame retardants. It doesn’t apply to energy efficiency, but it means that the product you buy won’t off-gas harmful elements into the air in your home when you turn it on and won’t end up in a toxic landfill when you’re done with it; rohs.gov.uk

Related: Ghosts in the Machines Better CFLs Gauging Your Power Drain

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