EarthTalk: On Buying A Green Computer.


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EarthTalk is a weekly installment from E/The Environmental Magazine.


Dear EarthTalk: 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?

Thanks in part to pressure from non-profits like Greenpeace International, which has published quarterly versions of its landmark “Guide to Greener Electronics” since 2006, computer makers now understand that consumers care about the environmental footprints of the products they use.

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 emphasizes that even such top ranked companies have lots of room for improvement when it comes to the environment.

PC Magazine, the leading computer publication for consumer and business users, 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 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s EnergyStar program, the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive, Taiwan’s Greenmark and the computer industry’s own Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT).

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, and Dell’s OptiPlex 755. As for laptops, the greenest current models include Dell’s Latitude D630, the Everex Zonbu, Fujitsu’s LifeBook S6510, and Toshiba’s Tecra A9-S9013.

Perhaps more important than the green-ness of your new computer is what you do with the old one. Stuffing it into the trash or setting it out for curbside pick-up may be the worst thing you can do with an outdated computer, as heavy metals and other toxins inevitably get free and get into surrounding soils and water. If the machine still works, donate it to a local school that can put it to use, or to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, either of which can re-sell it to help fund their programs. Another option is to donate it to the National Cristina Foundation, which places outdated technology with needy non-profits.

Once you’ve gotten rid of an old computer and outfitted yourself with a spiffy new green one, you might just want to score a few green accessories. Brooklyn, New York’s Verdant Computing, which bills itself as a purveyor of “the greenest computer products on the web,” sells remanufactured ink and toner cartridges, laptop cases made from recycled plastic, GreenDisk CDs packaged in recycled plastic jewel cases, solar-powered MP3 accessories, energy-saving printers and even a software program, GreenPrint, which modifies the print programs on your computer to economize on paper and ink/toner use. Verdant also has most products shipped to consumers directly from the manufacturers to save re-shipping.

CONTACTS: Greenpeace International,; PC Magazine,; National Cristina Foundation,; Verdant Computing,

GOT AN ENVIRONMENTAL QUESTION? Send it to: EarthTalk, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881 USA; submit it at EarthTalk; or e-mail us. Read past columns at our archives.

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  1. I’m probably going to invest in a new laptop either this year or next. I know you can return old computers to several of the manufacturers for parts. Donating them to schools in your area if they are still working is another option. Even giving a computer away for free, which I did with an 11 year old computer that a college student wanted for typing papers is a good option.

    The last thing anyone should do is to throw it in the trash to leach into our soils.

    Dagny McKinley
    organic apparel

  2. Try purchasing a laptop or PC that is energy-star compliant. Regardless of which computer you end up purchasing, by applying the power management tools you already have on your PC or laptop you can save an average of $20 per year on your energy bill and help slow global warming. (Edited – link is already in your signature)

  3. If you’re still in the market for a green PC, check out Cherrypal. It’s a new home computer that is supposed to be “sweeter than an apple.” It’s small, quiet, efficient, and actually affordable. It utilizes Cloud Computing, but there’s no subscription fee. Should be worth a look.

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