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Green computers: a convenient truth?

Green computers: a convenient truth?

If greener cars rev your engine, you'll probably pick a computer that minimizes its ecological impact and your energy bills, if you can find one. Today, for the first time, you can look up laptops, desktops, and monitors that meet the definition of green agreed upon by electronics makers, environmental groups, and the government. Check out the new EPEAT database at epeat.net.

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool is a voluntary badge, similar to Energy Star, but it rates more than energy efficiency. EPEAT products earn a Gold, Silver, or Bronze label according to how well they satisfy strict standards of energy usage as well as design, recyclability, durability, materials, and packaging. Corporate policies are also taken into consideration.

You can search on the site by brand or for qualities such as CRT or flat-panel monitors between 15 and 30 inches in size. I couldn't find a single product that rated Gold, while 54 shone Silver, and 7 were Bronze. Read the ratings details for a menu of cutting-edge design techniques, such as modular components, reduced mercury, and cases made of postconsumer recycled plastic.

HP, Dell, and CTL Corporation are early EPEAT adopters (HP and Dell also offer good curbside tech recycling pickup). Other big brands are absent from the database, but the initial list of 61 items is sure to expand, especially as demand grows among makers of green homes as well as within the government. The Department of Homeland Security, NASA, and Massachusetts State will require equipping their offices with EPEAT-labeled products. The EPA funded EPEAT, expecting it to save enough energy to power 6 million homes and save 13 million pounds of hazardous waste by 2011.