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'Green' gadgets need better labeling, report says

Shoppers seeking greener, cheaper electronics aren't getting enough details about products that conserve energy, according to a survey.

Unclear product labeling prevents many consumers from buying affordable, energy-efficient electronics, and companies making "greener" goods aren't getting proper credit, according to a report released Monday.

High-definition televisions, desktop computers, laptops, and printers are among the electronics that online-survey respondents seek the most for green qualities. Green cred is less of an issue, in their eyes, for GPS devices, digital cameras, and other small, low-power devices.

More than half of those polled said their lack of awareness interferes with buying gadgets that consume modest amounts of energy, use recycled packaging and low-toxic materials, and offer recycling options. Forty-five percent named price as the biggest turn-off to purchasing such products.

Market researchers Strategic Oxygen and Cohn & Wolfe conducted the GreenFactor survey of 10,000 people in a dozen nations. They are encouraging electronics vendors to communicate on product labels and Web sites how energy-efficient products can save shoppers money over time. Such a strategy can also help prevent accusations of corporate greenwashing.

Fifty-seven percent of those polled said they won't pay more for greener gadgets. Only 15 percent will accept a price premium. However, an age gap appeared as more than half of respondents aged 25 to 34, versus only 23 percent of those 65 or older, said they will pay more for eco-friendly tech.

Consumers may be giving more green credit to some brands than deserved, according to a report.
Consumers may be giving more green credit to some brands than they deserve, according to a report. GreenFactor

The few third-party labels that appear on store shelves include Energy Star, for electronics that hog less electricity than most. It's run by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Agency.

The nonprofit-run EPEAT label is gaining in popularity to mark computers and monitors with efficient energy use and more sustainable designs, but it's used largely in government purchasing and by online merchants.

Green labels from manufacturers include Canon's Generation Green and HP's Eco Highlights, for printers.

Still, the companies making the most green progress aren't getting recognition from consumers, according to the GreenFactor report. Americans surveyed identified Dell and Apple, followed by HP and Microsoft, as the brands with the greenest credentials. NEC, Hitachi, and Nintendo ranked near the bottom among 27 companies.

Those perceptions didn't match up with the ratings of 18 green electronics brands by Greenpeace. Samsung and Nokia, for example, ranked poorly in the GreenFactor survey but were rated among the top five brands by the environmental watchdog group.

The GreenFactor results varied by region. For instance, people polled in Japan said they considered local names Panasonic, Sharp, and Sony the greenest.