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Green electronics EPEAT registry goes global

EPEAT certification, which rates electronics on a variety of environmental factors, will be available to tech gear sold outside the U.S.

The Green Electronics Council said Monday it is making its EPEAT rating system, now mandated in U.S. government agencies, available for computer gear sold in other countries.

Products certified by EPEAT--which stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool--are listed in a registry. Products are judged on 23 attributes that make up an environmental performance rating. There are 28 optional attributes as well.

The ratings--either gold, silver, or bronze--cover monitors and desktop computers right now. The organization, which is made up of manufacturers, recyclers, and advocacy groups, is in the process of establishing an EPEAT rating for televisions, printers, and copiers. It also expects to take on consumer electronics and servers, according to executive director Jeff Omelchuck.

Green Electronics Council

Registries for monitor and PC buyers will now be able available in Canada, Europe, China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, and Mexico. The Green Electronics Council says it now has 1,300 products listed and participation of 30 vendors, which represents $60 billion in tech purchases.

While the Department of Energy-run EnergyStar rates energy efficiency, EPEAT covers other factors including the amount of toxic material used in electronics, manufacturers' recycling and take-back policies, and packaging.

To get the EPEAT certification, manufacturers need to fill out a complex form, which is reviewed by EPEAT. It also performs independent audits, sometimes through third parties, "to keep them honest," according to Omelchuck. The nonprofit is funded by members' fees.

Federal agencies are required to ensure that 95 percent of their computing equipment is EPEAT-certified. The actual adoption rate, however, is lower with about 13 of 22 agencies last year approaching the 95 percent purchasing market, according to Sarah O'Brien, director of communications at the Green Electronics Council.

Corporate computer buyers are showing growing interest in the EPEAT rating, said Steve Hoffman, director of strategic marketing and sustainability initiatives at Hewlett-Packard, which has had EPEAT-certified equipment since 2007.

"When you get outside the public sector, we are all seeing higher awareness around the environment," Hoffman said.