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EPEAT rating to rank TVs' eco-features

A group that's not well known by consumers is creating standards that measure environmental performance beyond energy efficiency. But it will take awhile.

Updated at 12:10 p.m. PT with comments from co-chair of the working group.

A consortium of manufacturers and retailers is working on an environmental rating for TVs that goes beyond just power consumption to include everything from packaging to amount of toxic material used.

The standard, tentatively called EPEAT-for-TV, is spearheaded by the Green Electronics Coalition and is being worked on through the IEEE Standards Association.

The arrival of energy-hungry flat-screen TVs has some consumers looking more closely at the electricity consumption of their electronics. (See CNET's energy-efficient guide for TVs here.)

The EPEAT-for-TV rating will define environmental performance for a TV by including data on "reduction or elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, materials selection, design for end of life, lifecycle extension, energy conservation, end of life management, corporate performance, (and) packaging," according to working group's Web site.

That means that the group will consider the amount of toxic materials, such as flame retardants, used in TVs and how much recycled content is used in the products, explained Patricia Dillon, the co-chair of a working group. The standard will also look at how whether a TV is designed to be disassembled at the end its life and manufacturers' environmental reporting, she said.

In terms of energy consumption, it's meant to go beyond the EnergyStar rating for energy efficiency. The standard is expected to be available on retail shelves in 18 to 24 months. In parallel, there is an EPEAT standard being done for digital imaging products, such as printers and copiers.

The EPEAT standard--the name comes from Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool--is primarily aimed at people who purchase electronics at businesses or government agencies. It now covers desktop and laptop PCs as well as monitors.

Because it was developed for institutional buyers, the EPEAT rating isn't well known by consumers. But the Green Electronics Coalition is planning on developing a branding campaign to raise awareness of the standard, Dillon said.

"That's what's majorly different here. There's been a recognition in the growth of EPEAT beyond what anyone had envisioned initially," she said. "There's a desire by many, including retailers and (manufacturing) companies, to bring EPEAT into the consumer space."

Members of the working group include representatives from Acer, Best Buy, Sharp, the Electronics Takeback Campaign, and JVC. According to a piece at The New York Times' Green Inc. blog, Sony broke rank with other manufacturers to back creation of the environmental performance standard.

In a sign of the friction among companies, the meeting minutes from March indicate that one working group participant said there is no data to suggest that consumers would be behind the effort.