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Green gadgets get middling report card at CES

Amid a green-themed Consumer Electronics Show, Greenpeace says electronics firms are getting more eco-conscious to meet consumer demand but fall short of what's possible.

Consumers are increasingly demanding better environmental attributes in their digital gadgets, but the consumer electronics industry can go a lot further to make gadgets "green."

Environmental watchdog Greenpeace held a press conference at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Friday to announce results of its second annual survey called "Green Electronics: the Search Continues."


The good news is that manufacturers are using fewer hazardous chemicals, such as PVC plastic, and are running more electronic take-back programs. Another positive trend is the use of LED screens for notebooks, which are relatively energy efficient and use less mercury than other technologies.

But many manufacturers are slow in adopting EnergyStar energy-efficiency standards or using recycled materials. Consumer electronics companies should also take more responsibility for recycling, according to Greenpeace. (Click here for a PDF of the study.)

The assessment, which follows Greenpeace's ratings of individual vendors issued in November, comes at perhaps the most environmentally themed CES so far.

The show organizer, the Consumer Electronics Association, earlier this week issued results of a survey that found that consumers are increasingly looking for green attributes, as are manufacturers looking to differentiate products.

"Green is becoming a purchasing factor," Steve Koening, director of industry analysts at the CEA, told the BBC.

More than half of consumers are willing to pay a little more for products designed with the environment in mind, while 22 percent said that they are willing to pay 15 percent more.

Also telling were consumers' responses to what is considered "green." Over half of those surveyed said they didn't know what the environmental attributes of high-tech products were and 38 percent said they were confused by the "green" label.

That's not surprising given the explosion in green claims in the past few years. And when you consider the diversity of what's considered green tech at CES alone--from power strips that eliminate vampire loads to cell phones made from recycled material--it hints at the many aspects of "going green."

The CES show also hosted a Greener Gadgets Tech Zone and had a "Technology and Environment" session track with panels on electronics recycling and energy use.

Before the conference began, the organizers used a carbon emissions-management software application in an effort to lower the environmental impact of the event.