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Online stores to flaunt green electronics ratings

The EPEAT label marking computers with eco-friendly features will soon appear at online stores.

Online shoppers will soon be able to tell at a glance if computers offer "green" features. Desktop and laptop PCs, as well as monitors, sold online are set to display the EPEAT logo starting early this year.

The label is the closest the electronics industry has come to adopting a third-party, green seal of approval for computers.

EPEAT's bronze, silver, and gold ratings mark electronics offering energy efficiency and sustainable product designs. Equipment that's easily dismantled, made from recycled plastics or using low-toxic ingredients get high marks.

The nonprofit Green Electronics Council runs the EPEAT system with support from the Environmental Protection Agency. The acronym stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. EPEAT is partnering with Channel Intelligence to make the ratings available for online commerce.

The Zones will be the first store to display the EPEAT ratings. Other Channel Intelligence retailers include Best Buy and Target stores, although if there are EPEAT plans for such major retailers, they remain under wraps.

The EPEAT label has been involved in purchasing agreements so far totaling $60 billion, according to Channel Intelligence. It will not be found in the aisles of brick-and-mortar franchises.

The government required on January 10 that 95 percent of computers bought by NASA, the Department of Defense, and the General Services Administration be EPEAT-certified. Federal departments are already required to buy computers approved by the Department of Energy's Energy Star program.

Other than Energy Star, no industry-wide "green" seal of approval for electronics appears yet on store shelves. Canon announced earlier this month that it will label popular lines of inkjet and laser printers with the company's own green seal to indicate sleeker designs and less wasteful packaging. Printer vendors including HP and Lexmark have also pushed in recent years to make their products more ecologically sustainable, but do not advertise such efforts on their packaging.