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How "Green" Are Your Gadgets?

Anupreeta Das

The Motorola W233 renew cell phone is seen at the Motorola booth at the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Nevada January 9, 2009. The renew phone, made from recycled plastic water bottles, is the world's first certified carbon-free phone. (REUTERS/Rick Wilking)

LAS VEGAS - Green is in like never before at this year's
Consumer Electronics Show, with 3,000 square feet of dedicated floor
space and companies touting the energy-saving, earth-friendly
attributes of their gadgets.

On display are "eco-buttons" that reduce your computer's power
consumption, e-lanterns that produce an hour's worth of light if you
crank them for a minute, luminous TV screens that use far less energy
than standard TVs and even mercury-free batteries that are 94 percent

But in the absence of a uniform global standard that certifies a
product as "green," are environment-conscious consumers buying more
green hype than green engineering?

Not necessarily, said Jeff Omelchuck, director of the Green
Electronics Council, which provides an Electronic Product Environmental
Assessment Tool (EPEAT) certification for computers. The EPEAT provides
manufacturers with a set of criteria against which to measure their
products' environmental impact.

"Electronics are in fact much more environmentally friendly today
than even five years ago," Omelchuck, an engineer, told Reuters.

But that does not mean gadgets are "sustainable" -- leaving no
adverse impact on the environment as they make their way from the
factory to a recycling unit -- which would make them truly green,
Omelchuck added.

"Companies are making products greener because the market expects them to," he added.


This year, manufacturers are also touting the energy efficiency of
their products to draw consumers who are spending fewer dollars on
discretionary products due to the recession.

While that is a start, environmental activists and analysts say any
energy savings from a so-called green device will be offset if it uses
highly toxic batteries or cannot be recycled.

Gadgets will be truly green when companies employ more eco-friendly
manufacturing processes, packaging, design and recycling programs as
part of a holistic approach to sustainability, they added.

"Consumers shouldn't have to choose between products that are
incredibly green in one area, but grey in another," said Casey Harrell,
a toxics campaigner for Greenpeace International.


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On Friday, the pro-environment group held a news conference at CES to share highlights from a December green electronics survey.

Harrell said at the conference the electronics industry has taken
"encouraging strides" toward improving green features on some gadgets
in the past year. But the absence of an international standard makes it
tough for consumers to decide which gadgets are greenest.

Greenpeace's assessment of about 50 electronics products found
Lenovo Group Ltd's L2440x wide computer monitor, Sharp Corp's LC-52GX5
television, Samsung Electronics Co Ltd 's F268 mobile phone, Nokia's
6210 smartphone and Toshiba Machine Co Ltd's Portege R600 laptop were
the greenest in their categories.


Earlier this week, Samsung Electronics introduced a flat- screen TV
that uses 40 percent less energy because it uses light-emitting diode
technology rather than the traditional cathode lamps.

"The advantage of LED TVs is that they are environmentally friendly,
can save a lot of power, use no mercury or lead and have a high picture
quality," said Jongwoo Park, Samsung's president of digital media.

LG Electronics Inc devoted part of its CES display to showcasing
green products, including a Bluetooth solar car kit and recyclable
packaging materials. Toshiba showcased an ion battery designed for
bicycle maker Schwinn's electronic bike, which gives up to 30 miles on
a single charge.

Parker Brugge, vice president of environmental affairs at the
Consumer Electronics Association, said companies have an inherent
incentive to go green because it produces better gadgets. Making a
television more energy efficient also makes it last longer and heat up
less, he said.

What is more, the show host, has itself gotten greener by reducing
brochures and paper usage, and offering booths made of recyclable parts.

"Everyone has to do their part," he added.

Editing by Tiffany Wu and Andre Grenon

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