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Going for the Gold (Computer), Again

June 1, 2011 - 1:41pm

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As I mentioned in my March 3, 2009 blog, it wasn't easy to locate and buy an EPEAT Gold desktop computer when I was in the market nearly three years ago. (For those of you new to the scene, the Green Electronics Council Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) rates electronic products based on 51 total environmental criteria: 23 required environmental performance criteria, plus an additional 28 optional criteria. Products are then rated Gold, Silver, or Bronze based on the optional criteria they meet. Meeting the ENERGY STAR® standard currently in effect is a minimum requirement; an additional point is earned if the product meets the more stringent standard that ENERGY STAR has developed but not yet implemented.) In the summer of 2008 when I bought a new desktop computer, I couldn't locate a Gold 22" LCD monitor. I had to settle for a Silver monitor.

Well, in April 2011, here I was looking to buy another computer, only this time a small, lightweight, portable one for when I travel. Again, I was going for the gold, EPEAT Gold. I wanted high energy efficiency. I also wanted it to contain as few toxic materials as possible.

I chose a mini laptop, or netbook, computer because of its small size, low weight (less than 3 pounds), and long battery life between rechargings. As I normally do, I got onto the Internet and looked for product reviews. Up popped top-rated models. I particularly liked the top two-rated products. Then on to the manufacturers' websites.

One manufacturer site indicated right on the main page that its netbook was "EPEAT Gold certified and Energy Star 5.0-compliant." Wow, I hadn't seen that before, and didn't expect that. Manufacturers are actually displaying prominently that they are EPEAT-certified! The netbook also comes with a mercury-free LED backlit display. LEDs are known for low power consumption, a valuable feature on battery-operated devices. I don't want my battery dying on me quickly just because I'm away from a power outlet.

The other highly rated netbook I was interested in, advertized in my local newspaper that week, didn't say that it was EPEAT Gold. After digging around, however, I found that this model also had active EPEAT Gold certification. How to choose when both models earn the Gold medal? I looked up some more reviews online and found that the model in my local store sometimes had miserable battery life. So I went with the other model.

I haven't really tested it enough to know if I'll get 8 hours between chargings. So far, I just know this: I took it to the local café to help sign up residents for wind electricity. The netbook performed flawlessly for the several hours I was there. So I took it home to charge it up with green electricity. The electricity for my all-electric house comes from a small solar system on my home's roof and from an alternative electricity provider supplying 100% wind electricity.

Note: It's getting easier to find EPEAT Gold and Silver products. As I write this blog, there are 1,541 EPEAT laptops, including 885 that meet the Gold standard. Makes and models of products change constantly. Within a week's time of my checking them out and committing to buying one, the manufacturer had changed the models. The one I bought was still EPEAT Gold, but the battery life had dropped from around 13 hours to 8 hours! I won't name makes and models here. Do your research thoroughly, check with EPEAT to make sure the model has active certification, and then make your buying decision on what you consider important.

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