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New Hardware Beats Greener Paths To Solutions

As manufacturers bring more environmentally friendly displays to market, it's easier than ever for solution providers to think green when putting together solutions for customers.

As manufacturers bring more environmentally friendly displays to market, it's easier than ever for solution providers to think green when putting together solutions for customers.

In addition to recycling programs through distributors such as Ingram Micro, Santa Ana, Calif., and Clearwater, Fla.-based Tech Data, vendors themselves are bringing more conscientious products to market that are energy efficient and contain fewer heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead.

The Green Electronics Council, which manages EPEAT, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, is giving VARs a way to make sure that the displays they're putting in customer sites aren't going to cause harm down the road by rating them on 51 criteria.

Products get points for things like removing harmful metals, using recycled plastics, whether they have recyclable parts and a plan for recycling the end-of-life product and energy consumption.

At press time, no display had received EPEAT's Gold certification, a certification that means it met all 23 required criteria and then 75 percent of the optional criteria stated by the organization.

Several companies, however, have Silver-rated displays, which meet the required criteria plus 50 percent of the optional ones.

At the end of July, EPEAT gave its first Gold rating to an integrated system from Ciara Technologies, Quebec. Seven notebooks from Toshiba, Irvine, Calif., and Dell, Round Rock, Texas, have met the Gold certification.

For Scot Case, outreach director for the Green Electronics Council, Portland, Ore., the system gives resellers and customers the information they need to make environmentally sound purchasing decisions.

"I think most people are now aware that global warming is a very real phenomenon and that global warming is directly linked with energy consumption. A more energy-efficient monitor significantly reduces global warming contributions," said Case.

In addition to questions of conscience, solution providers looking to get government contracts will have to take note of EPEAT as regulations require that 95 percent of applicable IT equipment purchased by government agencies be EPEAT-registered products, said Case.

"What the federal government has done is put a great big pile of money on the table and said, 'If you want this money you have to be selling us EPEAT-registered products,' " he said.

In turn, vendors such as NEC Display Solutions— which has 44 EPEAT-rated monitors, 11 of which have the highest marks of any displays with the only 17-optional-point ratings out of the 177 monitors that have been evaluated—are leading the way in the market by making greener products.

About a year and a half ago, NEC had an end-user advisory council rank its priorities in terms of purchasing displays, and environmental attributes were at the bottom of the list when compared with things like price, quality and reliability. Now, environmental friendliness ranks in the top five concerns of customers, according to Pat Summers, environmental affairs manager at the Itasca, Ill.-based vendor.

In addition to making sure its products are Energy Star and RoHS, a European energy standard, compliant, NEC has a recycling program for its customers.

The company is making strides toward achieving EPEAT Gold certification with new products, Summers said. In addition, NEC is looking into using more bio-based and post-consumer recycled plastics in the production of its monitors. "With all the states requiring more environmental compliance, it's a huge issue," said Summers.

Resellers with green minds whose customers may not be as concerned can play up the energy-saving attributes of EPEAT-rated equipment, said Summers.

"One of the things that they can do is translate how this can impact business. The cost of recycling noncompliant products down the road is going to be more expensive, so that will impact business," he said. "If they don't start pushing the environmental issues, they won't be able to sell."

Competing display vendor ViewSonic is also at the forefront of the green computing movement.

In addition to having a recycling program in place since 1998 in partnership with recycling companies M-Cubed, Pride Industries and AnythingIT, the Walnut, Calif.-based vendor has 22 Silver-rated monitors. Samsung, Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Phillips Electronics, Hyundai and Apple also have Silver-rated displays.

"The U.S. marketplace is one of our major marketplaces, and I think the adoption and importance of EPEAT has happened pretty quickly," said Erik Willey, director of product marketing, desktop displays at ViewSonic.

"I think the driving force on the demand side is coming from the enterprise. Definitely the cost savings is one piece of it, and that's what helped us initially to make this huge transition that we made," said Willey.

"Businesses look at the ROI and the energy savings, but I think it goes beyond that. I think corporations are realizing that everybody is responsible for the environment and if they can do their part by making more responsible purchasing decisions I think most are willing to do that," he said.

While vendors are trying to make their products more environmentally friendly, for reseller Joe Balsarotti, president of St. Peters, Mo.-based Software to Go, vendors will be truly environmentally friendly when they build displays that can be repaired rather than replaced.

"I'm certainly not an environmentalist, but I hate waste," said Balsarotti.

"The individual piece of equipment and how environmentally friendly it is doesn't really come into it. We're dealing with that at a different level. I would love to see stuff become repairable again. If it were, that would be a selling point for me. The idea that all of this stuff is throw-away does bug me. You're throwing away a perfectly good printer because a 10-cent gear broke. I would rather fix it," he said. "If these companies really wanted to do something, especially the monitor manufacturers, put a replaceable bulb in," he said. "Put whatever cost you need to on the parts so that it makes financial sense to the manufacturer and there will be a good portion of people who will opt to get the parts. They will make money on the part. Why cut off that avenue?"

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