Video Illustrates Materials Used in Smartphones and Amounts

Check out the video below from the Sustainable Earth Institute of the University of Plymouth (in the UK).

Besides allowing one to vicariously experience childish glee at watching the destruction of a smartphone by blender (which we of course should NOT try at home), the video provides a brief glimpse at the process of analyzing materials in a lab. Most importantly, it does an excellent job of helping viewers visualize the relative amounts of materials present in the phone, including coins for comparison to a familiarly-sized object (few of us know what 0.7 g or 10 mg really looks like without a reference object for comparison).

The video goes a step further by providing a visualization of the relative amounts of those component elements which would be present in a year’s worth of smartphone production, with a human figure and soccer pitch provided for reference. It’s a great example of how to effectively translate abstract statistics into accessible, meaningful information for the general public.

This would be excellent for presentation to students of all ages, as part of discussions related to industrial design, materials sourcing and impacts, why reclamation of materials from electronics is so important, etc.

To read the full post on this video and the scientists behind it ( Dr. Arjan Dijkstra and Dr. Colin Wilkins, geologists from the University’s School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences ), see


Live Demo of New Mobile Phone Environmental Benefits Calculator 9/19/18

The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, most commonly simply called EPEAT, is a product registry to help purchasers identify electronic devices with positive environmental attributes. Manufacturers and retailers can use the registry to highlight product offerings which meet criteria addressing materials selection, design for product longevity, reuse and recycling, energy conservation, end-of-life management and corporate performance. EPEAT was developed with a grant from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is managed by the Green Electronics Council (GEC) .

The EPEAT registry has long included computers (including laptops and tablets) and displays, imaging equipment (e.g. printers, copiers, fax machines, scanners, multifunction devices, etc.), and televisions. Mobile phones were recently added, and servers are the latest product category addition.

The GEC is developing a new Environmental Benefits Calculator that measures the environmental and cost benefits of purchasing sustainable EPEAT-registered products. The new calculator will launch for the mobile phone category in September. The calculator will expand to include servers and the updated Computer and Display category by the end of the year.

Purchasers are invited to join GEC’s Patty Dillon, Acting Director of EPEAT Category Development, on September 19th for a live demonstration of the Mobile Phone Environmental Benefits Calculator. Learn how to use the calculator to quantify the sustainability benefits of purchasing EPEAT-registered IT products, as well as how to estimate savings resulting from extended use and recycling of those devices.

The free live demo will take place Wednesday, Sep 19, 2018 from 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM CDT. Register at


Joint ECOLOGO/EPEAT Certification for Mobile Phones Announced

I’ve written a fair amount on this blog about the EPEAT product registry, and its usefulness for consumers and procurement officers interested in identifying more sustainably-produced electronics devices. Previously the registry was only available for the PCs and displays (including tablets), imaging equipment (which includes printers, copiers, scanners and multifunction devices) and televisions. There has been talk for many years about the development of criteria to register mobile phones, but the multi-stakeholder process of criteria development is a long and rigorous process which takes time.

Those of us who have been waiting for those mobile phone criteria were delighted to hear the recent news that the Green Electronics Council, the organization that administers the EPEAT product registry and UL Environment, a business division of Underwriters Laboratories, a leading name in product safety, had announced a joint-certification to enable mobile phones that are certified to the ANSI/UL 110 sustainability standard to also be featured on the EPEAT Registry. This joint ECOLOGO/EPEAT certification is now available for mobile phone brands that want to certify their products to the latest UL 110 standard and also make them eligible for procurements and tenders that require EPEAT-registered products.

According to the UL Environment web site, “Products with this mark have achieved certification to lifecycle-based standards specifically tailored for mobile phones and are subject to ongoing verification through the EPEAT system. This unprecedented combination of pre- and post-market auditing ensures the credibility of manufacturers’ sustainability claims. It also allows the thousands of governments, institutions and businesses worldwide with an EPEAT purchasing policy to quantify how mobile phones contribute to their sustainable-procurement goals.”

While you cannot yet search the EPEAT registry for phones, according to the Green Electronics Council, “Several of the world’s most popular mobile-phone brands have already begun the pre-assessment process for UL ECOLOGO/EPEAT Joint Certification, while wireless carriers worldwide have expressed interest in working with vendors to require phones that carry the UL ECOLOGO/EPEAT joint certification mark.” I for one look forward to the day in the near future when we can search the EPEAT registry when making decisions about new phone purchases!

For more information see the Green Electronics Council press release, and the UL Environment page on the joint ECOLOGO/EPEAT certification.

ecologo/EPEAT mark

Still Time to Apply for EPEAT Purchaser Awards

The February 15 deadline for applying for an EPEAT purchaser award is fast approaching. The EPEAT product registry is a useful tool to identify more sustainable electronic product options in the categories of PCs and Displays (including tablets), Imaging Equipment (which includes printers, copiers, scanners and multifunction devices) and Televisions.

Originally funded by the US EPA, EPEAT is a searchable database of electronics products in certain categories, which is administered currently by the Green Electronics Council. EPEAT criteria are developed collaboratively by a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, environmental groups, academia, trade associations, government agencies, and recycling entities. The EPEAT product criteria cover much more than just energy efficiency–they include issues of material selection and product design, end-of-life management considerations, and corporate performance, among others. To learn more, read my previous post “How to Use the EPEAT Registry to Purchase Greener Electronics–Archived Webinar.” You may also wish to register for the February 9 webinar, “Using the EPEAT Registry to Purchase Environmentally Preferable Electronics.

All organizations that use EPEAT in their purchasing selections are eligible for the EPEAT purchaser awards. See the award web page for full requirements and submission details. Winners will be announced at a March 13th ceremony, sponsored by ITI, in Arlington, VA.  EPEAT Purchaser Award winners will receive:

  • Public recognition for their dedication to environmentally preferable purchasing and greener electronics
  • A calculation of environmental benefits
  • Case study participation opportunities

Questions about the awards program can be addressed to Andrea Desimone of the Green Electronics Council.

EPEAT logo


IL EPA Interactive Map Shows Electronics Recycling in Your Area & More

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has recently redesigned its web site. If you haven’t visited their site lately, be sure to check it out–it’s very clean, easy to navigate, and more intuitive, with information organized for different audiences (citizens, businesses, governments, and educators).

One of the new features of the site is an interactive “Services Locator” map, which allows users to search for services within a range of miles (5-100)  from their vicinity (you can enter either your zip code or the name of your city). One of the services for which you can search is the location of electronics collection/recycling sites in your area. So if you got a new gadget during the holidays and aren’t sure where you could take its predecessor for proper disposal, the IEPA map can help. If maps aren’t your style, there’s also a list of all registered residential e-waste collection sites provided, with contact information (since it’s always a good idea to double check on which items are currently accepted at a recycling center before making a trip).

In addition to electronics collection points, you can also find medication disposal locations, household hazardous waste collection sites, and vehicle emissions testing centers.

For more information on electronics recycling in IL, including the landfill ban, see the IEPA Electronic Waste Recycling program page.


State Electronics Challenge Webinars: 11/18 Recording Available, 12/2 Webinar Scheduled

SECIntroSlideCaptureOn November 18, 2014, SEI and the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR)  co-sponsored a webinar, “Introduction to the State Electronics Challenge.”

Lynn Rubinstein gave an overview of the State Electronics Challenge, a voluntary national program, free of charge and open to any state, tribal, regional, or local government agency, as well as any K-12 school or non-profit organization. The SEC promotes environmental stewardship of computers, monitors, and imaging equipment — from purchasing green office equipment through power management, paper use reduction, and responsible end-of-life management — resulting in measurable reductions in energy, greenhouse gases, solid and hazardous waste, and associated costs. The goal of the webinar was to illustrate how your organization can join the Challenge and benefit from the program’s proven free technical assistance, action plan, implementation tools, and environmental benefit calculations. Lynn provided information and examples specific to Illinois and the rest of the Great Lakes region of the US, for the information of members of both GLRPPR and the UI Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium.

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), SEI’s parent organization, has joined the SEC, as has Engineering IT Shared Services here on the UI campus.

If you wish to learn how your organization or unit can join, view the archived webinar, along with slides and links to supporting materials on the GLRPPR web site. Links are also available on the UI Sustainable Electronics Campus Consortium page.  You may also wish to register for a similar introductory webinar, scheduled for December 2, 2014 for 1-2 PM CST.

How to Use the EPEAT Registry to Purchase Greener Electronics–Archived Webinar

In June 2014, the State Electronics Challenge hosted a partners-only webinar on how to use the EPEAT product registry. The recording of that webinar is now available to everyone online, and if you’re in any way involved with electronic equipment purchases for your organization (or just for yourself), I highly recommend checking it out at .

What’s EPEAT?

If you’ve never heard of it, EPEAT is the Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool. It’s been around long enough that everyone simply refers to it by its acronym, which is less of a mouthful. Originally funded by the US EPA, EPEAT is a searchable database of electronics products in certain categories, which is administered currently by the Green Electronics Council. EPEAT criteria are developed collaboratively by a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, environmental groups, academia, trade associations, government agencies, and recycling entities. Criteria for current product categories are based upon the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known primarily by its acronym). The criteria include attributes from throughout the product life cycle–i.e. throughout the stages of design, manufacture, use, and disposal. The following attributes are listed as part of the “Criteria” section of the EPEAT website (where you can also find more specific information about criteria for each of the current product categories):

  • Reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials
  • Material selection
  • Design for end of life
  • Product longevity/life extension
  • Energy conservationEPEAT_logo
  • End-of-life management
  • Corporate performance
  • Packaging
  • Consumables (unique to Imaging Equipment standard)
  • Indoor Air Quality (unique to Imaging Equipment standard)

Manufacturers voluntarily choose to meet the EPEAT criteria with certain products and have those products appear on the EPEAT registry at the appropriate level–bronze, silver, or gold, depending on increasing percentages of optional criteria a product meets (all registered products meet certain required criteria). So, EPEAT is not a certification program; however, you can have faith in the validity of the EPEAT labels because manufacturer claims are verified by independent experts–see the “Verification” section of the EPEAT website for complete information. See profiles of EPEAT’s “Product Registration Entities” or “PREs” at; the list includes the likes of UL Environment. This is not greenwashing; if a product bears the EPEAT label, it has been very closely scrutinized by folks who are experienced at validating environmental claims.

The EPEAT registry currently includes desktops, laptops/notebooks, workstations, thin clients, displays (computer monitors), televisions, printers, copiers, scanners, multifunction devices, fax machines, digital duplicators and mailing machines. New products may be added to the registry in the future as criteria are developed for them.

Go to, scroll down to “Purchaser Types,” and click on each of the different tabs to see a list of some of the organizations that already use EPEAT.

What’s the State Electronics Challenge?

SECThe State Electronics Challenge (SEC) is a free program for public entities (such as government agencies, schools, universities, libraries, etc.) that encourages and assists with purchasing greener electronic office equipment, reducing the impacts of computers and imaging equipment during use, and managing obsolete electronics in an environmentally responsible way. Participants are called “partners.” Partners receive resources (such as access to partner-only webinars as mentioned previously), technical assistance, the opportunity to receive recognition for their efforts, and sustainability reports for their organization, documenting their accomplishments and the resulting environmental benefits in terms of greenhouse gas reduction, reduction of toxic materials, energy saved, etc.  SEC is administered by the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC).

You can sign up to focus your activities around one or more of three life cycle phases–purchasing, use, and end-of-life management. Reports are submitted annually, but since everything is voluntary, you do whatever is manageable given your situation. If you complete all of the “required activities” in a life cycle, your organization can receive recognition (“required” is only for the sake of recognition) at the bronze, silver, or gold level, based on the number of life cycle phases addressed. Are you sensing a chromatic theme here? See the “Programmatic Requirements Checklist” for details.

Even if your organization is not a public entity eligible to become a SEC partner, I’d encourage you to use this checklist, and the resources available on the SEC web site, for guidance on greening your organization in terms of electronics office equipment consumption.

What am I watching again, and why do I care?

The link at the beginning of this post will take you to a recording of a webinar hosted by SEC, which you can watch in Windows Media Player or similar application. The recording is just under 50 minutes long. In it, Andrea Desimone of the Green Electronics Council leads you through the EPEAT search functions, from the basic search to more advanced options, including criteria-based searches, filtering results, exceptions, and comparing products. You’ll also learn tips and tricks to help you sift through the 3,000+ products registered with EPEAT.

As for why you should care–I could give you lectures on the multitude of environmental and social impacts of electronics that could convince you purchasing greener electronics is important. But for starters, focus on the fact that you could save money while being environmentally responsible, and that you could tell your organization’s clients and customers all about how you did it. And it could be pretty easy to accomplish with the help of resources like EPEAT and/or SEC. For some statistics, see and and see if you don’t think learning about achieving those sorts of results is worth less than an hour of your time.

Recent Sustainable Electronics Headlines

Below are links to recent news articles related to sustainable electronics. To keep up on the latest sustainable electronics news, periodically check the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site or follow SEI on Twitter or Facebook.


Reminder: Champaign County Electronics Recycling Event, April 12, 2014

Over on the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Blog, I wrote a post about the FREE residential electronics collection event being hosted by Champaign County (IL) tomorrow (Saturday, April 12) from 8 AM to noon at Parkland College. Click here to read that post, which includes a list of acceptable and non-acceptable items, and a phone number to call with questions. If you’re not able to attend tomorrow’s event, check out the Champaign County Electronics Recycling Guide at This document includes a list of local businesses and the electronic devices they accept for recycling year round.

If you’re outside Champaign County in IL, see the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s list of registered electronics collectors, recyclers, and refurbishers in Illinois at to find businesses in your area. Check the company web sites of the electronics recyclers in your area to see who is certified as R2, e-stewards, or both, and if possible, use a certified recycler. Such recyclers have been assessed by independent third parties to verify that they are in compliance with a publicly available technical specification. For more information on certification, see

Alternatively, wherever you are located within the United States, you can visit the National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) website ( and enter your zip code to find electronics take back and recycling programs in your area. The Sustainable Electronics Initiative also has a fact sheet listing many electronics take-back and donation options.

Greening the Gift of Gadgets

It’s the holiday season, and odds are many people are out frantically shopping for last minute gifts, many of which will involve electronics of some sort. If you’re giving the gift of gadgets this year, here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, and always, consider–do you or the loved one in mind really NEED the new device, or does an existing device serve the person’s purposes adequately? Will it improve your life in a substantial way, or is this a status symbol? In Western culture in particular, there’s a push to have the latest and greatest gadget. A new version of a device is released and thousands flock to purchase it, even if they barely use half the features on the older version of the device which they already own. There’s a perception that one needs the latest version in order to keep up with new technology, or at least to keep up appearances, and all too often the actual functionality of a device and how it fits a person’s specific situation and needs, is lower on the list of purchasing considerations. Consumers can be fickle, and can suffer from app envy. Stop for a minute and think about this. Watch The Story of Stuff. Then watch The Story of Electronics.

If you still feel compelled to buy, are you able to buy a used version of the device? What about a refurbished version? Many electronics retailers offer refurbished versions of devices for slightly lower prices, which operate just as well as a brand new device. My refurbished wireless router at home is a fine example of the reliability of such items. It’s always desirable to see products reused as much as possible before recycling. Any way in which the product lifecycle can be extended is positive in terms of environmental impacts.See this HowStuffWorks article on How Refurbished Electronics Work.

If for whatever reason a used or refurbished version isn’t an option, take some time to consider the environmental ratings of the products and brands you’re considering. Helpful consumer guides include the Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics, the latest version of which was just released in November 2012. , and the Good Guide (although currently, the Good Guide only ranks cell phones according to environmental, social, and health criteria). Always look for ENERGY STAR rated devices which will operate more efficiently. Such devices will have the ENERGY STAR logo on them, and you can do some research ahead of time on the program’s web site. Determine whether or not the device you’re interested in is EPEAT registered. EPEAT stands for Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, and involves standards for categorizing electronic products at various levels based upon a variety of environmental considerations. The category standards for a given device category are developed with the input of various stakeholders, including those involved in electronics development and purchasing, as well as representatives from governments, environmental advocacy organizations and academia. Contrary to common misconception, EPEAT is a voluntary registry, not a certification in which a third-party issues a product its stamp of approval, as evidenced by Apple’s voluntary decision earlier in the year to remove certain products from the registry, and subsequently voluntarily choose to add them back after public outcry over this decision and criticism related to designs for certain products that made them more difficult to disassemble and/or recycle. See for more on that. Even so, if a product meets EPEAT standards, you can feel confident that its environmental impact has been carefully considered throughout its lifecycle. See this infographic for more on the environmental benefits of EPEAT rated products. Raise Hope for Congo ranks companies on their efforts towards using and investing in conflict-free minerals. (See the “Conflict Minerals” post category of this blog for more information on what conflict minerals are and why they’re important.)

Once you’ve dutifully done that homework, you should be ready to buy, right? Well, if you’re in the U.S., maybe you should further consider whether or not your state has electronics product legislation on the books. See the State & Local page of the SEI web site Law & Policy section to find out and have a summary of the type of law your state has, the devices covered, and a link to the full text of the legislation. Why does this matter? Well, some states (like Illinois, for example) require manufacturers to register or submit recycling plans with a state agency prior to being allowed to sell their products within that state. It’s all part of efforts to ensure that certain electronic devices don’t end up in landfills and that manufacturers are supporting the end-of-life management of their own products (see As a recent article in a National Center for Electronics Recycling (NCER) newsletter pointed out, some brands are not compliant with state laws. You might want to buy a certain brand because of great holiday deals being offered–but maybe those products aren’t even supposed to be sold in your state! It’s worth checking the NCER resources related to this.

You’ve waded through all these environmental considerations and are feeling good about your choices. The new gadget is wrapped and ready for giving. But then you remember–what should your loved one do with their old device? There are many different options, and what is available to you will depend on your location. A good place to start is the SEI fact sheet on Electronics Take-Back and Donation Programs. A quick way to check for options in your area is to visit the Earth911 web site. And you can always contact your county or municipal recycling coordinator–he or she will be able to tell you whether or not there are collection events offered in your area, and which local retailers and recyclers accept electronics for recycling.

Now for extra points—how environmentally friendly was the gift wrap you used? 🙂

Happy holidays from SEI!