Organizations are investing in green computers -- that is, machines that are energy efficient and built in an environmentally responsible manner -- at ever-increasing rates. Sometimes they pay a small premium to do this. Is it worth it? They seem to think so.
And their belief is not unfounded. Organizations that invest in green hardware find that the energy savings, extended product lifecycle, and other benefits more than make up for the additional price of that hardware.
What's more, demand for green computers appears to be on the rise. Twenty-two percent of the computers shipped worldwide in 2007 (around 109 million) were registered on EPEAT (the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), up from around 10 percent in 2006. Maintained by the Green Electronics Council (GEC), EPEAT is a searchable database of computer hardware that meets a strict set of environmental criteria. Among them, registered products comply with Energy Star 4.0; have reduced levels of cadmium, lead, and mercury; and are easier to upgrade and recycle. Depending on how many criteria they meet, products receive a rating of Bronze, Silver, or Gold.
[ For more on the EPEAT rating system, please read "MacBook Air vs. ThinkPad x300: Which is greener?" ]
The price of greenovation
One of the key questions, though, is whether companies need to pay a premium for the green traits they seek. Patricia Atherton, engineer manager at hardware vendor MPC, acknowledges that, at times, the answer is yes, depending on the rating level (Bronze, Silver, or Gold) of the product. "Silver and Gold products will comply with more challenging requirements, and this might affect the cost of certain components," she notes.
For example, she says, "LCD on monitors, laptops, and integrated systems must have reduced amounts of mercury ... In order to elevate this product rating, the mercury content must be reduced to a minimum or eliminated. The technology is there -- LED backlit LCD -- but at a slightly higher price than a regular LCD with CFL lamps."
Another factor, Atherton says, can be the use of plastic parts containing high recycled-material content. "Since this may affect the properties of the plastics, requiring special techniques or materials, plastic components manufacturers may increase their prices as their own costs increase."