Repeat and EPEAT
One of the problems with the EPEAT system is it seems possible for a vendor to game the system -- particularly because vendors are responsible for reporting their products. The Green Electronics Council, or GEC, merely maintains the registry and performs spot-checks on occasion to ensure vendors are being honest.
For example, I think it's plausible that a vendor might offer multiple configurations of the same computer or monitor, each one with minute differences that have no real impact on the machine's overall "greeness." The vendor could give each system a slightly different name, then stuff them all into the registry.
As a potential case -- and this is mere speculation, not an accusation -- Toshiba, as I noted, added 20 new Gold-rated notebooks to the EPEAT registry in the past couple of weeks. They have names such as: Satellite A500 PSAP0U, Satellite A500 PSPA3U, Satellite L550 PSLN8U, Satellite L550 PSLP0U, Satellite P500 PSPE0U, Satellite P500 PSPE8U, and so on. What's the difference between a Satellite A500 PSAP0U and a Satellite A500 PSPA3U? Toshiba's not alone in this; other vendors such as Sony, HP, Panasonic, and Samsung do it as well.
Additionally, it appears to be up to a vendor to decide when a listing on EPEAT should be archived (that is, removed from the active list of offerings). Some companies, such as HP and Panasonic, have products going back to the middle of 2006. It's not entirely clear to me what the criteria are to keep a product "active" on the list. Does the company still need to sell it? Support it? Have spare parts for it in a warehouse?
What this all adds up to is, the opportunity for a vendor to cram EPEAT full of machines, then brag that it has the most Gold-rated notebooks/PCs/whatever in the world. It may sounds impressive, but does it necessarily prove anything?
What does green mean to me?
The EPEAT system has other flaws that could mislead consumers into thinking certain machines are greener -- or less green -- than they really are. First, the ratings criteria don't take into account all conceivable green features, such as built-in power management features, the absence of energy-drawing fans, or an overall reduction in materials used.
Second, by meeting criteria of questionable green value, products can earn enough points to achieve Gold status. One example I've cited in the past: Machines can earn additional points if they're compatible with an alternative energy charger -- even if the only charger available happens to be a $329 solar-powered charger that weighs 22 pounds.