How green are your gadgets, and do you care?

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stu-mugshot2.jpgStuart Dredge writes…

It was interesting to read yesterday’s story about Greenpeace’s latest chart of how eco-friendly consumer electronics firms are. Lenovo came top, followed by Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Dell, Samsung and Motorola.

It made me wonder if Lenovo will see a boom in sales of its computers as a result of topping the chart. Does the ‘green-ness’ of an electronics company have a direct impact on the desirability of its products yet? And do us consumers have enough information to start using eco-friendliness as a criteria when buying new gadgets?

In some areas, yes. I wouldn’t buy a fridge or washing machine now without looking at those coloured charts that show how energy efficient they are – and even if it’s the sexiest fridge you’ve ever seen from an amazing brand name, a poor efficiency rating would stop me buying it.

But what about TVs? Mobile phones? Games consoles? Hand on heart, how eco-friendly these devices are has never been a factor in my buying decisions. Yet reading Greenpeace’s chart has made me think it should.

As consumers, we are becoming better informed about the green credentials of our gadgets. Take Sony’s PlayStation 3 for example, which has been criticised for its high power consumption. This information is in the public domain, yet for most gamers, the decision whether to buy a PS3 is more about its price, the available games, and whether they’re really keen to get a Blu-ray player.

It’s hard: PS3s aren’t like washing machines. You either want one or you don’t – it’s not like you can buy a more eco-friendly one by shopping around. But for items like televisions, DVD players and mobile phones, it’d be nice to have more information at the time of purchase on issues like power consumption and recyclability. Maybe there is, but it’s certainly not prominent – no salesman has ever tried to sell me a PC or TV on its green credentials.

Another interesting thing about Greenpeace’s latest chart is all those mobile phone manufacturers riding high in the list. The positive spin is that an industry that still relies on us chucking out our phone every 12-18 months for a new model is getting its act together, eco-wise.

I guess you could also argue that the operators should be doing more too though – when Vodafone or O2 upgrades my handset, shouldn’t they automatically take the old one away for recycling?

This has been a bit of a ramble, and I’m certainly not writing as a tech expert on why you should do x or y based on how green gadget firms are. But as a consumer, I’d like more information on how I can make better buying decisions. More options to dispose of my old gadgets in a green way.

And I’d like someone to tell me that buying a PS3 wasn’t so bad, as long as I use its Folding@home app to help cure cancer. That last one’s a bit selfish, I grant you. And rather than just Greenpeace and blogs like the excellent Hippy Shopper (plug!), shouldn’t the consumer electronics industry be doing more to provide me with this kind of information?

Stuart Dredge