The green-tech rating EPEAT system, found on things like newer PC monitors, has become so successful that its parent body, the Green Electronics Council, is taking it global. It sounds like good news, but is it?
Even if you don’t know what the EPEAT standard means (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), you’ll probably know it’s related to green tech–it’s beginning to penetrate consumer consciousness, and all U.S. government agencies are mandated to subscribe to its differing standards for their desktop PCs and monitors. It’s also in the process of being expanded to cover televisions, printers, and copiers. And unlike the Department of Energy’s EnergyStar system which merely covers electrical efficiency, EPEAT’s standards also tackle things like toxic material content, recyclability, and packaging.
Today the GEC has announced it’ll open product registries in Canada, Europe, China, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Mexico–basically its localized itself for 40 new countries. That effectively takes the green standard for computer tech global.
But why? There are already green standards in many of those countries–and Europe, in particular, has been making much of the issue for years, supported by different legislative acts. Who’s to say that the regional standards aren’t stricter than EPEAT? And will an EPEAT gold rating actually sell more products, or attract consumers in their droves away from non-EPEAT rated products? (Not if it costs more, I think.) Will a centralized rating system mask the benefits of competing green standards that are more stringent? There’s also the delicious irony that EPEAT is born in the U.S., a nation many note is the naughty child of the Green world, with rampant energy over-consumption, embarrassing rates of waste production and CO2 outpourings. Whatever you think, it’s pretty clear you’ll be seeing those gold silver and bronze “green” labels a lot more from now on.