Hey Joe Where You Goin with That Green Gadget in Your Hand

Laptop Repair Made Easy

Laptop Repair Made Easy

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Green gadget? What green gadget?

Do you mean the silver aluminum notebook I'm typing this chapter on, which Apple calls its "greenest MacBook ever?"

Or, do you mean the black, solar-powered Iqua SUN Bluetooth headset, stuck in my ear, that charged itself in the morning sunlight as I walked my dog, Nick, on the beach and answered a call from my mom?

Maybe you're referring to The Energy Detective (TED) sitting on my kitchen counter. It displays in real-time exactly how much electricity my house is consuming in kilowatts — and in dollars and cents. Is that the green gadget you're talking about? (I probably should mention that The Energy Detective is housed in white plastic.)

Ohhh, now I get you. You mean that green gadget — the big, round, pulsating ecobutton, sitting next to my Eee PC 1000HE, that with a single touch can instantly make the mini-notebook go to sleep by switching it to ecofriendlier Suspend mode. And yes, although the photo of the gadget in Figure 1-1 is in black and white, I can attest to the fact that the ecobutton's base is green and the pulsating lights inside are absolutely, positively, 100 percent green-green-green or my name isn't Joe.

Figure 1-1:

A snooze button to put your computer to sleep.

But my name would be Pinocchio if I told you that the ecobutton is, in spite of its green color and light, a green gadget.

Neither is the MacBook, a solar Bluetooth headset, or a home energy monitor.

But all four represent considerably ecofriendlier, or greener, gadgets (what I refer to simply as green gadgets throughout the book) than products that are less sensitive to the planet.

So what is a green gadget?

Nothing. Because there's no such thing.

Wait! Before you double-check this book's cover to make sure that you're reading the book you thought you were reading (assuming that you didn't fling it across the room), let me explain what I mean.

Before I do, however, I want to take a bigger-picture view of how the gadgets and electronics in your life affect the planet in a number of ways, as calculated by the article "How to Go Green: Home Electronics" at The Discovery Channel Planet Green site (http://planetgreen.discovery.com/ go-green/home-electronics):

Figure 1-1:

A snooze button to put your computer to sleep.

✓ 15 percent: The percentage of money spent on powering computers worldwide; the rest of the $250 billion is spent on energy wasted from idling.

✓ 70 percent: The percentage of all hazardous waste that's composed of discarded electronics.

✓ 529 pounds: The amount of fossil fuels needed to manufacture a 53-pound computer system (including the monitor), along with 49 pounds of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water.

✓ 15 billion: The number of batteries produced annually worldwide.

✓ 40 percent: The percentage of energy used for electronics in your home while the devices are turned off.

✓ 1 billion: The number of kilowatt hours of power each year that can be saved by using energy-efficient battery chargers in the United States. This in turn would save more than $100 million each year and prevent the release of more than a million tons of greenhouse gases.

Assessing "green" companies

Just because a company says that it and its products are green doesn't necessarily make them so, as I explain further in Chapter 9, the chapter that dispels the myths of greenwash hype. In a 2008 Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) survey, 74 percent of consumers polled said that companies should do more to protect the environment. Yet only 17 percent of consumers said they felt familiar with the policies and reputations of companies that manufacture consumer electronics. What's more, more than half of the people polled said they felt that companies overstate the environmental friendliness of their products in order to sell more of them.

To quote the environmental organization Greenpeace (http://greenpeace. org/electronics) about the findings of its 2008 Green Electronics Survey, it found "no products that could claim the title of a truly green product."

However, both Greenpeace and the CEA report that companies manufacturing gadgets are increasingly eliminating toxic chemicals from their products while making them more energy-efficient and easier to recycle.

Here are some of the choice nuggets uncovered by the 2008 Greenpeace survey:

✓ Manufacturers continue to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals, and more products are PVC-free than in the previous year's findings.

Notebooks that use LED-type LCD displays that draw less power and are free of mercury are becoming more popular.

✓ Larger consumer electronics, such as TVs and computer monitors, are being manufactured with significant amounts of postconsumer recycled plastic. Most mobile phones and desktop and notebook computers, however, are lagging in this regard.

✓ Manufacturers have adapted quickly to new Energy Star requirements. Even so, a small number of products that Greenpeace evaluated don't yet meet the most recent Energy Star specifications.

✓ More manufacturers track the amount of energy used to produce their electronic products. Without an international standard (none currently exists) for comparing how the products stack up against each other, this information means little to consumers.

✓ Computer manufacturers are more forthcoming with in-use power consumption data and comparisons for their products. Monitor and TV manufacturers are lagging behind in this area.

✓ Many companies have special "green" sections on their Web sites.

These sections are meant to help consumers learn about a company's ecofriendly features and benefits. That's a good thing, but most of these green sections weren't prominently advertised to promote greener electronic products as major purchasing decisions.

The survey assessed more than 50 consumer electronics products, scoring each on a number of factors. With a maximum of 100 attainable points, the total points for each product in the survey was adjusted to a possible top score of 10. (See Chapter 9 for more about the survey results.)

Of all products that were evaluated (desktop computers, notebook computers, mobile phones, smartphones, PDAs, televisions, and computer monitors), the highest-ranking product was the Lenovo L2440 wide display, shown in Figure 1-2, which scored 6.90 points.

The Acer TravelMate 6293 notebook landed at the bottom of the scale with a score of 3.44, and topping the category was the Toshiba Portege R600. I introduce you to the Portege in the later section "Following a Green Gadget's Carbon Footprint."


Although you can see that no single absolutely, positively, 100 percent super-green gadget exists, increasingly greener mobile phones, notebook computers, wireless network routers, Blu-ray DVD players, high-definition TVs (HDTVs), and other consumer electronics products do exist. That's what I talk about in this book.

Figure 1-2:

Displaying the highest level of gadget greenness.

Figure 1-2:

Displaying the highest level of gadget greenness.

Defining gadgets

You may want to ask, "Since when, Mr. Green Gadgets For Dummies, is something that's too big to fit in my pocket — such as a humongous high-def TV -considered a gadget, green or otherwise?"

Okay, an HDTV isn't a gadget per se, but it incorporates many elements that gadgets such as mobile phones and MP3 players have — for example, integrated circuits, speakers, and liquid crystal displays (LCD), albeit on a gigantically bigger, and wider scale.

At the annual Greener Gadgets Conference (http://greenergadgets. com), see Figure 1-3, people gather to learn about and discuss the environmental impact of manufacturing, distributing, efficiently using, reusing, and properly recycling consumer electronics. It's fair to say that in this book, the term green gadgets is all-encompassing. Besides, doesn't this book's title have a nicer ring than Green Consumer Electronics For Dummies?

Figure 1-3:

They don't call it the Greener Consumer Electronics Conference.

Figure 1-3:

They don't call it the Greener Consumer Electronics Conference.

Defining green gadgets

Just to be sure that we're on the same page, let me say that green gadgets are consumer electronic products that strive to be ecofriendlier. They have a few or all of these characteristics:

✓ They contain little or no toxic chemicals or materials.

✓ They are manufactured as efficiently as possible, using the fewest materials possible, by companies that practice environmentally friendlier policies and processes.

✓ They are built with highly recyclable materials, such as aluminum, arsenic-free glass, or recycled plastic bottles, for as many parts as possible.

✓ They draw as little power as possible — and uses that energy as efficiently as possible.

✓ They can power down to Standby mode or shut off (and shut off other gadgets that are plugged into them) if they detect that you aren't using them or after a certain amount of time has passed.

✓ They use a rechargeable battery pack, or batteries, rather than disposable ones.

✓ They can be recharged (or can recharge other gadgets) from sources other than electricity, such as by absorbing sunlight with solar panels or by winding a crank to generate power.

✓ They can help you save gas and produce fewer carbon emissions by plotting the most efficient route to your destination or by monitoring and analyzing your driving style and then offering tips to help you drive more efficiently.

✓ They are packaged as efficiently as possible in packaging made of partially to 100 percent recycled materials.

✓ They can be easily recycled — ideally through hassle-free take-back or trade-in programs offered by the manufacturer.

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