THE POWER OF GREENER ELECTRONICS

Recycle Keyboard

How many times do you use electronic devices on an average day? Nielsen Surveys estimates that the average American adult spends 11 hours each day with some sort of digital media. Worldwide, there are over five billion cellular phone subscriptions, 1.4 billion television sets and 1 billion computers. These statistics prove that people across the globe have not only embraced electronics but are dependent on them.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the processes used to manufacture electronic devices are energy intensive, water intensive and chemical intensive. The creation of a 0.07 ounce microchip uses 66 pounds of raw materials including water and substances such as flame retardants and chlorinated solvents. Nearly 530 pounds of fossil fuels, 48 pounds of chemicals and 1.5 tons of water are used in the production of one computer monitor. And, electronic equipment is part of an increasing and complicated waste stream that poses challenging environmental management problems.

The electronics industry has made some strides toward the creation of more sustainable devices. The amount of power required for high-definition gaming devices, for instance, has decreased by 50 percent since 2006. Computer energy efficiency has doubled every 1.57 years and is expected to continue at that pace for the foreseeable future. Some companies have phased out environmental contaminants such as PVC, phthalates, lead, mercury and arsenic in their products, and they have significantly reduced greenhouse gas emissions and are using renewable energy sources in their production processes.

There are still barriers in the sustainable electronics market, though. Certain manufacturers have abandoned the green features of their products in favor of design and cost considerations. Although it has been enacted in the European Union with the Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive, government legislation on the use of harmful materials in the manufacture of electronic equipment has yet to gain momentum in the United States. The Environmental Design of Electrical Equipment Act was introduced into Congress in 2009 and was intended to regulate the use of certain substances in electrical products. However, the resolution never passed.

What can you do as a consumer to green your electronics?

The most sustainable electronic device is the one that you do not purchase. Electronics retailers are consistently developing and marketing the latest and greatest models of popular devices, so consumers are constantly seduced by upgrades that render products fashionably obsolete before they are practicably obsolete. In fact, the 140 million cellular phone users in the United States own at least two devices and discard their phones for a new model every 14 to 18 months. However, a cellular phone can last for an average of four years with proper care and maintenance. Additionally, there are many versions of similar products on the market. Reduce the costs and wastes associated with electronics by employing all of a single device’s features such as its camera, alarm clock and music player and by refraining from the purchase of multiple products that complete that same tasks. And, use a single device as long as possible.

When you purchase an electronic product, consider a used or refurbished item to extend the life of the device and save money. If you must purchase a new electronic item, consider a greener device. Greener electronics are more energy efficient, can run on renewable energy, are designed to be durable and reliable, and are manufactured with more sustainable, safer materials. Avoid the purchase of electronics that contain harmful substances such as lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ether. These chemicals, often used as solders and flame retardants, present numerous health concerns. Purchase electronics with the Energy Star or EPEAT certification to save energy.

In devices that require batteries, trade disposable alkaline batteries for rechargeable batteries, and learn to charge your batteries properly. Lithium ion batteries should be stored with full or partial charges, and the batteries should be used periodically. Nickel metal hydride batteries perform best when they are used on a full drain-full recharge cycle. For more information on proper battery care, visit Green Batteries.

Choose renewable energy chargers that use solar, wind and even kinetic energy to power your electronics.

Save energy by powering down and unplugging electronic devices when they are not in use. Forty percent of the energy used to power electronics in your home and office is consumed when your devices are turned off.

When an electronic device is obsolete, consider a buy-back or trade-in program. Major retailers such as Best Buy and Target as well as Internet sources such as Gazelle, Amazon and NextWorth offer buy-back and trade-in programs. Or, sell your device yourself or donate it to a charity.

When an electronic device has truly reached the end of its useful life, recycle it. According to Nokia, only three percent of cellular phone users recycle their obsolete phones. Electronic waste recycling is important, though, because electronics contain valuable recyclable materials such as plastic, glass and metal. Electronics also contain chemicals that can leach into the environment if they are not discarded properly. Furthermore, computers and televisions are banned from landfills in North Carolina. The Fort Bragg Recycling Center accepts personal electronics at the facility in Building 3-1240 on the corner of Butner Road and Reilly Road. For other electronics recycling facilities in North Carolina, visit ECycling Central.

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Greener Electronics

E-Waste

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Greenpeace International Guide to Greener Electronics

Green Electronics Council

EPEAT

Greener Gadgets

Energy Star

10 Ways to Trade Your Electronics for Cash : Buy-Back Programs

KEEP YOUR COOL AND STAY SUSTAINABLE

Ceiling fan

As summer temperatures rise, your energy consumption and your utility bills can rise, too! Air conditioners, for instance, are responsible for almost 20 percent of household electricity usage. A total of 98.8 million American homes are equipped with air conditioners that cost $11 billion annually. Air conditioners can have adverse effects on the environment, too. Air conditioner use in the United States creates 100 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions every year. And, some models contain chemical coolants that are detrimental to public health and to natural resources.

You don’t have to sacrifice comfort for conservation, though, if you implement simple and sustainable methods to save energy, money and Mother Nature.

  • If you are in the market for a new climate control system, choose an Energy Star model that contains safer, more environmentally sound coolants.
  • Properly discard defunct climate control systems. Federal law requires the recovery of coolants prior to the disposal of the unit.
  • Schedule regular maintenance for your existing climate control system to ensure that it is operating at its peak efficiency and to avoid costly repairs.
  • Set thermostats at 78 degrees during occupied hours and at 85 degrees during unoccupied hours in accordance with Army regulations. Duke Energy estimates that for every degree you raise the temperature on your thermostat, you can save three to five percent on cooling costs.
  • Change your air filters to ensure that your air conditioner is cooling efficiently. Clean air filters will also improve air quality in your home or office and reduce your exposure to allergens and pollutants.
  • Keep windows and doors closed when your air conditioner is in operation to contain cooled air.
  • Use ceiling fans to maintain air circulation. The average 48 inch, 75 watt ceiling fan costs only 50 to 90 cents each month to operate for ten hours each day. Ceiling fans will allow you to raise your thermostat by four degrees with no reduction in comfort. When purchasing a ceiling fan, choose an Energy Star model to further conserve energy.
  • Close blinds, shades and curtains to minimize the heating effects of direct sunlight. Sunny windows account for 40 percent of unwanted heat in homes.
  • Prevent unnecessary heating in your kitchen by preparing meals on your range top or in your microwave instead of in your oven. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, a microwave uses an average of 43 percent less energy than a stove.
  • Lights, electronics and appliances can generate heat. When and where possible, use natural lighting during the day, and keep lights turned off in vacant rooms. Power down and unplug appliances and electronics when they are not in use. Run your heat generating appliances such as dishwashers and dryers after dark when the ambient temperature is cooler and electrical loads are reduced.
  • Reduce your use of hot water, especially when temperatures are at their peaks. Turn the thermostat on your water heater down to 120 degrees.
  • If you use incandescent lights, choose bulbs with a lower wattage to reduce heat. Or, change your bulbs to compact fluorescent lights (CFLs) or light emitting diodes (LEDs). They generate less heat and consume less energy than incandescent bulbs.
  • Seal any drafts around doors and windows to keep cooled air contained and to prevent hot air from infiltrating your structure.
  • Dress for the weather, and stay hydrated.

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Keep Your Cool Sustainably

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Department of Energy



AIR FILTERS UNFILTERED

Air Filter

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air, and since we spend as much as 90 percent of our time indoors, the quality of the air in our homes and offices can significantly affect the quality of our lives and the quality of our health.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units can have an impact on indoor air quality. More than 70 percent of American households have central heating and air conditioning units, but nearly half of homeowners do not consistently change their air filters. Air filters are designed to remove polluting particles such as pollen, dust and mold from the air, but over time, those particles accumulate and eventually restrict air flow. As a result, a saturated air filter contributes to a decrease in HVAC efficiency and becomes its own source of air pollution. Regular air filter maintenance is one of the simplest, most inexpensive and most effective means to improve both the efficiency of an HVAC and the quality of indoor air.

The common blue or green spun fiberglass air filters are considered the “traditional” filters, but they may not be as efficient at cleaning the air as other filters.

When choosing and caring for air filters, there are several features to consider.

SIZE

Generally, air filters are one inch to four inches in depth, and they are available in a variety of heights and widths. An air filter is usually labeled based on its nominal size, which is the size of the filter rounded up to the nearest inch. An air filter should fit snugly into its chamber and be equipped with a sturdy frame for proper air filtration. Consult your HVAC owner manual for manufacturer-recommended specifications.

TYPE

There are several types of air filters that are commonly used for residential HVAC systems. Spun fiberglass air filters may be considered the “traditional” air filters. They are inexpensive, disposable and effective at capturing common air pollutants, but they should be replaced at least monthly for proper air filtration. Pleated air filters are a more efficient choice since they collect minute pollutants and require replacement about every three months. They are also disposable, but they are slightly more expensive than their spun fiberglass counterparts. Some filters feature an electrostatic charge to attract more polluting particles, and some filters feature an antimicrobial treatment to prevent pollutants from living on the filter where they are trapped. Washable air filters can be reused and require replacement only every few years, so they can reduce waste. However, they are not disposable and therefore must be cleaned regularly. Consult your HVAC owner manual for manufacturer-recommended specifications.

MERV RATING

Many air filter manufacturers and retailers use their own systems to evaluate a filter’s ability to remove polluting particles from the air. But, the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) of the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is the only universal rating system for air filters. Residential air filters have MERV ratings of one to 12, depending on their abilities to capture miniscule particles. Most air filters remove large particles such as pollen, dust and lint quite adeptly, but filters with higher MERV ratings are more efficient and can capture microscopic mold spores, dust mite debris, pet dander, smoke, smog and even particles that carry viruses and odors. So, a higher MERV rating generally translates into cleaner air. Filters with higher MERV ratings also have to be replaced less often. ASHRAE recommends a filter with a MERV rating of at least six for most residences, but a filter with a nine to 12 MERV rating is considered the best choice, especially for households with people with allergies, asthma and other respiratory concerns. However, a filter with a MERV rating above 16 is not often recommended for residential filtration because it can actually restrict air flow, cause damage to HVAC systems and increase utility costs.

PLEATING

Some air filters, such as those made from spun fiberglass, have no pleating. Others are pleated. If you choose a pleated version, choose a filter with more pleats per foot, which has more filter media for cleaner, more efficient air flow.

Remember: every disposable air filter needs to be replaced at least every one to three months to maintain proper HVAC operation and to improve air quality. Washable air filters must be cleaned regularly, too. A filter may require replacement or maintenance more often if a member of the household smokes, if a member of the household suffers from respiratory concerns, if the home is located in a dusty or polluted area, or if the filter becomes saturated with polluting particles, especially at certain times of the year such as pollen season.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Environmental Protection Agency – Indoor Air Quality

Going Green at the Office

Staff Report, Fort Bragg Environmental Management

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Many Americans spend much of their days in an office, and for the 144 million members of the work force, the office can be a “home away from home.” By incorporating sustainable practices into the operations of the office, one can save natural resources, conserve fiscal resources and turn a “home away from home” into a healthy, efficient environment.

Recycled Content Post-It

Here are some easy ways to “go green” at the office …

ENERGY CONSERVATION
– Use task lighting and natural lighting when possible.
– Use the power saver feature on electronics such as copiers and printers.
– Set office thermostats in accordance with Army regulations: 68 degrees (+/- 2 degrees) in the heating season and 78 degrees (+/- 2 degrees) in the cooling season.
– Power down computers and other electronics at the end of the duty day.
– Unplug electronics and appliances when the office is to be unoccupied for a long period of time, such as a deployment or holiday.

SUSTAINABLE TRANSPORTATION
– Arrange a carpool with colleagues.
– If possible, consider cycling or walking to the office.
– Consider the Fort Bragg Sustainable Shuttle when traveling on post.

WASTE REDUCTION
– Circulate office notices electronically.
– Distribute, review and store files electronically when possible.
– Request publications such as newsletters and magazines to be delivered electronically.
– Use both sides of the paper when printing and copying.
– Reuse office supplies as much as possible.
– Replace disposable items with reuseable items.
– Always recycle paper and other recyclables!

RESPONSIBLE PURCHASING
– Complete a thorough inventory of office supplies prior to ordering to avoid waste.
– Purchase paper and other products with a minumum of 30 percent recycled content.
– Purchase non-toxic and less-toxic versions of materials such as cleaners and inks.
– Purchase energy efficient and water efficient products.

INNOVATION
Consider innovative ways to be sustainable and resource-conscious at the office. Does your office present any unique opportunities to “go green?” Share your ideas on Facebook.

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Green Office Week Poster

GUIDING LIGHT: HOW TO DECIPHER LIGHT BULB LABELS

vector lightbulbs icon

As of January 1, the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007 prohibited the manufacture and import of traditional incandescent light bulbs, which have been rendered obsolete by energy efficient and durable alternatives. In addition, the legislation requires new bulbs to consume 30 percent less energy than traditional incandescent bulbs and to produce at least 20 lumens of light per watt of power consumed. Thomas Edison’s invention that has served as a standard method of home illumination for 134 years does not measure up to this new standard, and as a result, will soon disappear. It’s the end of the light bulb as we know it.

The compact fluorescent light (CFL) and light emitting diode (LED) bulbs that are now available meet or exceed EISA standards. But, when selecting one of these new bulbs, consumers may encounter a set of new considerations as well.

EISA requires the placement of informative labels on all light bulbs. There are several standard pieces of information on these Lighting Facts labels that help consumers choose the proper light bulb for their needs.

BRIGHTNESS

The brightness of a light bulb is measured in lumens. A standard number of lumens generated by a CFL or LED can usually be equated to the wattage of a comparable incandescent bulb.

450 lumens = 40-watt incandescent or 4-watt LED or 11-watt CFL
800 lumens = 60-watt incandescent or 8-watt LED or 15-watt CFL
1,100 lumens = 75-watt incandescent or 13-watt LED or 25-watt CFL
1,600 lumens = 100-watt incandescent or 20-watt LED or 30-watt CFL
2,600 lumens = 150-watt incandescent or 28-watt LED or 55-watt CFL

So, if one wishes to replace a 60-watt incandescent bulb with a CFL or LED bulb, one would choose a 15-watt CFL or an 8-watt LED. They all emit 800 lumens.

ESTIMATED YEARLY ENERGY COST

The estimated yearly energy cost for a light bulb is based on a standard of three hours of illumination each day at a utility rate of $0.11 per kilowatt hour, or kWh. Efficient bulbs will have a lower estimated yearly energy cost, but these amounts will vary based on an individual consumer’s rate of use and the rate of utility cost.

LIFE

The life of a bulb is based on a standard of three hours of illumination each day but will vary from consumer to consumer. Traditional incandescent bulbs have a life span of about 1,200 hours whereas CFLs and LEDs have life spans of 10,000 hours and 50,000 hours respectively.

LIGHT APPEARANCE

CFLs and LEDs also include a color temperature range and a Kelvin (K) rating that indicates the hue of the light generated by the illuminated bulb. Some bulbs generate warmer, yellow toned hues that are most comparable to traditional incandescent bulbs while other bulbs generate cooler, blue toned hues that most mimic natural light. Generally, a higher K number implies a cooler light temperature.

2700 K = warm, yellow toned light
3000 K to 4100 K = neutral, white light
5000 K to 6000 K = cool, blue toned light

ENERGY USED

The energy that a light bulb consumes is expressed in watts. Energy efficient bulbs have a lower wattage. Some labels also list a bulb’s efficacy in lumens per watt (LPW). The most efficient bulbs will generate more LPW, thus providing more illumination but consuming less energy. For example, a 15-watt CFL or an 8-watt LED produces the same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, but they use less power to do so.

OTHER CONSIDERATIONS

CFLs and other lamps containing mercury (LCMs) will feature a Contains Mercury label. LCMs must be recycled properly to prevent mercury from entering the environment and posing threats to our natural resources and to public health. Visit the EPA Guide to CFLs for more information on LCM recycling, or contact the Fort Bragg Hazardous Waste Reclamation Office at 396.2141.

Some bulbs even have a Color Rendering Index (CRI) that indicates the accuracies of colors as seen when the bulbs are illuminated. For the interior of a home, consumers should choose bulbs with a CRI of at least 80 for truer color appearance.

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION …

Consumer Reports Light Bulb Buying Guide

 

THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT …

Light Bulb Finder