How Do Your Electronic Gadgets Rate on Their Environmental Impact?

by Marsha Rakestraw

A friend of mine is a technology early adopter.

He wants the latest version of his favorite gadgets, and sometimes he’ll buy two.

He tries to resell or give away the older (or extra) models, but that’s still a lot of electronics to dispose of.

And while more people are deciding to keep their laptops, tablets, smartphones, and other devices longer, as of 2020, almost 10 billion mobile devices were in use with 3.5 billion smartphone users worldwide and more than a billion who own a tablet. In the U.S. alone, nearly all Americans (96%) own a cellphone of some kind, and nearly half own tablets.

We clearly love our electronic gadgets.

But what we don’t love (if we stop to think about it), are the negative impacts of our electronics on people, animals, and the planet.

There is no perfectly humane electronic product, but when it comes to purchasing them, we citizens can to look to the practices and products of the companies themselves to find choices that do more good and less harm.

One important tool that can help is Greenpeace’s 2017 Guide to Greener Electronics.

The 2017 guide rates 17 “consumer electronics” companies on “what they’re doing to address their environmental impacts.”

The guide focuses on three major impact areas:

  • Energy use: reduction of greenhouse gases through efficiency and renewable energy
  • Resource consumption: sustainable design and use of recycled materials
  • Chemical elimination: elimination of hazardous chemicals from the product and the manufacturing process

And companies are assessed in each of those areas on transparency, commitment, performance, and advocacy.

Since the guide looks at laptops, tablets, and smartphones, in addition to “traditional” electronics companies like Apple, HP, Dell, and Acer, companies like Amazon and Samsung are also graded.

Unfortunately, the electronics industry has a long way to go before it can be truly healthy, just, and sustainable, but several companies have been stepping up their efforts to be greener.

Companies with better scores included:

  • Fairphone
  • Apple
  • Dell
  • HP

Those at the bottom included:

  • Samsung
  • Vivo
  • Oppo
  • Xiaomi
  • Amazon

The guide does have its limitations, and it doesn’t include criteria such as how a manufacturer’s workers are treated; but for those of us looking for additional information on which companies are striving for greener practices and products, it’s quite useful.

Read the report here.

See the detailed report cards here.

Since companies are always tweaking their practices and products, they tend to move up and down in rankings. Be sure to check out the next editions of this guide to see which companies have made positive progress…or taken steps backward.

And until companies commit to practices and products that do the most good and least harm, we can search for other resources to help us buy, (re)use, and dispose of these products properly, and work toward creating more restorative, just, and sustainable systems for our products.

Be sure to forward this to at least ONE person who would benefit from this resource.