Are Manufacturers to Blame For Consumers Passing Over Greener Gadgets?
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Electronics manufacturers have been giving a lot of lip service the past few years to the greener side of their gadgets. By reducing energy consumption of devices, beginning a phase out of toxic chemicals, reducing packaging waste and amping up recycling programs, they're hoping to at least appear like they're cleaning up an very environmentally damaging industry. However, consumers are still slow to buy the greener gadget options when faced with choices in the store. Whose fault is it -- the consumers or the manufacturers? According to Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP), it's up to the manufacturers to play a leading role in getting consumers to make greener choices, and they're pushing companies to step up. UK-based WRAP released a new report detailing how companies can and should put a lot more effort into driving consumers to the devices that have smaller environmental footprints, primarily through creating brand recognition for the products and making the environmental and economic benefits of buying green clear to the consumers.
The push comes after releasing a study that shows many buyers don't look at the eco-credentials of electronics. When looking at commonly sold items like cell phones and household appliances, consumers are more likely to pay attention to the functional features, rather than the energy consumption and recyclability.
Business Green writes, "A spokeswoman for WRAP told BusinessGreen.com that firms need to clearly state how the green credentials of many products can benefit the customer, for example through lower energy bills or improved durability.
"She added that green electronics manufacturers also had to work to push environmental issues higher up the list of priorities for customers. 'A product with a clear [environmental] benefit but low brand recognition may need to work harder to convince the consumer how they will benefit,' she said."
The urgings don't fall on deaf ears. Manufacturers know how important it is to earn green labeling for their products, even to the point of lying about the product's efficiencies. But getting credible third-party certification can be expensive, and when manufacturers can turn a dime without having to get certification, there is little incentive. The transition to greener purchasing habits becomes a catch-22 -- manufacturers will pay for certification if consumers show interest in the products with certification, and consumers will show interest in products with certifications if the products actually appear in the marketplace.
Luckily, partnerships like EPEAT and Amazon.com are helping to put greener gadgets in the consumer's field of vision. And that could help turn more manufacturers on to boosting consumer awareness about the greener options in the gadget industry.
Here is Jeff Omelchuck of EPEAT speaking at Greener Gadgets in January about the consumer's role in making electronics more sustainable:
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