Photo via MikeBlogs via Flickr CC
EPEAT, as you likely already know, is a rating system for electronics. It judges items like computers, notebooks, and monitors on criteria such as recyclability, packaging, exclusion of toxic materials and so on, and the greener the gadget, the higher the ranking, from bronze to gold. While anyone can search the database, it's so far been used for business and government purchases - the average consumer typically doesn't hop onto the EPEAT website to check up on how green their netbook is before purchasing. However, EPEAT is growing fast, and its most recent move of partnering with Amazon.com will put green gadget info right in front of consumers as they shop. But...it's not without some serious bugs.Amazon is working to green up its operations, from frustration free packaging (which is still imperfect, but a good step forward) to providing a quickly scannable selection of green products for consumers to choose from. Now, its partnership with EPEAT will help green up its gadget section.
But, the program isn't without faults. The Amazon page for an electronic device that holds an EPEAT ranking shows a label that says "This product is EPEAT registered" but it doesn't show which ranking the item earned, nor does it provide a link to the page on EPEAT where users can see how the product ranked in different categories. They also can't easily compare green features of several items they're considering.
Basically, the information becomes white noise to consumers, who likely won't do their own research on the site, and they're in the same boat as before.
For people who know that Amazon is selling EPEAT products and they want to search for them, they have to go to the "green" section where they can see a tier system showing products listed under gold, silver and bronze:
Screenshot via Core 77
Not exactly easy for any Joe Schmoe to access EPEAT products unless they know what they're looking for...or looking at.
And Amazon's section explaining EPEAT doesn't do a whole heck of a lot either. For instance, a few fun facts: From Amazon, "Since the program's launch in July 2006, the more than 101 million EPEAT-registered products sold in the US alone have resulted in:
· 30 billion kilowatt hours of electricity saved
· 54 million metric tons of primary materials used in products
· 3 million kilograms of toxic materials eliminated
· 100 million kilograms of hazardous waste avoided
· 3.9 million metric tons of greenhouse gases emissions avoided"
Without context, these numbers mean essentially nothing to consumers. Are these big numbers? Little numbers? Will it really make a difference if a consumer chooses an EPEAT registered product over another? Or a Gold versus a Bronze? Who knows.
Seeing EPEAT making appearances on Amazon is encouraging. It's a step - but it's a baby step. We expect more from a major retailer like Amazon.com, especially if they want to have a reputation for going green.