Image from Sony
Sony invited TreeHugger to visit their Research and Development Center in Stuttgart, Germany to hear about their environmental and energy saving measures and to see some cool new products that they are bringing out. Why do R&D; outside of Japan when you are a Japanese company? Sony says there is better technology in Europe and the technological innovations can be more specific to local requirements.
The company has made a huge commitment to greenhouse gas reductions, reducing their CO2 emissions by 93% in Europe over the past 8 years . All of their sites use only renewable electricity and their suppliers have strict compliance rules to make sure they fall into line. They are very proud of their new VAIO W, their most ecological laptop to date. Yes, all of the competition is getting greener and greener, but Sony believes that they have taken theirs the farthest.... Let's see.
Image from Sony
The special VAIO W eco edition is designed to be the most environmentally friendly laptop yet.
l. The Components are Recycled
Almost 80% of the plastic parts are made from recycled materials: the top and bottom cover and the palm rest are all made of crushed DVD's and CD's which have been returned to the manufacturer. The 10.1" screen is mercury-free with LED backlights. The battery has a life of 8.5 hours and 250GB hard drive.
The laptop's colour is called Mint White, it has a slight greenish tinge to remind you that it is eco. Believe it or not, there is also a hot pink one for the ladies.
2. The Packaging Savings are Comprehensive
Sony has made a huge effort to cut down on the packaging associated with delivery at every step from the factory to the consumer. Overall it has achieved a 10% reduction in CO2 emissions from factory to store compared with previous models.
It is a fascinating story of how they have done it. To reduce packaging, the laptops are packaged in boxes of 4, when sent to the stores. This increases the numbers that can fit on the shipping pallets and transported on trucks and reduces carbon emissions and gas costs. Some distributors have objected to packs of 4 because they don't want to take so many or they are afraid they won't be able to send one back, if needs be. In response, sales are being centralized at Sony Style centers to overcome the distribution issues with individual stores. What is going to happen is that businesses will have to alter some of their practices to fit in with the new environmental realities.
Image from Sony
The computer is delivered to the customer in a little black bag made of 100% recycled PET bottles; with no cardboard boxes or paper wrapping around it. The bag is wrapped in plastic which the store is supposed to remove and keep before handing it to the customer. Lots of stores don't like that aspect, saying it is too much work.
Sony recognized that most people do not read the manual in great depth. They have reduced the number of printed pages to a bare minimum. The rest is available as an i-Manual in PDF.
So the customer leaves the store with just a little black bag in hand. It was noted that stores make money selling the accessories, such as a case. Instead Sony is offering other items to be sold as extras, such as the mouse and a larger carrying case. It's that old chestnut: financial realities competing with idealism.
3. Design Needs Work
In discussion, Sony staff acknowledged that they had fallen behind in the design aspect. Apple has the sexy, sleek design and great marketing. But Apple has a smaller range of items so they can focus more on the design. But they admitted it is a missed opportunity--Sony has not focused enough on it. If you have the design you can really push the items. Hopefully we can look forward to new innovations from Sony in this area.