Eco Laptops

Which ones get the best grades?

This article was published in the Fall 2009 issue of Green Living magazine.

Purchasing a new computer can be baffling enough without considering its carbon footprint. Luckily, a number of third-party researchers have done the homework for you.

“There isn’t one computer that’s excelling in all the criteria, so with every model there will be tradeoffs,” says toxics campaigner Casey Harrell of Greenpeace International, which publishes the Guide to Greener Electronics. The Guide ranks the top manufacturers of personal computers, mobile phones, TVs and game consoles according to their environmental policies, and the most recent edition was released in July. “The latest scores aren’t anything you’d want to take home and show your mother.”

Ultimately, says Harrell, buyers have to decide which green criteria are most important to them.

Here are three models that get good marks from EPEAT, Energy Star and RoHS, as well as a cheat sheet on what these certifications stand for:

•    EPEAT, a voluntary environmental performance standard for computers and monitors, awards electronics a bronze, silver or gold rating based on 51 factors such as packaging, recyclability, energy conservation and manufacturing materials.

•    Energy Star measures the energy efficiency of desktops, notebooks, workstations, small-scale servers and more.

•    RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) began as a European directive to evaluate the levels of toxic substances, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and flame retardants, in electronic products.

Sony VAIO W series

Price: $599

Weight: 2.6 lb.

Greenest feature: This pint-sized notebook is perfect if your main activities include updating your blog and chatting on Facebook. Why own an energy-sapping clunker if you don’t need one?

Cool factor: Choose from three delicious-sounding colours—sugar white, berry pink or cocoa brown.

Toshiba Satellite U500

Price: $899 to $1,049

Weight: 4.5 lb.

Greenest feature: The eco-mode feature limits power consumption at the touch of a button, and Eco Utility measures energy usage in real time.

Cool factor: Forget about remembering passwords. Log in using nothing but a webcam and your mug using face recognition software.

Apple Macbook Pro

Price: $1,399 to $2,899 (depending on screen size)

Weight: 4.5 to 6.6 lb.

Greenest feature: A built-in, 40-percent longer-lasting battery means fewer will end up in landfills.

Cool factor: Say bye-bye to cumbersome clicking with the button-less Multi-Touch trackpad—your fingers will dance all over it.