How to Give Greener Electronics for the Holidays

How to Give Greener Electronics for the Holidays
How to Give Greener Electronics for the Holidays

If you want to give your loved ones environmental peace and joy over the long run, you might want to hold off on buying them the latest hot gadgets as gifts. Electronics waste -- e-waste -- is a dirty problem that lingers far beyond the time when Christmas present becomes Christmas past.

Earlier this year, the energy-saving consultants at WellHome mined a variety of sources, including the EPA and Greenpeace, to create an infographic illustrating the ugly backstory behind our must-have electronics. For example, every year, 20 million to 50 million metric tons of electronics are ditched worldwide -- and only 10% to 18% are recycled. The simple act of making electronics is wasteful in itself: 81% of the energy use that's tied to a computer occurs in manufacturing the device, not using it.

Furthermore, electronics usually include toxic components, such as mercury, lead, and polyvinyl chloride. Most of our e-waste is shipped off to other countries, creating health problems for those who deconstruct them and ultimately ending up in water, air, and soil.

Fortunately, Greenpeace has created a guide identifying the greenest electronics companies for consumers' shopping lists. It ranked 15 well-known electronics companies on three areas: energy, greener products, and sustainable operations.

Who Sells the Greenest E-Gifts

Here are the companies Greenpeace ranked highest in environmental responsibility in its guide and how they earned a spot on the list:

  1. Hewlett-Packard (HPQ): The PC giant is measuring and cutting carbon emissions in its supply chain, decreasing its own carbon emissions, and supporting strong climate legislation.

  2. Dell (DELL): This computer giant leapt from 10th place to second after it vowed to cut its emissions by 40% by 2020.

  3. Nokia (NOK): Sweden's Nokia has fallen from first place to third for the first time in several years, having exhibited weaker performance on the energy criteria.

  4. Apple (AAPL): Although so many consumers adore Apple, problems have surfaced -- take the controversy about worker suicides and poor environmental track records at suppliers like Foxconn and Wintek. However, Apple has made improvements, jumping five spots higher on Greenpeace's guide and coming in at No. 4.

Interestingly, Blackberry maker Research In Motion (RIMM) made it into the guide for the first time this year (coming in at the bottom of the list at No. 15). Although Research In Motion must improve its reporting and disclosure on environmental measures, it managed to score positively on conflict minerals issues and sustainable paper policy.

While we're decking the halls, let's think about other ways to contribute to world greenery. If consumers go for greener gadgets, it ensures a far more merry Christmas future.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Dell, as well as creating a bull call spread position in Apple.

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