Building Sustainable Hardware Products

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Environmental Sustainability Team

Building Sustainable Hardware Products

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Microsoft offers a diverse portfolio of hardware and software products. Each time we deliver a new product to market, we are accountable for ensuring that our product is designed and built sustainably, with respect to the environment and the communities where our products are used. To accomplish this, we apply sustainable design principles to our products that focus on four key areas: energy efficiency, recycling, material substitutions, and sustainable design. As an example, this approach is apparent in our Xbox 360 program.

Energy Efficiency

Over the last several years, we have worked to improve energy efficiency in the Xbox 360. While the PC industry uses Moore’s law to make faster and more capable computers each year, the Xbox 360 takes advantage of the law to reduce the energy consumed while playing video games. Moore’s Law speaks to the tendency for the number of transistors that are placed on a given integrated circuit to double at regular intervals. Extending the thought process allows engineers to reduce power consumption at a regular interval while maintaining the transistor count.  Each revision to-date to the Xbox 360, has achieved incremental reductions of energy use leading up to our latest version.  The development team reduced the physical size of the graphics processor and CPU and mounted them on the same piece of silicon using 45-nanometer technology. This cut the electrical power needed for gaming to less than half of what it was at the original Xbox 360 launch in 2005. Through the redesign of other silicon components and the use of digital voltage regulation, the development team was also able to reduce standby power by two thirds without any loss of functionality.

With the needs of the most power-hungry components reduced, heat goes down and much of the support circuitry and components associated with power supply and heat removal was downsized. This lessened the overall weight of the console. The original combined Xbox 360 console and power supply weighed ~4400 grams. The new combined weight is down to ~3500 grams – a 20% reduction of material weight driving further reductions in packaging and distribution impacts. Less weight = less materials to be recycled and lower fuel costs.


Microsoft has also made large strides in the area of voluntary recycling. Despite the fact that there are not mandatory recycling laws in the US for gaming consoles, PC peripherals, and music players, we felt that it was critical to extend our responsibility into electronics recycling. We implemented three methods in which our US customers can responsibly recycle their consoles, Zunes, and PC peripherals. First, we partnered with Dell to support the collection/recycling of electronics materials that are collected via the Goodwill Reconnect Program. This program enables our customers to drop off their unwanted electronics at any of the 1000+ participating collection points throughout the US. Visit the site at: for more information. Second, we began offering our customers the option of returning electronics to our brick and mortar stores. Like the Reconnect program, Microsoft Stores accepts all brands of electronics not just Microsoft branded products to ensure that they are responsibly recycled. There is also a third option for those customers who do not live near a participating Reconnect Goodwill drop-off location or Microsoft Store – customers can contact us via email at: and we will provide a prepaid UPS label to send Microsoft branded products directly to the recycle station. All of our recyclers are ISO 14001 certified and have been audited by Microsoft and third party auditors to ensure they meet our strict standards to responsibly and completely recycle all material and follow all contractual guidelines.

Material Substitutions

With respect to material substitutions, all Microsoft hardware products comply with regulatory restrictions of materials such as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances). Still, with respect to voluntary elimination of brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and phthalates, we face challenges similar to other manufacturers of complex hardware devices in terms of the availability, suitability and cost effectiveness of BFR-free alternatives, and the overriding concern for the safety of our consumers. With that in mind, we have extended our goal to eliminate BFRs and phthalates from new hardware products to the extent that it is safe and feasible to December 31, 2012. As before, this new date is subject to the feasibility and safety of substitute materials. BFRs and phthalates remain on our roadmap for targeted elimination, and we continue to evaluate their substitution regularly through a formalized process that leverages our online qualitative supplier and component discovery tool.

As environmental and economic impact assessments are published and substitutes are assessed by government experts and electronic industry associations, we continue to evaluate other substances on an ongoing basis to determine if those should be included in the Microsoft roadmap for targeted elimination. Microsoft’s environmental engineers are assigned to every hardware product development team to incorporate concepts including: friendly construction dismantlement, the minimization of materials volume and weight, and the elimination of substances of concern. With each new hardware product, we measure and score on these and other concepts so that each generation of products has an improved environmental impact assessment. These concepts are integrated into our product design infrastructure and incorporated as milestones in our end-to-end development process to improve product sustainability now and in the future.

Sustainable Design

The new Xbox 360 design also enables us to improve packaging sustainability. Since its original introduction in 2005, the current Xbox 360 packaging has incorporated numerous environmental improvements such as:

· Lighter weight - Average 9% packaging weight reduction, excluding the console and peripherals

· Reduced Packaging Footprint - Average 5% packaging dimensional reduction – less materials, used and recycled

· Use of paperboard from sustainably managed forests

· Increased post-consumer recycled content in the paperboard

· Selected material friendly to recycling and recovery.

In summary, Microsoft is making progress in our efforts to enhance the sustainability of our products. We are focused on continuing to make strides in many areas and are committed to reducing the impact of our products on the environment. Enriching the lives of our employees, customers and communities is at the heart of what we do, and we want to make sure that we are doing it in a sustainable way.

For more information on our hardware product sustainability initiatives, please visit

Brian Tobey
Corporate Vice-President of Manufacturing, Supply Chain, Information & Services
Interactive Entertainment Business (IEB)

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    really great information to know. thanks ..keep posting

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