With the end of support for Windows XP, many organisations and individuals, including schools, are looking at replacing their computers. Aside from features like battery life, touch enabled screens etc, one aspect of selecting the right device for your school is the environmental profile of the device. This is not just about the planet but also has financial benefits.

  • Just by changing the operating system from Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8, you can save up to 30% of the electrical running costs,
  • If you move to a more modern portable device with new hardware chipsets designed to work with a modern operating system like Windows 8, you can expect up to 60% power savings.

When spread across all the PCs in your school, this can be a great saving, both financially and for the planet. Students at West Wycombe Combined School, which undertook such an upgrade, produced a great in-school project where the children measured the changes in power use, and what impact that would have on the planet. See our blog story on this.

The device decision you make has knock on impacts on the planet, so it is worth it to consider:

  • Does it use lamps contain mercury for the display which can cause problems when the device is disposed of at the end of its life?
  • How much of the case is made from recycled metals or plastics, rather than requiring more ore or oil to be extracted and processed?
  • Does the manufacture offer programs to recycle the device at the end of its useful life?

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Some large organisations ask questions like this when they go out to tender for new devices, but clearly no school has the time or resources to take an approach like that. The easy solution is to look at some of the environmental certification and registration programs that have been developed, and just specify them when you select new devices.

The largest of these is EPEAT which:

  • Operates in 42 countries around the world.
  • Is used by governments, universities, and multinationals, including Microsoft as part of the criteria for devices they buy.
  • In 2011, 32% of the world laptops sold were registered with this program.
  • Has 23 mandatory criteria which get a Bronze rating, and 28 optional criteria; achieving 50% of these merits a Silver rating, and 75% gets the Gold EPEAT badge. The criteria cover not only the device, but also the organisation that makes it.
  • All the big PC manufactures produce PCs that qualify for the program e.g. HP, Dell, and Apple.

As a school, specifying you only want to be offered EPEAT registered devices will still ensure you are provided with great choice. However, you are also ensured that they have gone through some checks around environmental sustainability that should give you financial saving through efficient power consumption, and improved product quality from the greater scrutiny around the manufacturing of the PC.

While EPEAT is the most widely used worldwide standard to help recognise greener PCs, there are some drawbacks. Currently it does not cover tablets, mobile phones and servers. They have stakeholder groups working on this which should enable them to expand to this in the next year or two. In the meantime, there are some less widely used standards you can consider. For tablets you could use the Swedish TCO Tablet standard.

If you want to learn more about this subject area there is a Microsoft sponsored site that provides more information – see www.greeneritchallenge.org