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Who makes "sustainable" computers?

Posted on 1998-02-06
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Question by:peko
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by:timmn
ID: 1127291
You might want to check with the EPA for your answer, however, some advances have been made, I got an older desktop computer in yesterday, and all the plastic parts had been coded for recycling.

The thing is, even if you do manage to find a computer manufacturer who meets your qualifications, you also have to check out their suppliers, just becuase a computer may be made in a "green" factory, doesn't mean that the parts that make up that computer have been made in one.

With all the offshore assembly, and the differing enviromental laws, it is going to be hard to find any consumer electronics equipment that is made with little impact on the enviroment.
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by:peko
ID: 1127292
Edited text of question
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Author Comment

by:peko
ID: 1127293
Edited text of question
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by:dew_associates
ID: 1127294
Peko: Your concern is undertsandable and well taken, however I/We need you to take a deep breath and rationalize the issues, all of them.

First, you say, "Some of the worst toxic waste (Superfund) sites in the USA are in Silicon Valley, and the rate of illness among computer assemblers is significantly higher than the general population. (This can be found on the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition homepage: www.svtc.org/svtc)".

It's entirely reasonable for this entity, and those like it, to bring focus to their plight. Like so many others, they will do what they perceive needs to be done to bring focus to their problem. Please don't misunderstand, no doubt there are numerous superfund sites in Silicon Valley, however there are numerous superfund sites throughout the US as well as the world and this is because we have become environmentally aware only recently. We need to view the big picture, not narrow the focus to one company, one component, one group of components or even one industry. In 1989 the US computer industry wrote the book on "green" computer components and it took Congress nearly 3 years to implement it. Now, over 99% of all boards produced in the US are green compliant, sands certain boards required by our military. In 1996 the US clamped down on the import of non-green boards into the US by prohibiting them entirely without a special import ID. One of the premier MB manufacturers, Supermicro, builds a board that does not require any notification or ID what so ever.

The Silicon Valley issue has nothing to to with the manufacturing process today, but what was occuring during the IC development 15-20 years ago. If you have the opportunity to subscribe to the National Register, you will see that unsafe residual by-products from IC production are nearly non-existent due to imporved design, manufacturing and handling methods.

Let's look at your comments!

So far I've searched for PC companies that

1) Have as little impact on the environment as possible.

Most of the US companies today have little or no impact on the environment. Again, you have to weigh the facts, not conjecture, of both sides and ascertain the *facts* for yourself. A point of fact, most PC companies do not manufacture their own components. The industry is much too volatile for that. Design to market time periods for several components on a whole raft of platforms have made this approach unprofitable. An example of this would be IBM and HP, both of whom have reduced their in-house production from 85% to less than 5%. Why do it yourself when you can have a premier manufacturer build to your specs without your having to have anything more than an engineering department and quality control. Doesn't do much for the labor market, but when stockholders want profits, they dictate what happens.

2) Respect for employees. Peko, except for the obvious exceptions and the fact that we are still a leader R&D, we are basically a very impatient lazy society. Only when our quality of daily life is interrupted do we act. Study some history (and I don't mean peripherally, but really read between the lines) and you will see what I mean. Up until World War I we were an isolated society. We went into a depression only to rely on the leftovers of that war to bring us out of it. As a country, in the 1930's we ignored the world around us and again headed for financial problems (again isolated) until we became involved in World War II. Obviously, this cost many lives and created many hardships at home because of restrictions on food, fossil fuels and metals, but on the other hand, it stimulated our society and focused it on an enemy. What was the result, we became stronger with the best trained workforce in the world. What had been manufactured before in months was now being done in days. We regained our focus.

Now you do the reading. Did we need to be in Korea and Vietnam? Was it solely because of the communist crisis or was it for other reasons as well. Look at our economy in 1948 and then again in 1953. Strange how it took on a new look. Same thing in 1963, then look at 1967. Strange how we suddenly went from 22% unemployment to less than 1/2 of 1%.

3) Do little harm to surrounding economies.

I presume this to mean economies of other countries. This being the case, the electronics industry (right now) is the only thing propping up some economies such as Taiwan (China), Singapore, Thailand and Japan, to name a few. Computer components only place a very small part in this, as a matter of fact, less than 2% of the whole. It's calculators, clocks, watches and a multitude of other things that are at issue. We have, indeed, become a throw-away society.

4) are recyclable.

As I noted earlier, most MB and their components are green qualified. Only some boards used by the military because of the conditions under which they must function within require some components to still have PCB's. The others are readily recyclable or can be ground up if necessary.

So far, the best I've found is the EUROPEAN "eco-labels" such as TCO and Nordic Swan of Sweden, as well as Blue Angel of Germany. There are some (2?) American books, but they are dated and out of print. Sweden's TCO covers some (participating) American makes, but they receive money for it (see www.tco-info.com)

The eco-label is an offshoot and response to the US green initiative noted above. If you would like to see what I mean, call the US State Department and tell them you have a group of components that you want to import and ask them to assist you in qualifying them for import. That should keep you busy until the next millenium.
Dennis
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Author Comment

by:peko
ID: 1127295
 I appreciate the response from DEW Associate's Dennis and also from
Timmn.
    However, I am still not convinced of the inherant sense and safety factors at the base and periphery
of the exploding electronics industry. I just ran across an article in the
USA TODAY Website, under : <Webtraveler * Technews > dated January 13, 1998
<http://www.usatoday.com/life/cyber/tech/ctb932.htm>
-This article details abuses of environment and workers by the
semiconductor industry during the past few years, up to '95- '96. Although improvements are noted, IBM and others still have lawsuits pending against them. The article is quite thouroughly researched, if possibly "biased". If reform has occured, I'd say it's not good enough, from this article. What do you say?
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Expert Comment

by:dew_associates
ID: 1127296
Peko: You can reject this or accept this, but frankly your wasting this sites time with this type of question. You knew the purpose of this site when you logged in, nevertheless your blatant indifference and obvious lack courtesy has tied up valuable space and tech time that could be used by others with real problems. You sole purpose is not bring an issue to this site that is at all relevant to it, but rather to be nothing more than disruptive. Had you done your research properly you would be asking the questions you have, nor making the statements you imply. First of all, you are very much biased and I doubt you have any intention of *investing in equipment* other than what you own already. If that were the case you wouldn't be riding in an automobile, using your present computer, waking to an electronic alarm clock. If you really want answers, do you own research, including investigating what OSHA does and doesn't do.
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Expert Comment

by:EbenBrooks
ID: 1127297
First, I would like to offer that Gateway 2000 is an employee-owned company and is considered one of the best when it comes to employee satisfaction.

Second, I would like to chide dew_associates for the unnecessary vitriol of his last comment. I'm sorry, dew, but peko was being not only extremely courtious, but addressing an issue that EVERYONE HERE ought to be concerned with. It is obvious that he hit a sore spot with you (perhaps you work for a computer manufacturer yourself? If so, why not simply recommend your own company and cite personal experience of the workplace?). However, to accuse him of discourtesy and intentional disruption is not a rational deduction based on the content of his question or of his follow-up comment.

Frankly, Mr. dew, you didn't have to answer this question at all, and the fact that you did, and to such an extent, means that you obviously had a HUGE investment in peko's opinion. Your comment comes across as sour grapes for not having been awarded points for your answer. But you answer, though extensive, showed a lack of regard for peko's concern. I, for one, do not think this question is "wasting this sites [sic] time" or "nothing more than disruptive," but something that we all should be aware of.

Peko, you may reject this answer without fear of reprisal--I must admit that my information is not extensively researched, but I have heard many good things about Gateway 2000 from many independent sources. You may do well to check into them more thoroughly.

Please do not let dew_associates' lack of professionalism and courtesy discourage you from asking further questions.

--EbenBrooks
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Expert Comment

by:dew_associates
ID: 1127298
EbenBrooks: Normally I wouldn't waste the time required to respond to your statements, but under the circumstances I will.

To begin with, had you been nearly as well informed as you perceive yourself to be, you would realize that if one semi-conductor related company is guilty of contaminating our environment, then all are guilty, including your beloved Gateway. Indeed, I have no love for Gateway or any other mail order computer sales organization, as there are none that provides one of the most important components necessary, quality.

As for your comments in general, especially those with regard to the composure of my comments, I would suggest you spend less time doing so and more time understanding the overall purpose of this site, which is not to discuss the hygienic nature of computer manufacturers or the components contained therein, but to assist users with their systems and resolve important day to day issues. My commentary is hardly bitter, moreover it is truthful and to the point. There is a forum for every concern imaginable, but this site is not a forum for greenpeace.

Frankly, I have no investment in Peko's opinion what so ever. Simply put, had he, and now you, done any research at all, even to the extent of picking up the telephone and verifying "in camera" information provided by the articles he pointed to, he and you would have realized an extreme disparity in the information provided.

We all need to be concerned about our environment, whether it be toxic sites created on our earth, or the abundance ill conceived gutter tripe printed by the news media. Either of you needed only to have identified the top fifty list of super fund sites and then compared it to the article to learn that the article wasn't even close to indentifying the violators.

Apparently, unlike you, I live in a very real world. If you really want to do something for mankind, feed a hungry child, give some new cloths to the less fortunate, teach something to the unknowing. Don't dance on the periphery, don't talk about what is wrong, do something about it, get involved.

EbenBrooks, instead of browsing my commentary next time, read it completely and understand the depth of what is being said.

Dennis
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Expert Comment

by:EbenBrooks
ID: 1127299
Oh, I read your commentary quite thoroughly, don't worry. And I have read your response to me as well. I don't deny the heartfeltness of your opinions, and I don't challenge your belief in what this site is about. I *do* challenge the objective truth of both. I have studied this site rather extensively, and though perhaps my answers have been few, my interest has been high. I cannot imagine any reason that peko's question is in any way inappropriate to this forum. Obviously you did, and that's fine, but responding in the way that you did was, at the very least, *equally inappropriate*, if not a great deal more so. This is a venue for professionals, and you are not acting like one.

I do live in the real world, sir, but like everyone my "real world" is colored by my own perceptions. I'm sorry that yours is such a hostile place. Mine is somewhat more accepting.

--EbenBrooks
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Expert Comment

by:dew_associates
ID: 1127300
EbenBrooks, you wouldn't understand reality if it stared you in the face. My world, as you define it, is no more nor any less hostile or accepting as yours. Indeed, you have pointed directly to the issue, yours is colored, even possibly tainted, by your perceptions. But unlike you, I am a pragmatist. You will note, I have made no comments regarding your professionalism. I cannot make such comments for two reasons. One, I don't know you, and two, as a pragmatist, I haven't seen anything but talk thus far. You state that your well informed, but I have yet to determine what about!
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Expert Comment

by:linda101698
ID: 1127301
This question has gotten out of hand.  I apologize to peko. We are trying to maintain a professional site peko and this is not what we like to see.

We all need to be concerned about the environment and I see no problem with this question being posted here.  In fact, I suggest the lounge would also be a good place to post this question.  It's like a chat area where experts can express their opinions.

My suggestion to the experts here is to remember this when responding to questions. Experts Exchange tries to maintain a professional site where people can get solutions to their problems or answers to their questions.  We encourage our experts to keep their responses positive. If you disagree with the ideas being given, try to do it in a postive way.

Linda Gardner
Customer Service @ Experts Exchange
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Expert Comment

by:smeebud
ID: 1127302
See article
http://premium.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q147/8/64.asp

PRB: "Help Author On"
Last reviewed: March 6, 1996 (Just a bit out of date)

And then reject the standing answer and award me the points.
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Expert Comment

by:dew_associates
ID: 1127303
Hey Bud, check that URL will ya?
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Expert Comment

by:smeebud
ID: 1127304
Dennis,
if you mean http://premium.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/Q147/8/64.asp
It was just a joke.
Referring to; Problem, the author of the question.
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Author Comment

by:peko
ID: 1127305
 Ahem. OK, in responding to the dialog thus far, I must emphasize that it was not my intention to spark any bad feelings between experts: that is not
conducive to open discussion. I'll readily admit that my intro was flamboyant, and intended to attract attention -I was not dissapointed in that !
   As far as grading answers, I chose not to, as I don't claim to know the facts muself, just what I've read.
All answers were informative of the conditions as the writers saw them, which is significant. Beyond the sources I quoted, which I have not cross-checked per se, I can't yet prove that "1
"some of the worst toxic waste sites(Superfund) are in the USA, in silicon valley". One source that claims that, USA TODAY, has a flamboyant style to be sure. I did check the EPA Superfund Database briefly, and found some 20 to 50 sites listed, depending on what "SIC" code used, some from the 1990's. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition home page sports a news bibliography, which I have not accessed, some mention of work-related illness.
   Yet I'm not posing this question so much as a challenge to prove who's right-wrong, but where to go from here. If the average consumer of electronics can be influential in his choice of consumer goods, then maybe THAT is a step toward the betterment of our worldwide ecological crisis. I don't believe I must prove that we have one. Many environmentalists swear by their computers, for reasons obvious.
The computer industry is but one industry, but a key one, and a flexible one for change. The European "eco-Labels" have been influential, due partly to European "Take-back" laws. Computer Currents (Green PC Archives) points out that these laws affect the whole industry, as it is easier to manufacture in bulk. Sweden's TCO seems to be the only "eco-label" so far to actually include worker's conditions as part of their criteria. They also give away their info freely, on their website, as do the experts here.
This seems to be a continuing, expanding trend, as the European Union is planning to set up a europe-wide "eco-label"; <www.ecosite.co.uk/eef/index.htm>   If any more responses cometh here, I am interested. I don't know how to move this to the lounge. Thanks for your time. -Peko-
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Expert Comment

by:linda101698
ID: 1127306
We don't have the ability to move questions from one topic area to another.  What you would need to do is post another question in the lounge (not necessary to assign any points to it) and see what response you get there.

To get to the lounge, go to the home page and then locate the subject heading customer service.  The lounge is a topic area under customer service.  

Linda
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Expert Comment

by:doddd
ID: 1127307
 In Australia, there was a lot of people boycotting Mitsubishi cars for environmental reasons.  What a lot of people didn't realise was that Mitsubishi manufactures so much of the world's discrete electronic components.  As far as I know, it is almost impossible to boycott Mitsubishi (not that I personally did) as almost every single electronic device has a component which has been manufactured by them.
  The problem with singling out companies like this is that consumers are often the least well informed as to the genuine issues and it is all too easy to generate propaganda.  There were similar politically correct marketing issues going on in the chocolate industry in Australia.  People were boycotting Nestle for human rights issues.  Soon after this, there was a movement to ban Cadbury Chocolate (an Australian company) over Gay rights issues.  I had to ask myself whether or not these two chocolate companies are fighting their own propaganda wars.
  If these issues are important, possibly the UN or if we are talking about Silican valley, the EPA should be your source of information, and hopefully, a means of regulating such issues.
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Expert Comment

by:doddd
ID: 1127308
 Another issue.  Often cases I have seen of boycotting play more on racism than rationalism.  In Australia, when the French were testing nuclear weapons in the Pacific,  Greenpeace was using Australia's British tradition of hating the French to generate interest and money in Greenpeace (after this happened there was a huge campaign for donations).
  At the time, I was living next to a toxic waste incinerator (within a mile) and my flatmates of the time, were more concerned with what was happening in France than Australia.  None of them seemed concerned that living within one mile of a toxic waste incinerator significantly increases your chance of developing lymph cancer.
  I guess that what I am saying is that boycotting a single product or company is something that I don't personally agree with.  To take a hypothetical situation, imagine that there is a company called Greenclean, that treats its employees well, pays them well and has minimal effect on the environment.  There is another company called Blackdirt that is the opposite.  Imagine that Blackdirt doesn't pay their employees very well.  The employees of Greenclean have more money and spend their money on Blackdirt products.  By buying Greanclean, you are indirectly supporting Blackdirt.  That's a simple example but it illustrates the point.  Socially, economically, and environmentally, the world is a web.  Boycotting a company is just a denial of that.
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Expert Comment

by:dew_associates
ID: 1127309
Well said Doddd!
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Accepted Solution

by:
tstaddon earned 170 total points
ID: 1127310
If you really want to be green, repair / recycle old PCs as I do. The easiest way to preserve the environment is to stop the wanton throw-away approach relied on by the business culture. In England it's extremely rare to find a PC in a skip, but some businesses consider disposal preferable to paying someone to take it away, or to donate it to a worthy cause.

Fujitsu Microelectronics Ltd in the UK make DRAMS and they have acheived such low environmental pollution that the water going in the plant is dirtier than the water coming out! Rabbits play right by the window and the managers spend all day watching them. They also donate some of their redundant computer equipment to local schools, contributing to education and public relations.

That's what I call environmentally friendly. I suggest that all companies should adopt this approach.

If anyone is interested in recycled computers, email me at tstaddon@geocities.com. I am expanding into this field and if anyone has any broken or defunct equipment they want rid of, feel free to email me- I might have a good use for it.

Bear in mind a guy has just built a supercomputer from multilinked old 486s, which makes the Digital Alpha 533 look like a Z80.
 
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Author Comment

by:peko
ID: 1127311
  Not that the other writer's answers were not highly relevant to
the subject of "sustainable computing", and worth reading, but
I graded only tstaddon's answer so far. That is definately the kind of
direction I am interested in pursuing myself; as it seems to make the most sense.
I quite agree that singling out certain industries is a piecemeal way of attempting real
change in any industry, but I think you've got to start somewhere in this vast `web'. Many environmental
groups have found that an effective starting point to raise awareness about this kind of issue. I would like to know of even better approaches if they exist, but I'm not sure one can just trust
free enterprise to save the problems they have created- that has a long and sordid history. The consumer must put their 2 cents in, I reckon -They will do so anyway, by default.
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Author Comment

by:peko
ID: 1127312
  On recycling: Japan's Trade and Health Ministries prepared
legislation in December to require manufacturers to recycle waste
electric home appliances.(Not yet computers) Appliance shops will have to
collect unneeded goods from consumers for a fee. Manufacturers will then
have to handle recycling, and dumping by anyone will be fined.(from ONE-L listserve, 12-29-97)
   European take-back laws are already more stringent than America's, and US Companies such as Hewlett-Packard seem to be taking the recycling initiative.
In "Everything for Sale"(New York, 1997), Robert Kuttner suggests that "The zenith of the era of regulation -the post war boom- was the most successful period of American capitalism." Sweden may be a "solid" example of regulation successful in both senses as well.
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