As vendors beat the drum on their green credentials, it's good to bear in mind a truth to cut through the hype: products with zero environmental impact do not exist. Every technology product that is manufactured impacts the environment.
However, according to this Metropolis mag article, new approaches to green design point to a day when zero-impact products might one day be possible. Based on the Okala Design Guide, this seven steps best practice guide could restyle the road map for twenty-first-century manufacturing, as environmental sustainability increasingly influences consumers' purchasing decisions.
These steps can be easily transferred to technology manufacturing:
1. Innovation - not only energy efficiency of products, but news ways of producing power within the product itself.
2. The right materials: The vinyl question - Apple and Nokia have already eliminated polyvinyl chloride (PVC) from their products, but this cheap, durable and apparently toxic plastic is still ubiquitous in many industries.
3. Clean and green production - The technology industry could stand to be a little more transparent on the energy and water consumed in its manufacturing plants.
4. Efficient distribution - which includes the packaging and transportation of goods. The shipping of technology products is not most sustainable form of delivery. Software vendors are looking at Web services, and hardware manufacturers are assembling goods locally, but investigation into this area must continue. Better delivery also lowers costs, so everybody wins.
5. Low-impact use - Make no bones about it, technology products guzzle up energy. Vendors could stand to be more innovative in integrating energy production into the product (see point 1) or improving efficiency.
6. Made to last - As innovation continues to ramp up - with faster processing and vaster memories - technology products quickly become obsolete, and, increasingly, disposable. Unlike the Hans Wegner chair, technology is not built to last more than four years at most. This is no longer environmentally viable.
7. Avoiding the landfill: Afterlife - Recycling products has become more important to manufacturers in the EU since the advent of the WEEE directive, but more needs to be done in this area to avoid e-waste, and also share resources with underprivileged parts of society.