As the summer vacation winds down, consumers are turning their attention to return to school and businesses. For many students, especially those heading off to college, computers represent a major part of the purchases needed to be prepared for the school year. While cost and functionality of computers and peripherals are important, so must sustainability and environmental impact be part of the decision to buy a computer. Three major computer companies have detailed information on green initiatives. They are Dell, Hewlett Packard and Apple.

A review of the Dell Computer website reveals very specific information, including statistics on the company’s efforts to be environmentally friendly. Dell has reduced its facilities’ carbon footprint by up to 16% for FY08-12 and drove toward zero waste by recycling or reusing 98% of its nonhazardous manufacturing costs. In 2012, Dell reduced the size of packaging by more than 12%, increased the amount of recyclable or renewable content in packages by 40% and ensured that 75% of its packaging is recyclable at curbside. More information on Dell’s sustainability efforts can be found in its 2012 press release on Corporate Responsibility.

The second noteworthy company is Hewlett-Packard (HP). Its website discloses its environmental programs and initiatives. As an added extra, HP includes an interactive feature that allows consumers to configure computers and peripherals and to calculate the carbon footprint based on their prospective purchases. This company also details specifics on offers for trade-ins, recycling, returns for cash and donations both in the United States and worldwide.

Thirdly, Apple Computers features the efficiency of the Mac on its website. These computers carry an Energy Star qualification with a rating of 5.2, which sets higher limits for power supplies and aggressive limits for the computer’s overall power consumption. The company touts the Mac to be free of harmful toxins, including mercury, arsenic, BTRs and PVC. Made from aluminum, the Mac is more likely to be recycled and reused at the end of its productive life. Apple also provides free recycling for old computers with the purchase of a new Mac. Of note, in mid-July, Apple removed its name from EPEAT, the green registry that tracks the environmental impact of computers. As a result, some local jurisdictions, such as San Francisco, have deemed Apple computers as not green enough to buy and have suspended contracts with Apple for the city’s computers. It is Apple’s contention that it no longer needs to be enrolled in EPEAT because it meets strict environmental standards, including the government’s Energy Star program, which exceeds EPEAT.

In conclusion, when shopping for a computer, green factors should be a major consideration alongside cost, processor speed and hard drive size. The impact of computers on the environment is very important. So as you venture out to buy a new computer, be sure to shop green, live green, be green.