Be Good To Your Mother (Earth) …and Put More Green in Your Wallet

Earth Day marked its 39th birthday this year and it’s no surprise that with each passing year the attention paid and respect given on this day grows seemingly at an exponential pace from the year just previous. This is because companies and their customers are making a conscious and continual effort to adopt a more socially responsible stance towards green initiatives. This is certainly the case in the electronics space.

Reduce, Recycle and Refurbish

Reduce:

Companies are making a deliberate effort to offer increasingly more efficient electronics for a demanding public. You’ve likely seen but perhaps not paid full attention to the Energy Star Logo, but perhaps you’ve already reaped its benefits. This logo, adopted by the EPA in the U.S. in 1992 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_star and expanded shortly thereafter has been a tremendous energy saving boon for consumers. As of 2006, over 40,000 products, many of the electronics, have earned this distinction and provide the consumer anywhere from 20% to over 40% savings on energy bills. The sometimes slightly higher cost for certain energy efficient products is more than offset by the significant savings in the longer term. A true win-win-win deal (seller-customer-environment).

And when you think savvy and timely electronics, Apple immediately comes to mind. Always at the forefront of innovation and deciphering what consumers want just ahead of the curve, they’ve come up with a line of Green Notebooks http://www.apple.com/mac/green-notebooks/ with a mind to reducing excess materials and maximizing efficiency.

More companies are looking at eco-friendly materials in their products. Bamboo is the greenest of green; nothing on earth grows faster than bamboo. It is arguably the most sustainable resource anywhere. Asus, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of motherboards, continues to differentiate itself in a crowded marketplace with its U6V line of laptops that are encased in bamboo.

Recycle:

Companies of all sizes are aware of the benefits of becoming a steward of our finite resources. No small player, HP shows their commitment to the cause:
http://www.hp.com/hpinfo/globalcitizenship/environment/commitment/. According to their site, HP became the first computer manufacturer to operate its own recycling facility in 1997. Through their internal recycling and reuse programs, HP has recycled over 1 billion pounds of products and materials.

So you know you’re doing your fair share of recycling but you’ve got some questions about recycling electronic products? Check out this useful and informative link about E-waste and solutions:
http://www.epa.gov/waste/conserve/materials/ecycling/faq.htm

Refurbish:

Reusing products and materials is key to good environmental policy. And refurbishing products for resell is a positive growing trend towards increased sustainability. Savvy consumers know in these trying times, with every dollar more dear than ever, that the refurbished market offers some incredible values. More than this, purchasing refurbished items can keep scrap waste from entering streams & landfills. Buying these items is then not only beneficial to the environment, it makes smart financial sense.

Many people associate refurbished with a potential negative quality (the old used car conundrum). This is not in most instances the case when it comes to electronics. Customer returns represent a huge part of the electronics market. Ever see the customer service line at Fry’s? Many times an open box does not look good on the shelf so they’ll send it back to the manufacturer as part of any retailer’s RMA process. (Return Merchandise Authorizations). While the percentages may differ, many manufacturers agree that most returned items from retailers don’t actually have defects. It follows that this leaves behind a treasure trove of perfectly workable and essentially new electronics for the motivated consumer. Additionally, sometimes items classified as refurbished are overstock (actually new products), canceled orders, demo and trial units. floor models, or product with very minor surface imperfections. The deals are out there.

Electronics manufacturers generally have categories of their refurbished products based upon condition: A/B being best and F worst. So depending on the brand A/B grade refurbs are usually considered in Like-New condition. Some companies like Vizio then take refurbs to a higher level where they re-certify the products through stringent testing and put the items in a new box. Unless you’re buying from a reputable reseller, be wary of buying refurbs on auction sites and classifieds. Caveat Emptor. This is where C/D/F grade products typically end up. Most reputable refurb resellers will offer limited warranties. Look for products that have direct warranties from the manufacturer. Many strong refurb resellers will offer extended warranties as well. You can find a better deal at a better price if you shop smart, though product moves fast so vigilance is key.

Needle in the Haystack: Finding quality refurbished electronics can be tricky. Many major resellers dabble in refurbs but doing so is like stealing from Peter to pay Paul which tends to cannibalize their new product sales. Looking for a particular product? Search for the model # in Google with or without “refurbished” and you’ll find some great deals.

Aggressive sourcing and relationship building is key to this business. With electronics, products like flatscreen TV’s and gaming consoles are really hard to keep in stock as customers are getting smarter. High quality refurbished and recertified products offer outstanding value especially in a tough economy.

If there’s a downside to getting great products at up to 60% off, it certainly is variety and selection. Refurbished electronics resellers won’t have the selection of a Best Buy but if you check back frequently you can find exceptional buys. With a little bit of searching, you’ll find the diamonds in the rough.

So the deals are out there. By embracing refurbs you’re being good to Mother Earth. You can have your cake and eat it too. Buying refurbished electronics supports a commitment to a clean environment and at the same time keeps more green in the pockets of the consumer.