Sustainability Impacts Overview: Climate Change

February 3, 2021

The EPEAT ecolabel empowers purchasers to meet their organizational sustainability goals through their purchasing decisions. Products available through EPEAT include computers, monitors, copiers, mobile phones, televisions, and servers. EPEAT is just one of several sustainable purchasing resources freely available from the Global Electronics Council (GEC).

Why is Climate Change a Sustainability Concern?

Climate change is creating irreversible damage to the planet and threatening conditions for all life on earth – extreme temperatures and weather conditions, rising sea levels, melting ice caps, and loss of biodiversity have already been documented as a result of climate change. Humankind’s release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, through the burning and other manufacturing uses of fossil fuels, is one of the primary contributors to hastening climate change. The manufacturing and use of electronic products contribute to the release of greenhouse gases, including the cumulative energy used to mine, manufacture and assemble electronic components (embodied energy), as well as the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacturing, transport, and use of products. Extending the lifecycle of a product through increased durability and repair, along with high recycling and recovery rates, help in preserving some of the embodied energy.

Not all greenhouse gases are equal in their impact. Fluorinated greenhouse gases (F-Gases), including perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, nitrous trifluoride, and sulfur hexafluoride, created in flat panel display and semiconductor manufacturing, are up to 23,000 times more heat-trapping than carbon dioxide, another greenhouse gas. Fortunately, abatement equipment exists that enables manufacturers of flat panel displays and semiconductors to destroy more than 90% of the F-Gases created during the manufacturing process and preventing them from ever entering the atmosphere. Manufacturers need to be incentivized to use these technologies to reduce F-Gases. EPEAT has two criteria, applicable across product categories, that address F-Gases. By preferring EPEAT Registered products, purchasers are supporting manufacturers who are making a choice to control the release of the highly detrimental F-Gases and associated climate change impacts.