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Newsmakers: Shades of Green

Posted: 14 Dec 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:green intiative? energy efficiency? RoHS?

Electronics companies use the word "green" so often it is starting to lose its impact. From product press releases, to company news, financial statements and R&D reports, everything is touted as green.

The question begs to be asked: What does green mean?

Merriam-Webster Online gives the tenth definition of green as:

a: relating to or being an environmentalist political movement

b: concerned with or supporting environmentalism

c: tending to preserve environmental quality (as by being recyclable, biodegradable, or nonpolluting)

Wikipedia's discussion on green includes this:

Recent political groups have taken on the color as symbol of environmental protection and social justice, and consider themselves part of the green movement, some even naming themselves green parties. This has led to similar campaigns in advertising, as companies have sold green, or environmentally friendly, products.

In a nutshell, green is having a sense of concern for the environment.

There are different ways by which tech companies express or manifest their being concerned for the environment. There are different themes, levels of participation and spheres of influence.

Some of the themes are:

? Energy efficiency
? Product reuse
? Product reduce
? Product recycle
? Non-use of toxic materials
? Not polluting the environment.

Levels of participation range from non-compliance (not being green), to mere compliance, compliance plus some, and taking an initiative.

Spheres of influence refer to the range of impact of the greenness. Is only the company affected? Employees? Industry? Consumers? Mankind in general? Or even the world as a whole?

There are also different tints affecting greenness: political agendas, religious slants and marketing exploitation.

It is interesting to analyze green initiatives using these as a framework.

Energy efficiency
The focus on energy efficiency is reported in one of EE Times-Asia's top stories for January 2007: "Power efficiency impacts chip design."

It is also exemplified in "'Green' energy powers Motorola's GSM base station."

There is a dilemma for some manufacturers in using LED backlight to replace CCFL in large-screen LCD TVs. While it is more energy efficient to use the former, the cost advantages go to the consumers, not the manufacturers.

More recently Marvell announced that they had reconfigured their headquarters to be more energy efficient. This is an example of energy efficiency at the company level. In addition, they have joined Intel, Google and other companies in the Climate Savers Computing Initiative. This is an example of having a level of participation at the initiative level, and influencing the whole industry, and perhaps the world, as well.

The search for alternative energy sources would also fall under this heading.

Reuse
The Mobile Phone Partnership Initiative under the Basel Convention is dealing with the treatment of end-of-life mobile phones. One of its projects is to come out with guidelines for the refurbishment of used mobile phones to encourage companies, which refurbish used mobile devices, to implement practices in an environmentally sound manner, thereby protecting human health and the environment. Furthermore, it is intended to facilitate a process whereby products re-entering the market comply with applicable technical performance standards and applicable regulatory requirements. It will also assist those individuals responsible for collection schemes, and consumers who use the refurbished mobile devices.

Reduce
Reduce is clearly seen in products achieving smaller footprints, process nodes creating smaller chips, and new technologies using less material. One example is the emergence of silicon-ink printed ICs which use much less silicon than the traditional etching procedure.

Recycle
Many companies are already involved in recycling. One notable effort is Fujitsu PC Asia Pacific's Green Program, which zeroes in on minimizing electric waste and recycling of computers and other electronic equipment in collaboration with electronic waste management solutions specialist TES-AMM Singapore.

IBM's technology for recycling scrap silicon wafer into solar panels, on the other hand, is an environmentalist's dream come true.

Non-use of toxic materials
For non-use of toxic materials, we have industry standards and guidelines. The European Union is reviewing its RoHS directive and is expected to recommend tweaks that would make RoHS clearer, simpler and perhaps a bit broader.

Not polluting the environment
The Korea Institute of Industrial Technology announced an eco-friendly PCB production technique. This technology does away with liquid copper waste produced by traditional techniques, and is an example of new technologies that don't pollute the environment. The companies that adopt these kinds of technologies have the additional advantages of lowr production cost due to savings on materials used.

All-in-one
Sharp Corp.'s Green-Product Assessment System (G-PAS) puts all these themes together. It is designed to enhance development efficiency and environmental performance simultaneously in areas such as energy consumption, use of resources, safety and product recycling.

According to the company, G-PAS enables it to reduce the environmental impact and lead time throughout the entire life cyclefrom manufacture to distribution, use and recyclingof all products in its domestic and overseas production bases. G-PAS allows Sharp to respond to government initiatives around the world to strengthen environment regulations, such as the E.U. RoHS directive. In addition, with the 2008-2012 initial commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol commencing next year, environmental protection measures, including those to prevent global warming, are increasingly being undertaken on a global level.

Initially implemented in Japan, the system has been spread throughout Sharp's units worldwide, so that it's sphere of influence has grown, from being the company itself, to the company on worldwide basis, which would already have a positive contribution globally.

These are just some of the aspects of green that can be considered when confronted with a company touting itself as green.

At the end of the day, being green is holding oneself accountable for one's own impact on the world.

- Gracie Valena
EE Times-Asia




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