Lenovo has just announced the very first EPEAT gold-rated computer monitor. It's odd that it has taken so long for a mere screen to get a gold rating, the most rigorous rating from EPEAT.

EPEAT stands for the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool. It is a rating system designed to enable purchasers in the USA, and Canada, to specify environmentally-friendly PCs and monitors in their requests for procurement (RFP). Equipment manufacturers self-certify by using the tool. EPEAT is operated by the Green Electronics Council (GEC).

EPEAT's rating system was given a huge boost by the US government deciding that 95 percent of federal procurements of PCs, notebooks and computer monitors must be of EPEAT-rated products. There is more background information about EPEAT here.

There is an EPEAT standards roadmap, which discusses how the standard's scope is being extended to printers, copiers, TVs, servers and mobile devices. A family of relevant IEEE standards would be developed based on an existing IEEE 1680 standard used by EPEAT.

There is an obvious wish generally to extend the geographical applicability of EPEAT. It exists; it works; it's supported by manufacturers; it's verifiable. For any government body or environmental organisation to re-invent the EPAT wheel for their geography would seem to be a waste of time.

However, simply using EPEAT outside of North America is not completely practical.

US-ROW (rest of world differences)

For example, the European Union has its ROHS directive (Restrictions on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive which requires manufacturers to provide evidence that their products don’t contain more than the restricted amount of hazardous substances). The USA does not. The EU has WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronics Equipment) dealing with recycling of electrical equipment; the USA does not.

EPEAT specifies, among other things, that rated-kit must have a take back facility supplied by the manufacturer. This is not needed as a specification in the European Union because the WEEE directive takes care of that aspect of electrical equipment's recyclability.

It may well be that an EU manufacturer of electrical equipment meets the WEEE directive (obviously so now) but would not meet the US EPEAT take-back specification. That means that manufacturer is at a disadvantage in the US compared to EPEAT-rated manufacturers' products. It also means that, were the EU to simply standardise its applicable IT purchases onto EPEAT-rated kit then manufacturers indigenous to the EU and not EPEAT-rated would be put at a disadvantage.

There has to be, if EPEAT is to be used outside of North America, some way of compensating for imbalances such as these.