The environmental cost of short notebook and laptop lifetimes revealed in German study
Replacing your notebook or laptop PC for a lower energy consumption model may not be the environmentally best way to go.
Submitted by: Vince Collins
The production of notebooks induces significant environmental impacts. However, these impacts are seldom considered by consumers in their purchasing decisions. Against this background, the Federal Agency of Environment in Germany commissioned the Öko-Institut e.V. and the Fraunhofer IZM with a study to address following questions:
- What is the share of different life cycle phases in the total greenhouse gas emissions of a notebook.
- When are the environmental impacts, which are associated with the production, distribution and disposal of a new notebook, compensated as a result of energy efficiency gains in the use-phase of the new notebook.
- Which energy efficiency gains should be possessed by a new notebook, if the replacement of the older and less energy efficient notebook can be justified under the consideration of environmental concerns.
The results show that production phase, with about 56% (214 kg CO2e in 5 years) of the total greenhouse gas emissions of a notebook, casts a significantly higher impact than the use phase. Moreover, the environmental impacts of the production phase of a notebook are so high, that they cannot be compensated in realistic time-periods by energy efficiency gains in the use phase.
In the case of a 10% increase in the energy efficiency of a new notebook as compared to the older one, replacement of the older notebook can only be justified after 33 to 89 years, if environmental concerns are considered.
The study concludes that the share of the production phase in the total greenhouse gas emissions of a notebook can be significantly reduced by taking measures to extend the useful life-time of a notebook. Therefore, the study recommends that the focus of mandatory product policy for ICT should be expanded to measures related to possibilities of hardware upgrading, modular construction, recycling-friendly design, availability of spare parts, standardisation of components and minimum warranty periods.