Standards and Certification    

Standards play a central role in modern information technology. Standards that address issues relating to green practices or sustainability are relatively recent. A number of standards are in place or under development to help guide your green decision making.

EPA Energy Star

EPA Energy Star

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created Energy Star — a voluntary energy-efficiency certification program of the United States government run jointly by the EPA and the Department of Energy. The program covers a wide variety of electrical devices including home appliances, heating and cooling systems, lighting, and office equipment. The last category covered under this certification includes desktop and laptop computers, monitors, printers, and power adapters.

Energy Star standards for computers emphasize power management — the ability of processors, disk drives, and monitors to enter a low power mode after a period of inactivity, without losing network connections. Energy Star distinguishes between these modes:
  • Sleep Mode: The desktop computer must draw no more than 4 watts; 2 watts for certified laptops. To allow automated overnight updates and maintenance of desktop machines while in sleep mode, the machines must have the capability to Wake on LAN (that is, to leave sleep mode when addressed by local area network traffic) to receive the update and then return to low power mode.

  • Standby: The desktop computer must draw no more than 2 watts; 1 watt for certified laptops. In this mode, the computer is off but still plugged in.

  • Idle State maximum power: The equipment's power use ranges from 50 to 95 watts, depending on its processing power category.

Internal power supplies must have a minimum of 80-percent efficiency when running at 20-, 50-, and 100 percent of rated output, and their power factor (a measure of how close they are to an ideal resistive load) must be 0.9 or higher. (1.0 is the maximum possible factor; 0.0 the lowest. Low power factors waste energy in power transmission.)

The EPA intends to extend the specification to network and storage equipment and integrate workload metrics into the specification.
EPA is working with the IT industry to identify ways in which energy efficiency can be measured, documented, and implemented in data centers. EPA has several initiatives currently underway:


The Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT) is a program developed by the Green Electronics Council that lets manufacturers of electronic equipment report how their products measure up against a set of 51 criteria. These criteria are contained in the IEEE 1680 and IEEE 1680.1 specifications ; 23 of them are required and the other 28 are optional.

All 23 required criteria.

All 23 required criteria plus at least 50 percent of the optional criteria

All 23 required criteria plus at least 75 percent of the optional criteria.

EPEAT consider the following categories:

  • Reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials
  • Materials selection
  • Design for end of life
  • Product longevity/life cycle extension
  • Energy conservation
  • End of life management
  • Corporate performance
  • Packaging


The European Union's Regulation of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directive aims to restrict certain dangerous substances commonly used in electronic and electronic equipment. Any RoHS compliant component is tested for the presence of Lead (Pb), Cadmium (Cd), Mercury (Hg), Hexavalent chromium (Hex-Cr), Polybrominated biphenyls (PBB), and Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). For Cadmium and Hexavalent chromium, there must be less than 0.01% of the substance by weight at raw homogeneous materials level. For Lead, PBB, and PBDE, there must be no more than 0.1% of the material, when calculated by weight at raw homogeneous materials. Any RoHS compliant component must have 100 ppm or less of mercury and the mercury must not have been intentionally added to the component.

These directives ensure that new equipment you buy is likely to be free of these hazardous substances.


The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive is the European Community directive 2002/96/EC, which details how electronic waste (e-waste) is to be handled. It places responsibility for the safe disposal and recycling of such waste with the original producer of the equipment, requiring them to take back discarded machines from the end user.
You might also consider referencing the WEEE directive in your standard purchasing contract.


The Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC) is a series of software benchmarks for evaluating computer system performance. SPEC has added a SpecPower benchmark to evaluate power versus performance characteristics of server-class computers. The first version of their energy benchmark, SpecPower SSJ2008, measures server-side Java performance, by testing the server-side performance of CPUs, caches, memory hierarchy, and shared memory processors.