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Consumer Electronics Outpace Appliances as Global Warming Contributor

This article originally appeared on BuildingGreen.com

December 02, 2011

A report published in Environmental Science & Technology suggests that, as a group, consumer electronics are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than household appliances are. Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology used life-cycle assessments, including emissions during manufacture, in their study.

Graph shows greenhouse gas emissions per household from production, use, and end of life for consumer electronics and appliances in 2008.
Courtesy Edgar G. Hertwich and Charlotte Roux
Graph shows greenhouse gas emissions per household from production, use, and end of life for consumer electronics and appliances in 2008.
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Factoring in the global supply chain tipped the balance toward electronics, which individually consume far less energy than appliances during operation but are more numerous, are replaced more frequently, and come with a larger amount of embodied carbon emissions from manufacturing. End-of-life emissions for electronics and appliances are small compared to emissions from production and operation but still weigh heavier on electronics due to their more frequent replacement.

The researchers also stressed the importance of the type of energy source used to power manufacture and operation, which can have a significant impact on emissions calculations. While this study sheds light on the emissions from household electronics, it is worth noting that appliances themselves are increasingly just larger electronics, many of which do not last as long as appliances built in previous generations.

Copyright 2011 by BuildingGreen Inc.

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