Shopping for more sustainable electronics? How to decode and understand ecolabels

Learn what the ecolabels on electronics mean and how they can help you decide what to buy.

By Garage Staff — August 3, 2023

Shopping for electronic devices and appliances can feel more like sleuthing: Deciphering technical specs, comparing one product to another, understanding how to get the most out of the device — it’s a lot to sort out. For anyone interested in choosing environmentally sustainable products, the puzzle is even more complex. How can you tell if a product is truly energy efficient or built to be repaired or upgraded to increase its lifespan? Or if it’s designed for recyclability? Or if the company that produced it is doing its part to reduce environmental impact?  

Ecolabels — badges and certifications from independent organizations — exist to help consumers identify companies and products that meet standards for environmental responsibility. And, they’re becoming more important than ever. Recent surveys show that over 80% of consumers want companies to prioritize sustainability, and three-quarters of Gen Z shoppers say sustainability is a more important factor in their purchasing decisions than brand names.

“Ecolabels aren’t mandatory standards, it’s all voluntary,” says Katherine Kim, energy domain lead at HP. “An ecolabel shows that a company chose to go that extra mile for sustainability.”

In a sea of greenwashed claims of energy efficiency and earth-friendliness, ecolabels offer solid ground. They lend credibility to sustainability claims, but not necessarily clarity. In the US alone, there are more than 70 ecolabels that could show up on your next electronics purchase, likely in the form of a small logo in tiny type or a symbol like a star, a leaf, a checkmark, or a drop of water.

Understanding what the ecolabels mean and which ones matter most to you can require time and research — the Ecolabel Index is a good place to start. To make things a little easier, we’ve outlined a few of the most common and respected ecolabels to look for next time you’re shopping for electronics. No decoder ring required.

A collage of ecolabels illustrated by Eduardo Ramón Trejo, Energy Star, EPEAT, and TCO Certified

Eduardo Ramón Trejo


The ENERGY STAR ecolabel is one of the most common in the US, found on everything from washing machines to laptops to new homes. Launched by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 1992, the ecolabel indicates that a product meets rigorous standards for energy efficiency. Beyond initial testing, products are also subject to ongoing verification to ensure they continue to meet those standards.

In the ENERGY STAR partner program, companies and organizations volunteer to collaborate on ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency. HP offers more than 650 personal systems and printing products with ENERGY STAR certification and has been an ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year since 2018 and has been recognized as Partner of the Year with Sustained Excellence since 2020. To date, ENERGY STAR reports that the organization and its partners have saved 5 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 4 billion metric tons.

“The ENERGY STAR label speaks to energy efficiency during the use phase of a product, but it influences how we design our products from start to finish,” says Kim. “We develop the products with those standards in mind.” 

“An ecolabel shows that a company chose to go that extra mile for sustainability.”

— Katherine Kim, energy domain lead at HP


The EPEAT ecolabel (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool), managed by the Global Electronics Council, represents participation in a registry of technology products that meet specific criteria in the area of climate change mitigation. EPEAT criteria covers a product’s entire life cycle, from production to end of life, and registration requires continuous monitoring to ensure products maintain eligibility.

Criteria includes supply chain greenhouse gas emissions reduction, design for reuse and recyclability, product longevity, and energy conservation. Consumers can search for specific products on the EPEAT Registry website. As of 2021, 77% of HP products were EPEAT registered, with 20% rated EPEAT gold, the registry’s highest standard.

TCO Certified

The TCO Certified ecolabel, established by Stockholm-based TCO Development in 1992, includes criteria designed to encourage technology companies to go beyond regulations and industry standards to make a meaningful difference in reducing environmental impact. It’s recognized as the world’s most comprehensive sustainability certification for technology products.

Earning the certification requires meeting mandatory environmental and social criteria in areas such as reduction of hazardous substances, designing for reuse, protecting worker health and safety throughout the supply chain, and environmentally responsible manufacturing. HP was the first company to have products across all of its platforms earn the TCO Certified ecolabel, which also requires continuous monitoring and requirements to correct any non-compliance issues. Consumers can check if specific products are TCO Certified using the organization’s online Product Finder.

A collage of ecolabels illustrated by Eduardo Ramón Trejo, Blue Angel and Human Rights

Eduardo Ramón Trejo

Blue Angel

The Blue Angel ecolabel, established in 1978 by the German Federal Government, can be found on more than 20,000 products ranging from computers to vehicles to household cleaning supplies.

For technology products such as printers, earning the ecolabel requires meeting strict requirements for material selection, recyclable design, low-pollutant materials, and low energy consumption. HP laser and ink printing systems using original HP ink and toner cartridges carry the Blue Angel certification. Similar regional ecolabel certifications around the world include Nordic Swan, Japanese Eco Mark, Hong Kong Green Label, the ABNT Ecolabel in Brazil, and Good Environmental Choice Australia.

Human rights performance

While many ecolabels include criteria for social responsibility, diversity and inclusion, and health and safety of workers in a product’s supply chain, there isn’t currently a specific ecolabel consumers can look for to provide this assurance. 

Human rights are becoming an increasing concern for consumers, however. Some companies, like HP, include human rights information in their sustainability reporting, which can provide consumers with information about human rights-focused practices and progress. Other resources include the Corporate Human Rights Benchmark, which gives companies a score based on how their policies, processes, and practices ensure respect for human rights and offers an online searchable database for consumers. The Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Corporate Equality Index focuses specifically on workplace protections and inclusive policies and practices for LGBTQ+ employees and also offers a searchable database where consumers and prospective employees can research company performance.

“Ecolabels represent specific standards, but they also show a degree of intentionality and thoughtfulness,” says Kim. “They speak to what a company values.”


Learn how HP plans to Go Beyond in its sustainable impact efforts.