Rating System for Green HiFi

Formalizing a rating system for establishing the eco-friendlyness of high end audio

After we posted our Criteria for Green HiFi, we recieved several comments on the apparent impracticality of a rating system. How can we verify labor conditions in foreign countries, how can we measure energy efficiency, and why should toxic content be weighed equally to build-quality, to name just a few questions that came up. We hope to answer all of these in upcoming blogs, but today I'd like to focus on formalizing the criteria. As previously posted, we had decided on seven criteria:

  1. Does product/company use much energy?
  2. Is the product made to last?
  3. Is the packaging for the product/company green?
  4. Does product/company use dangerous components?
  5. Does the product/company company treat its employees fairly?
  6. Does the product/company have a life-cycle policy?
  7. Is the product/company fairly priced?

For simplicity, I'd like to rename them as follows:

  1. Energy-Efficiency and Heat-Dissipation
  2. Product Quality and Simplicity
  3. Adequate Packaging
  4. Toxicity of Components
  5. Labor Relations
  6. Product Recycling
  7. Fair Pricing

We will henceforth employ these labels for each evaluation category. We will use these for rating products we evaluate as well as companies and manufacturers we review (where applicable).

We had also previously established that we would rate each of these seven criteria on a scale from 1-5. This rubbed a couple of folks the wrong way. The main issue was why should something as "trivial" as Adequate Packaging have the same value as something as serious as let's say, Labor Relations?

This is a fair critique. However, we have to be realistic about what we are able to do. While we can readily assess a product's packaging when it arrives at our doorstep and we proceed to unpack it, we cannot apply the same scrutiny to labor relations. We simply cannot jump on a plane to Singapore, barge into a factory, and confirm that the employees there are old enough to be soldering circuit boards. For this we will have to rely on the company's official statement and any third-party rating agencies.

So to address each of these categories, here is more detailed information on our methodolody:

  1. Energy-Efficiency & Heat-Dissipation
    1. Actual evaluation will be rather low-tech. For those products that are not passive (i.e. that plug into the wall), we will be using a standard Kill-A-Watt meter, from P3 International. This is a simple device that is available at many retailers. For heat-dissipation, we'll be using a standard thermometer placed on top of the unit.
    2. While we have no baseline to start with, we hope to develop this as we produce the data. As a starting point, we will use official figures from comparable standard/commercial off-the-shelf components.
    3. If evaluating a company/manufacturer, we will rely on third-party sources and online research.

  2. Product Quality & Simplicity
    1. Well we're not going to be dropping anything off the roof to see if it survives. However, we will do a thorough inspection of how well the product is built. We're not structural engineers, but we will certainly open up and unscrew anything that is reasonably accessible.
    2. If evaluating a company/manufacturer, we will rely on third-party sources and online research.

  3. Adequate Packaging
    1. Like above, we will use our own judgement. I actually have about 15 years of experience working with product packaging and shipping, so I'll draw on my experience there.

  4. Toxicity of Components
    1. For this we will rely primarily on the product description that the manufacturer provides, but we will weigh the opinion of independent testing agencies heavily if this information is available.
    2. If evaluating a company/manufacturer, we will rely on third-party sources and online research.

  5. Labor Relations
    1. As above, we will rely on official company statements, independent agencies, and we will scour the web for any information about the product or company.

  6. Product Recycling
    1. This will strictly be based on the company's statement & reputation.

  7. Fair Pricing
    1. This will be based on our own experience with high end audio. We'll certainly do whatever research we can online and compare with similar products, but we can't possibly account for every product on the market.
    2. If evaluating a company/manufacturer, we will be considering the pricing of competing products in that market segment.

So there it is: the official GreenHiFi rating system. Please let us know your thoughts, ideas, and suggestions.