Help me find some green appliances!
November 24, 2010 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I need help finding the most eco-friendly and ethical small appliances (or at least, the least non-ethical and non-eco-friendly) that I can. The web resources are seriously lacking! Hope me?

I work in an office that works hard to be truly green. We are in a position where we need to get a microwave, toaster oven, coffeemaker and kettle for our kitchen (shared between about 12 staff). Unfortunately I can't find refurbished small appliances anywhere in town, and I'm nervous about just buying used from Craigslist (or equivalent) because of potential wiring issues.

I've been searching through Google, but essentially to no avail. Ideally, I would like something that is the most energy efficient, but that also is not from a company that is ethically sketchy (like, I don't want our microwave purchase to indirectly fund armament). I know this seems perhaps excessive for a fairly minor purchase, but it is a big deal to all of us in the office, and I'd like to at least do my due diligence. I will certainly try to buy the appliances from a local store rather than a big box, but I'm hoping that someone out there may have some brilliant resource that can help me with this. Any leads are greatly appreciated! We're located in Ottawa, Canada.
posted by sabotagerabbit to Home & Garden (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
For what it's worth, I've bought tons of used appliances of the nature you describe, and have never had any wiring issues with any of them. I would shy away from >10year old ones, but an almost-new coffeemaker isn't any more likely to give you trouble than an actual new one.
posted by zug at 8:57 AM on November 24, 2010

Buy used.

The most ethical, eco-friendly appliances, like homes, are the ones that have already been built.
posted by mhoye at 9:04 AM on November 24, 2010 [4 favorites]

Used small appliances are just fine. I'm not really sure what the wiring issues you refer to are.

For electric kettles, you are just heating water, so they are all 100% efficient. If people are often heating up small amounts of water, make sure your kettle's minimum water level is low enough. Toaster ovens are also just heating elements, but if you get the smallest one you can manage, you'll do better (less toaster oven to heat up every time). If you can get a coffeemaker with an insulated carafe, you will save quite a bit of energy (the energy to heat up the water will be roughly the same, but the energy to keep the coffee hot will be much less or nothing at all). I have not seen any efficiency ratings for microwave ovens in North America.

I would buy a used kettle, small toaster oven, and microwave if I could find them and get a new insulated coffeemaker (the energy savings over a used, glass-carafe coffee maker will be significant, especially if you use AC in the summer).
posted by ssg at 9:12 AM on November 24, 2010

Thanks for these answers so far. I appreciate particularly the advice about used (I was worried that I would buy something that would somehow end up starting a fire in our office - don't want to be responsible for that!). I'm now looking at some local used sites to see what I can find.

In terms of the ethics of the companies themselves, are there any in particular that I should avoid?
posted by sabotagerabbit at 9:16 AM on November 24, 2010

Do you care if the items were made in China? If so, you're going to have to really search.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:49 AM on November 24, 2010

I would love to avoid made in China appliances, but I think it's going to be nearly impossible, especially working on a non-profit budget.
posted by sabotagerabbit at 9:52 AM on November 24, 2010

If I were in your position, I would buy everything from local thrift stores. Wiring issues really aren't a problem on newer small appliances. I think you will be startled at how many small appliances you can find at thrift stores!

By doing so you're keeping a perfectly useful thing out of the landfill, conserving the natural resources and carbon footprint of making a new one... AND you're supporting a charity!

You can't get much better eco-cred than that!
posted by ErikaB at 10:33 AM on November 24, 2010

Yep, definitely buy used for green purposes, and then unplug everything when you're not using it to save it from using standby power. (Appliances draw power when they are turned off but still plugged in).

As for manufacturer and country of origin politics and labor practices -- I think you'll just have to not worry about that. Globalization being what it is, I doubt that for small appliances you're really going to be able to control where they come from. Even if you identify a bad manufacturer or nation to avoid, the manufacturer may use many factories, or the product may be branded in different ways making it hard to actually identify the manufacturer, or components may come from different countries, or the assembly may take place in a different location than the manufacture...
posted by yarly at 12:19 PM on November 24, 2010

By buying existing appliances you are continuing their lives and not just making a single use purchase (meaning buy, use, then landfill), which is all too common in our culture.

It is great that you are being so thoughtful about this decision. Good luck.
posted by JessJanes at 1:15 PM on April 26, 2011

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