Four months before federal regulators apply stringent new efficiency standards to desktop PCs, Hewlett-Packard (HP) has tweaked three computers to qualify for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency\u2019s Energy Star 4.0 label.The HP Compaq dc5700, dc5750 and dc7700 will help business users reduce energy costs, primarily by switching the machine into sleep or idle modes sooner than current models and by using an 80 percent efficient power supply instead of the current range of 65 percent to 75 percent efficiency, said Nancy Bowman, HP\u2019s commercial desktop product marketing manager for North America.HP hopes the revamped computers will appeal to institutional IT managers who face a corporate requirement to meet efficiency standards, Bowman said. There are now about 80 desktop models listed in the EPA\u2019s Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool website listing of "green" desktops that avoid toxic substances, are easily recycled and are energy efficient. But most of those desktops meet the EPA\u2019s current, lower standard, Energy Star 3.0.In October, the agency said it would upgrade that standard for the first time since 2000 because 98 percent of all products in the marketplace met its requirements. In an effort to give the Energy Star badge more elite status, regulators raised the bar so it would include only the top 25 percent most efficient desktops, notebooks, tablets, workstations, low-end servers and game consoles. The new standard takes effect July 20 and upgrades to an even tougher, Tier 2 standard in 2009.Many PC and chip vendors have found that building green electronics allows them to both be good citizens and gain a marketing edge. On Wednesday, Dell said it would expand its "Plant a Tree for Me" program, allowing all U.S.-based consumers and businesses to offset the carbon emissions of manufacturing and running their IT products by contributing through Dell\u2019s website to several environmental groups. Users can choose to cover the annual carbon impact of a U.S. citizen with US$99, or donate $40 for a server, $6 for a desktop, $2 for a notebook or $1 for an inkjet printer, Dell said.Dell also plans to design several OptiPlex desktops, Latitude notebooks and Dell Precision workstations to meet the Energy Star 4.0 standard, said spokesman Jeremy Bolen.In other initiatives, Toshiba America Information Systems said last week that it submitted select notebook models to the EPEAT list and opened a computer take-back program to encourage recycling. Toshiba said it will help keep computers out of landfills by offering cash for used, functional PCs, recycling non-Toshiba notebooks for a small fee, and recycling its own brand products for free.Also last week, Intel announced it would remove halogenated flame retardants from the packaging materials it used for its StrataFlash Cellular Memory (M18) products, a line of NOR flash memory units used in wireless handsets.HP will charge $959 for a dc7700 with Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 80GB hard drive and Microsoft\u2019s Windows XP Pro, $899 for the dc5700 with similar specs, or $609 for a version with Advanced Micro Devices Athlon chip.-Ben Ames, IDG News Service (Boston Bureau)Related Links:\n\n\u201cGreen IT\u201d Poll: Are You Thinking \u201cGreen\u201d?\n\nZapped: How to Curb Rising Data Center Energy CostsCheck out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.