True ecologically sound construction, logistics, use (throughout the life-cycle) and recycling rarely succeeds.
It's because recycling is unefficient in so many levels. Most recycled products are of worse quality then the original product, take paper or plastic for example. It costs more recycle then to make a new one (except in the case of aluminium).
I'm envisioning the following (this may sound harsh, but stay with me):
0) Don't use it, if you don't need it. Even more, don't buy it, unless you really need it.
1) absolute and average power draw limits set for the computer system (including peripherals and displays)
2) Absolute amount of time / day that the computer can be turned on (i.e. that it can be used. Absolutely no idling allowed).
3) Minimum life-time before upgrades. I.e. no upgrades until the machine has serviced X amount of years (unless it breaks, under which scenario fixing is the 1st choice, not partial/full replacement).
4) Minimum set of criteria for upgrades/re-purchases (which companies, which certifications, which processes must be completed for the purchase to be valid 'green computing purchase'). This includes things like ecological life cycle analysis, hazardous chemical, energy efficiency, projected usable life-time for each component. For companies earlier track record, environmental impact, climate impact, overall energy efficiency (esp. in materials logistics) and peer reviewed certification from trusted sources.
All of the above may sound harsh, but if our energy situation is as dire as many geologist have been saying now for the past few years, we may have to start changing our current thinking.
The first one sounds reasonable. The rest is just eco-fascism. The energy situation sounds overexaggerated. It's like a mantra of a religious cult preparing for mass suicide, because the world is going to end. We have heard it before and the world hasn't come to an end yet. Opec countries have a good reason to let us think that the world is running out of oil. Scarcity boosts up the oil price and their profits. They can sell less for more. Eco-activists have a good motive to exaggerate and lie also, because it's for a good cause, right? It's an unholy alliance between them, both fighting for the same goal for different reasons... I'm sure that the world will run out of oil at one point, but will I be there to see it happen? I'm pretty positive I won't be.
And even if the energy for (constructing, transporting, using) computers doesn't come really expensive, there is the climate to worry about. Currently computers and their use is far from carbon neutral, even though sometimes using computers can be less harsh than the alternative (which usually entails moving atoms vs. bits).
So, my questions:
0) would you be willing to use shared computer resources? I.e. not fully own your own computer or at least not all the CPU cycles/storage/memory that you use.
Sharing cpu cycles through virtualisation? Sure. Sharing my personal computer? Never, because personal computer is just that, too personal. I wouldn't share my cellphone either.
1) Would you be willing to limit your computer use to X hours / week (on average) to limit it's energy use?
It starts with limiting the computer time, then what? Tv, cellphone, lamps, warm water, ban on motor racing? If the X was 168, then sure.
2) Would you be willing to limit your re-purchase cycle to Y years and not upgrade until the minimum safety time has passed? This could mean passing up on "revolutionary" faster cpus/gpus/hds, etc and having a relatively "slow" computer compared to the best available.
By my own choise? Yes, I'm already using sense with my upgrade choises. By law? No. Sometimes the upgrade brings energy efficiency (see Prescott -> Conroe). When I upgrade the old parts don't leave the system and end up in the junk yard, they are still in use many years later, just not by me.
3) Would you be willing to buy only from companies that are deemed at least fairly "green" and shun companies that are not (currently Apple is a good example of an environmentally disasterous computing company)?
Never. That would mean that I would most likely end up paying more for something with crappier quality.
4) Would you be willing limit the power of your computer if it means staying under a certain limit of power draw and material intensity load (due to mfg/logistics)?
Only by free choise.
If not, do you think _real_ green computing, instead of just RoHS+marginally improved PSU/CPU efficiency, will happen in the foreseeable future?
Your definition of _real_ ... I hope not. I also know it won't. Eco-friendliness is a priviledge of the rich and the world won't run out of poor people.
People could stop polluting completely, but they won't because of law of diminishing marginal returns. The benefits for being more enviromentally friendly wouldn't outweight the inefficiency, that would come with it. Someone would have to end up paying for the priviledge of being eco-friendly and there's two possible outcomes. It is payed in lost jobs of the rich countries, when they cannot compete with the developing countries who aren't following the rules. Or it would be paid by the developing countries who would get the short end of the stick, because they aren't technologically as advanced as the more developed and able to compete with superior technology.
There's no need to pass up laws that are hard/impossible to follow, braking a law just undermines it's authority. Or to pass up laws that would end up slowing down the technological progress and limiting the choises of consumers.