Tips for Gaining "Greener" Electronics

My laptop is 6 years old, and it is showing its age. When it sleeps, I can't always wake it up; the fan sounds like a jet plane about to take off; the sound works intermittently; the processing speed could easily be beaten by the tortoise on his worst race day, and so on. This is the machine that I use for at least 8-12 hours most days (since most of my work and volunteer projects involve being online). So, my mind has been on electronics. Recently I was happy to come across a Treehugger post by Jaymi Heimbuch called "5 Ways to Make Consumer Electronics Green, or Better Yet Obsolete." In the post Jaymi outlines strategies for concerned citizens to use their clout to influence the future and "greenness" of our electronics. The tips include:
  1. Be Picky Purchasers (Is it really new and better, or just a couple minute tweaks and some spit and polish?)
  2. Resurrect Repair Skills (Learn how to keep it going for as long as you can.)
  3. Forecast the Future of Gadgets and Our Needs (Figure out what we really do need and influence product manufacturers to create only those.)
  4. Change the Source of the Cool Factor (Redefine the cool paradigm; make green and thrifty cool.)
  5. Switch From Consuming Products to Consuming Services (Pretty self-explanatory).
I'd like to add a couple more tips:

  • Find a Way to Do Without - Can you borrow, share, get off Freecycle, get from the library, etc.? There are plenty of creative opportunities out there.
  • Learn the True Price - When we pay for a product, we're not paying for all the external costs that affect us, other people, animals and the environment. Electronics contain toxins; they're often tossed in the trash or recycled by sweatshop and/or child labor; some of the minerals mined for the components are directly involved in wars and the destruction of endangered species. Consider issues such as these before you buy, so that you can make an informed choice.
  • Help Create New Systems - You can flex the power of your personal choices by what you buy (and don't) from companies, and by communicating with them about what you need. But, it's also essential (as Jaymi alludes to) to work for systems that are sustainable, just and humane, rather than destructive. You can help create these new systems by educating others, lobbying manufacturers and legislators, and more.

My computer is creaky enough that I'm going to have to replace it, but in doing so I'll be ensuring that I pay attention to the impacts of the different models and brands. I'll also be buying with the intention that my old one will be recycled responsibly, and my new one will last a long, long time -- making repairs and upgrades for as long as possible. Additionally, I plan to continue working toward creating positive systems surrounding electronics production and disposal and to educate others about all the issues involved so that they can make informed choices, too.

~ Marsha
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