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Thinking more sustainably about your electronics purchases

Thinking more sustainably about your electronics purchases

As the holidays approach—and CyberMonday deals beckon—many of us are enticed by holiday catalogs and full-page ads resplendent in the latest gadgetry and upgrade options. But as people interested in living to a ripe old age, we should consider alternatives to swelling the waste stream for our pleasure.

But, I just want to give a nice gift, how is that bad?

It’s not that buying the latest electronic gadget is bad; after all, the quest for technology is practically part of being American. It’s what happens after the purchase that can be problematic. As we see it, there are a number of unfortunate side effects to upgrading this season. So, let’s take a look at what those effects are, and see if there is a way to minimize the negative ones (Hint: skip to the bottom to see our solution).

Out with the old…

The first major issue with replacing your current phone with the latest model this season is what often happens to older phones. Many of us simply toss those devices in the garbage—I mean, they’re small, right? Well, in this article by Scientific American, according to the EPA more than 130Million cellular phones wind up in the landfill each year. Clearly, simply replacing older devices without concern is very disconcerting.

A recurring theme with our company is “extended use" of used electronics. Most of the electronics most Americans find “useless” still have more calculating power than over half the satellites orbiting the globe. There are things that can be done with older laptops and tablets that might help keep them from the garbage pile—while still offering your life something of value.

God bless us, every one…index.jpg

As it turns out, Tiny Tim had it right. No matter where in the spectrum you are, you can still help someone else. If you are looking to upgrade your device this season, then donating your older model might be just what you need to keep the spirit of the season alive.

However, when donating your device, make sure to invest in a good method for cleaning off any old data before giving the device away. We use NIST 800-88 compliant data-erasure software, since it is the globally recognized standard for data erasure. You can find NIST 800-88 certified software demos that might handle one or two of your devices, but if you have several devices, it is worth investing in an ITAD partner who uses this certification to keep your data safe.

“Mmmm, yummy semiconductors” said no one ever…

Before you plunk down that cash—albeit less than you would any other day of the year—for a new gadget, consider the resting place of the current device that purchase will displace. Hundreds of millions of devices are tossed out each year and most of those eventually land in a garbage pile somewhere. As if this weren’t bad enough, those devices are carrying with them highly toxic and potentially deadly chemicals.

According to GreenPeace, the typical digital device contains hundreds of components like batteries, semiconductor chips, and solder that are made up of highly toxic chemicals. Some of these toxic substances, such as lead, mercury, beryllium, and brominated fire retardants are released into the atmosphere or leached into the ground when the devices are disposed of.

This slow drip of toxic substances into our groundwater and atmosphere is slowly killing communities and contributing to the climate concerns we’ve been experiencing globally. Even many of the electronics recycling companies that exist are cheating the system and not truly recycling the devices they receive. Only e-Steward certified recyclers should be used when finally disposing of electronic devices.

Runner up is really the second winner…

The problem with the upgrade treadmill is that it can be hard to slow the pace. All the latest-and-greatest technology comes at us with such voracious glamor that, at first glance, it appears as if we can’t say ‘no.’ But the Primacy and Regency psychology we talked about in another post are at work here more than the updated features and benefits.

Purchasing used or refurbished equipment can put “new” technology (at least, newer than your current tech) in your hands for less than even many of the CyberMonday deals you’ve been eyeing lately. And, more than that, it lessens the needless gorging of the e-waste stream; making the reasons to buy used more compelling than continuing on the treadmill. This skip-step on the upgrade treadmill can significantly change the face of our planet. 

So, what about my gift list?

We have built a business around pulling electronics out of the “use and toss” cycle that is the upgrade treadmill; giving new life to devices and keeping them out of the electronic waste stream. And you know what? The response has been fantastic. It turns out a new last season’s laptop is perfectly fine for most of us. Maybe it can be for your list, too?

By shopping refurbished electronics, you not only eliminate another toxic device from potentially landing in some third-world country’s garbage pile, but you also save money extracting yourself from the insatiable treadmill of device upgrades. So, this CyberMonday, your stop should include the Sage Shop site. You won’t regret the perspective, and you might even find that perfect gift for less.

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