Saturday, February 20, 2016

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Electronic Waste

Everybody hears about recycling all the time, it has become quite significant in our culture. But there are two other R-words that seem to have fallen out of use, both of which are more closely connected to behaviors than recycling; reducing and reusing. Recycling is like throwing away trash, you just put the items to be recycled into the correct bin and you forget about it. Now, while making sure to sort your junk into the correct bins is an admirable effort, it's essentially the last step in what is the process of sustainability, as far as individuals go.

The two preceding steps are a lot more involving, and sometimes prohibitively so. Reducing is self-descriptive, you simply consume less. While for things like food, or other everyday necessities, consuming less isn't very straightforward. It's possible to consume too much food, but breaking that kind of a habit takes much more effort than sustaining it. But when it comes to electronics, where there's a new greatest gadget every year, sometimes even every month? Needing to have the latest and greatest is arguably not as compelling as hunger, and you'd be hard pressed to convince someone on a budget that they need to have it. A lot of the time, the social status of having it is more important than the gadget itself.

But the next step requires even more attention, especially when it comes to electronics, and that is reusing. Convincing someone who is not as familiar with electronics to try and sustain or repair their malfunctioning or non-functioning electronics is a much tougher sell. The logic is that if they have to spend money and time repairing their gadget, why not just invest that money towards an altogether new one?

One reason is community, chances are if you aren't familiar with electronics you're going to have to ask someone for help. And even if you do know electronics, there's such a wide spectrum of technology that you couldn't possibly know everything, and there's a good chance that someone out there has had the exact same problem that you're having, so you're going to have to ask someone else for help as well. The especially nice thing about electronics is that by simply reusing, you inherently reduce because you don't need to get a new phone if you're able to repair the one you already have.

In this 11-minute TEDx talk, Janet Gunter goes into detail about these "Restart Parties" she has put together to help reduce and reuse electronics, to lessen the burden of electronic waste.

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