There are new gadgets, churn, churn, churn. And you’re probably thinking, here she goes again with a guilt trip about how e-waste is the fastest-growing waste stream on the planet, how the greatest amount of energy used by a device throughout its life is the energy used in its original manufacturing and how it’s important to get as much use from a device as possible before destining it to recycling. All this is true, of course, but I want you to consider another dimension of electronics as you make your purchases. Mind you, I am not trying to dissuade your acquisition of electronics; my livelihood depends on the ongoing consumption of electronics. I’m just sayin’, let’s not take them for granted.
You’ve probably noticed that none of the devices you hold near and dear is actually manufactured in the United States. Think for a moment if you’d actually be able to afford these devices if they were. The minimum wage in China, for example, is about 3400 yuan per month, which is about $492 or roughly $3 an hour. And the cost of doing business in the U.S. is much higher. Employers are matching Social Security payments, providing health insurance, and meeting environmental and labor regulations. And what would it mean to construct the manufacturing capacity? How much would it cost? How long would it take us to do it?
The world seems to be clamoring for change, with a lot of rhetoric around trade, much of it targeting China in particular. So I’m advocating that, as you shop for your electronics this season—and, yes, please shop for them—buy the best you can afford, keeping in mind that you may need to make these devices last, that neither prices nor availability is guaranteed and that it’s the right thing for the environment.
And of course, if you’re replacing a device, see if you have a needy family member or friend who can use your old one to give it the long life it deserves. If your device really isn’t usable or you don’t have a trustworthy recipient, make sure you get it to a responsible recycler; both your data and the environment are at risk unless you do. And, if you really don’t need a new device, consider putting your money to a good cause. Our DigiTruck has been located at the Tuleeni orphanage in Tanzania for the past year, and the orphanage could clearly use your support.
If you have news of the good things you’re doing with your technology—new or old—please drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear about them.
Wishing you a joyous holiday season.
Carol Baroudi works for Arrow’s Value Recovery business promoting sustainability awareness and action. She is the lead author of Green IT For Dummies. Her particular focus is on electronics in the circular economy, with an emphasis on the IT asset disposition stage, e-waste and everything connected. Follow her on Twitter at @carol_baroudi and connect with her on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/carolbaroudi.