Note: This post was originally published April 22, 2016, but all of it remains true on this Earth Day.
iFixit’s pretty fond of this big blue marble that we call home. We’re also pretty fond of electronics. So, in honor of Earth Day, here’s four really easy things you can do to save the earth—and save your electronics from the landfill too.
What’s the big deal about electronics, you might ask? By weight, electronics require far more resources than any other product. Making a 0.07-ounce microchip uses 66 pounds of raw materials. Seventy-five percent of the energy a computer will consume in its lifetime is expended during production—before the computer is even turned on. That energy can’t be recouped during recycling. So it makes sense to keep electronics around for as long as possible.
Which brings us to the first favor you can do for Mother Earth today…
Resist the urge to upgrade
New toys are fun. Sometimes, the allure of a sleeker phone, or a faster computer, or bigger screen can seem irresistible. But if your old device still works, consider keeping it around for a bit longer. Extending the life of your phone from one to four years decreases the environmental impact by about 40 percent.
If your gizmos start to get sluggish with age, don’t give up on them. Give them a little TLC. Replace the battery in an older phone for more juice. When your computer starts to lag, top it up with more RAM or an SSD. You’ll probably find that the device you thought was dying still has plenty more left in its tank.
“If you simply put some maintenance into electronics as you would a car, you can stay happy with your gadgets for years,” says Brian Chen of The New York Times. Check out his whole article for a bunch of maintenance tricks that will keep your phone, tablet, and laptop in top shape for years to come.
Fix your broken stuff
Even complicated electronics are easier to fix than you might think. Find a good set of repair instructions for your device (iFixit’s database of repair guides is a good place to start), grab a screwdriver, and get to fixing. YouTube is also a great resource for first-time fixers—there are literally millions of repair tutorials online to help you fix your broken stuff—electronics or otherwise.
With all the information at your fingertips, there’s no reason to ditch your phone just because it has a broken screen. Here’s what first-time iPhone 5c fixer Andrew Lennox said of his successful screen replacement: “I’ve handled a lot of these phones personally, but being able to repair and see how these phones were constructed was a great experience.”
If you don’t feel confident enough to tackle the repair on your own, that’s okay. There are lots of volunteer repair organizations that help owners fix their broken stuff for free. Check online if there are any Repair Cafés, Fixit Clinics, or Restart Parties in your area—they’re doing amazing work to stop the rising tide of e-waste in their communities:
Rehome your old electronics
According to ABC News, Americans have stashed away as many as half a billion unused gadgets in junk drawers, attics, and closets. You’d be surprised how much some of those old gadgets are worth. It’s estimated that UK households have around £1 billion in gizmos just sitting around, gathering dust. Dig out those old electronics and sell them. Or better yet, give them away to someone who needs them.
Your niece or nephew might really like the iPod or old DSLR you haven’t used in months. And tons of local charities will refurbish your unused computer for a good cause—like for use in a school. Dell and Goodwill’s Reconnect program accepts any brand of used computer equipment, in any condition. They resell what they can and recycle the rest. You can even donate your old cell phone to soldiers. Or to domestic abuse shelters. Or to seniors.
Find a good home for your unused tech—so it doesn’t go to waste.
And finally, recycle
If your gadget is beyond repair and you can’t find a way to reuse it, make sure to recycle it responsibly. We recommend using a recycler that is certified through the R2 or e-Stewards standards. And be sure to delete all your personal information from the device, wherever you recycle it. Check the GreenerGadgets.org database for a list of recycling centers and drop-off locations in your area.
Happy Earth Day, everyone!