The Four Rs of Greener Electronics
Most people are probably familiar with the eco-aware mantra known as the three Rs of green gadgets: Reduce, reuse, recycle. But here’s what the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) refers to as the fourth R — rethink — to help you make green gadget purchases.
Here is a rundown of the four Rs of green gadgets:
Reduce: Less is more. Using less energy by turning off gadgets and devices when you aren’t using them, as well as adjusting their power settings to run more efficiently when they’re on, can provide more savings in both kilowatts and in the amount of money you pay for them.
Reuse: If it ain’t broke, don’t nix it. Refilling your printer’s inkjet or laser toner cartridges, donating to charity an older but still usable mobile phone, or upgrading an older PC with faster components rather than buying a new computer are all examples of applying the second R to the gadgets in your life.
Recycle: This R can make more of a difference to the planet than any of the others. Every year, hundreds of thousands of old or broken computers and cellphones wind up in landfills or incinerators. Tossing unwanted or broken electronics into town or city municipal trash collection streams is ignorant, irresponsible, lazy, and offensive. It can even be potentially life threatening if the discarded digital items wind up in an incinerator, where they eventually reach the air we breathe, or in a landfill, where they break down and seep into the ground and contaminate the water we drink.
Adding to the problem are the thousands more discarded electronics that wind up as electronic waste, or e-waste, that are often illegally exported to Asia from the U.S. and other industrialized countries. The e-waste wind up in scrap yards that expose workers — including children — to toxic chemicals and poisons.
Rethink: To help minimize the disastrous long-term effects of e-waste, picture the life cycles of future purchases all the way to the recycling bin. Consider this: In a 2008 survey conducted by the CEA, nearly 90 percent of consumers said energy efficiency will be a determining factor in choosing and purchasing their next televisions. Yet less than half of the people polled said that they understand the ecofriendlier attributes associated with consumer electronics and gadgets.