High Tech, Low Impact: 4 Easy Ways to Enjoy Electronics Responsibly

If the first thing you do in the morning is check your smartphone, you’re not alone. According to the Braun Research Center, 35 percent of adults brighten that screen instantly upon waking, and our dependence doesn’t end there. We use our smartphones to check the news, weather and traffic before leaving the house, and we set ourselves up with a podcast for the commute to work. If you have a business phone, it’s used throughout the day for staying on top of emails and managing a daily calendar. Social media also plays a huge part in most Americans’ lives, so even in our downtime we are glued to our phones.

As an individual concerned with your environmental footprint, your reliance on technology may cause a significant amount of guilt. After all, our quickly obsolete devices contribute to electronic waste every year. Chemicals that leak from this e-waste into the earth’s soil produce toxic (and often immeasurable) results—and that’s not even counting the abundant resources used in the process of making these accessories or the hazardous by-products that are created during production.

But since almost two-thirds of the adult American population owns a smartphone, to eschew technology entirely would set a person back not just professionally, but also socially. Take comfort, then, in knowing that there are simple practices for enjoying electronics without compromising ethics. Here are four ways to stay high tech while still being low impact.

Power down at night.
It sounds like a weak effort, but the results of turning off your devices at night can be significant. Vampire power (i.e. the energy that is wasted on appliances left plugged in when not in use) drains 5-10 percent of total electricity usage in the average household annually. You can combat this by turning off and unplugging anything that doesn’t absolutely need to be plugged in (like your refrigerator or alarm clock).

To test for vampire electricity usage, simply feel the device when it’s not in use to see if it’s warm. This means that electricity is running to it so it’s ready to be turned on at any moment. Rather than having to unplug all of the electronics individually at your entertainment unit, for example, plug them each into a power strip and remove that from your power source (it may be as simple as just flipping the switch!) instead.

Use a solar charger.
Since electricity usage is one of the biggest ways technology negatively affects our earth, you can do your part to decrease this aspect of non-sustainability by using the sun to restore battery life on any applicable devices. Solar chargers are reasonably priced on eBay and should last at least the lifespan of your mobile device.

Dispose of gadgets responsibly when they are replaced.
This might be the most intimidating aspect of conscientious tech-ownership, but it doesn’t have to be. Recycling a gadget that has plastics, metals and plenty of potentially toxic elements doesn’t seem like something the average person could accomplish, but it’s easier than you think.

Many Goodwill retail stores will accept devices, and if they aren’t fit for resale, they recycle them with their Reconnect program. The EPA also lists some locations that may be able to recycle your used electronics.

Stay one step… behind?
If you’re still having a hard time getting on board with today’s technological marvels, here’s a bonus tip for you: Instead of waiting in line for the newest version of every device, buy the previous version, now obsolete, secondhand.

Manufacturers are constantly reinventing the wheel, and there often isn’t much difference between an original accessory and its version 2.0, yet many people pride themselves on owning the latest and greatest. If you don’t mind a few scuffs and quirks, you should be able to enjoy the perks of your tech gadgets without knowing that you directly contributed to the industry.

In regards to the life cycle of technological devices, you’ve now got a good foundation for increasing your sustainability while still enjoying the benefits of modern innovation. What other techniques can you think of to embrace this technological revolution while keeping your footprint in check? It’s likely that you’ve got a hack or two in mind, and sharing those will help others decrease their impact, too.

Source: www.care2.com, Julia Marchand

Julia Marchand writes about upcycling, sustainability and tips on reusing old goods for eBay – a great place to learn more about selling your own used electronic devices.