Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Disposable Consumerism - Tech Edition

Last week I vented a little about the environmental impacts of disposable consumerism. This week I just want to expand on this idea a little by mentioning a specific aspect about our disposable consumerism culture that drives me a little extra crazy -- the constant cycle of upgrading electronic devices. 

All the different natural resources and dangerous chemicals that go into cell phone production

It feels like, as a culture, we have placed soo much emphasis and importance on our cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc. They are "our lives," they go with us everywhere, and frankly, they are a status symbol. I guess this explains why we are constantly being told we need to upgrade to the newest, sleekest, smallest, coolest model. It seems most of the big companies these days cater to this mindset, coming out with "new and improved" phones every year or even more often (I'm looking at you, Apple!) and then convincing us that our lives absolutely cannot go on until we have 4G/Siri/Bluetooth/whatever the next cool thing is. And the result of this is that we have people standing in line for hours and sometimes days to upgrade their perfectly functional phone to the next "it" model. I mean really, how often have you heard of someone trying to get their phone fixed before going out to purchase a new one? The fact is that now even our cell phones have become "disposable".

So what's the environmental impact? On average, the U.S. now throws out 100 million cell phones every year. Not only is that a monumental waste, but because of the toxicity of some of the chemicals used in cell phone production, we are literally poisoning areas and communities all over the world with our e-waste.

This really motivates me to make certain important changes in how I purchase and use electronic devices:

1.) If something breaks, I will first do all that I can to get it repaired/replace a part.
2.) If it isn't reparable, I will:
   -- Purchase a refurbished model rather than new
   -- Make sure to responsibly recycle the old electronic device.

And honestly, I've come to the realization that I don't need or want the next "smartest" phone/tablet/etc. My current phone is only moderately intelligent -- it calls, it texts, and it can check my email in a pinch, and that's all I really need my phone to do :)

Thank you for letting me vent! Does this drive anyone else a little crazy?

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