Sustainability and your technology

Living

SECOND LIFE A warehouse containing secondhand, recycled, refurbished laptop computers and other technical equipment.

Repair or try secondhand before going new

Green Living
McKinley Neal

Technology has developed with incredible speed over the course of our lifetimes (whenever we were born!), and has totally connected the world. I am thankful that during the pandemic I was able to communicate with loved ones and friends across the globe via text, voice notes and video calls using phones and computers.
However, one of the main challenges with technology currently is choosing and maintaining devices that will last; there are loads of options, but it is hard to know how their lifespan and if they can be repaired. E-waste is an increasing problem globally; it is said to be the fastest-growing waste stream in the world.
In Ireland, WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) encourages recycling. In 2019, 38,594 tonnes of electrical items were recycled, making it the second-best recycling scheme in Europe. However, recycling is a nice way to talk about discarding items; it only recovers a portion of the precious metals from devices and does not keep them in circulation as long as repairing and reusing.
Buying secondhand is an increasingly accessible and reliable choice, and there are cheaper mobile phone plans for SIM-only activation (so no automatic upgrades to new phones on a regular basis that might not be necessary). The phone I am using is decommissioned from a company I used to work for, that gave employees the chance to have or buy used phones and laptops.
For computers, refurbished machines are available. Local computer shops often offer testing and repair services, or take trade-in to refurbish and sell on. We have a shop laptop that enables us to connect to the internet and do basic word processing. It was a great price from our local computer shop because it has one or two other limitations that we can live with, and we have the confidence that we will receive appropriate support, as we can always speak directly to the business owner for any issues.
Manufacturers and retailers also offer refurbished computers and accessories of all kinds, with warranties to guarantee their efficacy for a certain period. Several of our customers have recently shared that they purchased products in excellent working condition, some like new. Various options are available online.
If you are buying new, spend time doing research into important things like battery life, options for repair and extended warranties. Consider all your options, not just the most advertised models. The Fairphone is a Dutch designed smart phone that is designed to be sustainable, using fairtrade, conflict-free and recycled components, paying living wages for workers, and crucially, made to be repaired by users. They sell spare parts, provide simple instructions for making repairs, and host a forum for users to ask questions, provide advice and buy and sell used models.  
Ifixit.com provides repair guides for electronics, household appliances and even cars and trucks, so it’s worth a look to see if you can find solutions for any issues you might have with goods you already own.

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic foods, reusable goods, household products, eco-friendly personal care items and gifts.