Finding a good home for your e-waste can have profound effects on people and the planet.
As summer breezes make way for fall’s bright colors, and students trickle back into classrooms, many will be looking to purchase that new laptop or tablet that nowadays is so essential for school, work and pleasure. But how sustainable is your computer? What should you look for when choosing a new one, and where will your old laptop go?
Electronic waste, or e-waste is one of the fastest growing types of wastes globally, growing 8.9% annually according to BCC Research. In 2012 alone, consumers around the world bought over 440 million computers and tablets! Since most of us toss our electronics within their average lifespan of 1-3 years, knowing how to dispose of your old hardware can make a huge difference in your carbon and waste footprints.
In general, laptop computers use much less energy than desktops, but beneath each sleek design most computers are exactly the same, containing a slew of metals and chemicals like lead, arsenic, and mercury that can leach into soil and water resources, endangering the ecosystems we all depend on.
Computers also contain many precious metals, plastics and glass that when recycled properly, can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions by lessening the demand to manufacture and mine for new materials. Saving your old computer or cellphone from the fate of the landfill can make a huge impact- the EPA states that recycling 1 million computers is equal to the electric costs of 3,657 homes in the United States! With each household owning an average of 24 electronics, and over 3 million people in the US, each one makes a difference.
So, what is the best way to keep your electronics out of landfills? Extend their life as long as possible. Use your products until the very end, or if you need the newest gadget, give your electronics a second life by donating them to someone else. When buying a new product, look for minimal packaging and products designed for easy upgrade and disassembly. Ethicalconsumer.org provides a wonderful guide to compare companies and products, and organizations like the Electronics Take Back Coalition and e-stewards.org have a state by state directory of certified recycling companies that promise to recycle and refurbish your e-waste in the United States.
Before you make a rush for the latest toy, know where your electronics go and come from. By ensuring the safe disposal of electronics and supporting eco-conscious companies you can help to slash the negative impacts of e-waste! To learn more about the social issues of e-waste check out these documentaries, Exporting Harm: The High Tech Trashing of Asia, and Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged climate, climate change, efficiency upgrades, electronics, energy, environment, ethics, green labeling, play, shop, toxics | Leave a Comment »
A sneak peak at Oroeco’s spiffy new Dashboard, which automatically tracks your personal climate impacts, compares you with your friends, gives customized tips for saving carbon and money, and rewards you and your friends for taking action.
Earth Day 2014 is upon us! We’re marking the auspicious occasion with the launch of Oroeco BETA, the world’s first service that automatically tracks your impacts on climate change, then rewards you and all your friends for taking actions that lead to a happier, healthier planet. The journey has really just begun. Oroeco’s team, advisors and intrepid beta testers have put in long hours to get us where we are now, but Oroeco is still only scratching the surface of the transformative tool for sustainability we think it can be. We’ll always remain a work-in-progress, as we hope to be adding a LOT more functionality and improving your user experience for many years to come.
Whether or not Oroeco puts a dent in climate change really depends on you. We’re only as powerful as the number of you using us, the amount you decide to take meaningful action, and the friends you encourage to do the same. So go ahead, sign up to take us for a spin; then invite all your friends. If you don’t have one already, you’ll also have to create a (free) Mint.com account to get started, and our About page and FAQ will fill in some details about how and why we’re doing what we’re doing. We’d also love to hear your feedback about what you like, what you don’t, and what we should add next to make Oroeco as awesome as can be!
And if you dig Oroeco BETA, stay-tuned for our first awesome mobile app, launching soon(ish)! OK, we’ll get off our self-promotional soapbox now…
We’ve been a bit delinquent about blogging while diving neck-deep into Oroeco’s web app, but we’ll be reentering the blogosphere soon. We’re planning to delve deep into the nitty gritty scientific details of personal sustainability, but we could use your ideas for what you’d like to see us research and write about. So tell us, what burning climate conundrums keep you up at night? Paper or plastic? Trains, planes or automobiles? Cow-fart collectors? We are at your blogging disposal!
Posted in by Ian Monroe, Climate Change, Clothing, Earth Day, Eat, Education, Electronics, Energy, Entertainment, Environment, Finance, Food, Green Labeling, Health, Home, Introduction, Life Cycle Assessment, Live, Move, Office, Play, Shop, Shopping, Transportation, Vacation, Water, Work | Leave a Comment »
Not all foods are created (climate) equal. Reference: EWG 2011
Ever wonder how much it matters to eat locally produced organic foods? From a climate change standpoint, turns out what you put on your plate matters a lot more than where it came from. Specifically, avoiding lamb and beef (+ other red meats) will score you the most climate brownie points. This is partly because sheep and cows are not particularly efficient at converting the vegetable protein they eat into animal protein in their muscles (so you need a lot of grain to produce a little bit of lamb and beef). But another important factor is the fact that sheep and cows are ruminant mammals, which during food digestion produce large amounts of methane (CH4), a greenhouse gas that’s 25 times more potent than CO2.
Since dairy products also come from ruminants, they suffer the same methane emissions problem, though to a lesser degree which varies depending on the type of dairy product. Cheese looks a lot worse than yogurt and milk, according to a report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which fashioned the spiffy graph you see above.
A study out of Carnegie Mellon University compared eating local to eating less red meat, and concluded that “shifting less than one day per week’s worth of calories from red meat and dairy products to chicken, fish, eggs, or a vegetable-based diet achieves more greenhouse gas reduction than buying all locally sourced food.” Yes, that’s all locally sourced food, as in everything you eat (bananas and coffee included) comes from your friendly farmer down the road.
We point this out not because we don’t love the ethos behind local and organic as much as your average treehugger. There are still plenty of compelling reasons to eat local and organic, like reduced chemical pesticide and fertilizer use, building community, supporting your local farmers, and becoming more connected to your food. Organic farming does have climate benefits, which can come from eliminating chemical fertilizers (made from fossil fuels) and no-till cultivation techniques that enhance carbon storage in the soil. The Carnegie study also showed that eating local can have significant climate benefits, but since only 11% of the climate impact of food comes from transportation, there’s not a whole lot of room for improvement.
So you don’t have to become vegetarian overnight, but if you fancy yourself a mealtime climate warrior then cutting back on your red meat intake should rise high on your to-do list. You can join the “Meat Free Monday” movement, or (if you’re feeling a bit more ambitious) become a “Weekday Vegetarian.” Regardless of where you live, typing “vegetarian” into Yelp will find great options down the street, and that magical system of tubes called the Internet is also awash with advice and recipes for cutting down on meat without your taste-buds skipping a beat. If your taste buds are set in their ways, try to at least reduce your food waste, which can have a BIG impact in making your eating habits leaner and greener.
Posted in Climate Change, Eat, Food, Home, Life Cycle Assessment, Live, Shop, Shopping, Transportation | Tagged by Ian Monroe | 6 Comments »
Can gifts be green beyond the wrapping?
‘Tis the season to buy copious quantities of glorious gifts (many of which will promptly land in a closet or Goodwill donation bin). But before you pepper spray yourself to the front of the shopping frenzy, what’s the best way to make both your loved ones and the planet feel warm and squishy inside?
There are a plethora of products marketing themselves as green, as well as sites with green shopping tips for everyone on your list, but even green(er) stuff still generally takes lots more stuff to make it. In theory, a well-picked present could make the recipient’s life greener, particularly if it’s something that saves water or energy. For the gizmo geeks in your life, energy-saving power strips, LED lights and watt meters can make spiffy little bundles of negawatts.
If you don’t think a low-flow showerhead will put a twinkle in Grandma’s eye, you can always cut out the supply chain by employing your own crafty or culinary talents. Or you can just pretend you’re crafty and buy something off Etsy (though, as with food, often buying local doesn’t mean lower impact). Then there’s the vintage route, which cuts out all the production impacts from making new stuff (and rebirths treasures the world really shouldn’t live without, like Mr. T Water War).
But even lovingly crafted goodies take resources to concoct, and The Economist tells us a lot of our gifts aren’t really wanted (our homemade jam collection dates back to 1974!). So unless you gift wisely you’re wasting money, time and resources. Perhaps then a donation is the greenest gift you can give, with plenty of stupendous social and enviro orgs out there, like Kiva and NRDC. Heck, you could even buy offsets for Grandma’s carbon footprint from folks like TerraPass (for those of you who believe in such things).
Of course you’ll always have the Grinches, who insist you don’t gift them anything. And you’ll probably gift something anyway, stubborn treehugger that you are. We suggest a poem or interpretive dance performance. Or a large can of Defense Technology 56895 MK-9 Stream to keep the holiday cheer at bay.
Posted in Climate Change, Clothing, Energy, Shop, Shopping, Water | Leave a Comment »
Keep cozy without your energy $s leaking out the window.
The average American family spends about $1,900 per year on home energy bills. Much of that goes out the window, quite literally. According to the Department of Energy, over half of home energy is wasted in inefficient appliance and under-insulated abodes. On the bright side, most efficiency improvements will pay for themselves quickly, and save you loads of cash in the long run. And there are plenty of free home energy assessment tools out there for owners and renters alike, as well as billions of dollars worth of state and federal incentives.
Heating & cooling make up the largest slices of the home energy pie.
A great place to start is the Home Energy Saver site, which will help you do a detailed home energy audit, then connect up with tax credits, rebates, and financing for efficiency upgrades. There’s also EnergySavers.gov, which has handy tips for greening both your home and your ride. Suggestions range from big investments (replacing windows and adding insulation), to quick fixes that pay for themselves in less than a year (or immediately), like weatherstripping, turning down your water heater, and slashing ~$200 per year off the vampiric tendencies of undead electronics with a power strip diet. If you prefer to be in the hands of a startup instead of government researchers, take a look at WattzOn, which hooks you up with personalized home efficiency and cash incentive suggestions.
Dear Not-So-White House, what’s the R-value of bulletproof glass?
If you want to go the high tech route, you can also take a thermal image of your personal palace with an infrared camera, which will give a stark visual of where heat leaks out while Jack Frost is nipping at your nose (which happen to be the same spots where heat sneaks in during the summertime). As a bonus, renting a thermographic camera will help you investigate paranormal activity, as well as spy on Obama’s R-values.
Posted in Climate Change, Electronics, Energy, Home, Live | Tagged efficiency upgrades, home energy audit, home energy bills, home energy saver | Leave a Comment »
A vampire lurks in your DVR! (and cable/satellite box too!)
Which appliance consumes the most power in your home? The refrigerator? The washer, dryer, or TV? The culprit may be a much less imposing energy beast, if you (like over 80% of Americans) have a DVR and set-top cable or satellite box. That’s right, those seemingly innocuous glowing little boxes can combine to suck more electricity than an Energy Star refrigerator, according to a study by NRDC.
The ~160 million DVRs and set-top boxes in the US now drain about $3 billion worth of electricity per year, the equivalent of nine 500 MW coal-fired power plants. That’s more power than used by the entire state of Maryland! And the real kicker is that 2/3 of that energy is consumed when these devices are supposedly “off.” Unfortunately, these little buggers never really die: the lights may go off, but they’re still sucking over 90% what they would while on. And that power drain happens 24/7, 365 days a year. Thus, an HD DVR typically consumes more power than the TV it’s connected to.
So the trick-or-treaters may be long gone from your doorstep, but you’ve still got some big energy vampires lurking in the darkness. The good news is that Buffy [the vampire slayer] is now on the way via a new EPA Energy Star 3.0 standard that mandates substantial improvements over the 2.0 version, and the cable industry (which owns most boxes) recently announced voluntary efficiency measures after all the bad press. But the only way to truly curb your boxy vampires’ appetite is to put them on a power strip that you switch off when you’re not watching TV or recording Buffy reruns. Or join the hipster kids and just stream it all online.
Posted in Climate Change, Electronics, Energy, Entertainment, Home, Life Cycle Assessment, Live, Play, Shop, Shopping | 1 Comment »
A sexy green Tesla Roadster won’t save you $, but plenty of other eco autos will.
Need a whiff of new car smell in your life? Wondering how auto options shake out for both your pocketbook and the planet? Well, your tax dollars have funded a handy tool to help you green your wheels. Coming courtesy of EPA and DOE, fueleconomy.gov allows you to compare how different models stack up in terms of operating cost, gasoline consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions.
The site includes electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, so you can see that an all-electric Nissan Leaf will cost about $600 per year in fuel, compared with ~$1200/yr for a Toyota Prius hybrid, and ~$1,600/yr for a basic Honda Civic (based on average US gas prices and 15,000 miles per year, which you can personalize). Greenhouse gas emissions are a bit trickier to compare for electric vs. gasoline guzzlers, since there’s wide state by state variation in carbon emission intensity for electricity. So a Leaf may be neon green in Seattle (which gets most of its power from hydro and other renewables), but turn a much muddier color when driven in West Virginia (which still relies almost exclusively on coal to make electrons flow).
Don’t want to drop bling on a new ride? Fueleconomy.gov includes used cars too, so you can see how your old pickup performs alongside that sweet vintage Mustang on craigslist. Or, if you’re happy with what you’ve got, you can also check out tips for improving gas mileage (and saving money), like driving more efficiently and keeping your tires inflated (which can save $0.10 per gallon).
Posted in Climate Change, Electronics, Energy, Move, Transportation | Leave a Comment »