Electronics are a big part of our lives. We use them to communicate, cook, work, entertain, and so much more. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates Americans own 3 billion electronic products, which is about 9 electronics per person! And we go through them quickly – 3.1 million tons of electronics are disposed of each year.
Environmental footprint of electronics
Manufacturing and use of electronics has a big environmental footprint. In Minnesota, electronics account for about 7 percent of our state’s total greenhouse gas emissions. A good portion of those emissions are tied to the electricity required for us to use our electronic devices, but even an even larger proportion (more than half of the emissions) happen during the manufacturing and production of the products. Additionally, the raw materials needed to produce electronics include many finite resources and precious minerals such as oil, iron, gold, palladium, platinum, and copper.
It may seem overwhelming, but there are things you can do to reduce the impact of electronics without unplugging.
Extend the life of your electronics
The biggest thing you can do to reduce the impacts of electronics is to use them longer! According to a report from Business Insider, Americans in 2016 were hanging onto their smartphones for just under two years before replacing them. Simply doubling the length of time we use our devices would have a big impact on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions tied to manufacturing and the amount of materials extracted for a new device.
Extending the lift of electronics can be challenging as many devices are not made to last or technology advancements make them obsolete.
Repair or buy refurbished
In an item is broken, look for repair options. Consult IFixit.com for a variety of fix-it manuals to try a repair on your own. To get free help from skilled volunteers, come to a free Hennepin County Fix-It Clinic.
If replacement is necessary, purchase a refurbished product. Many manufacturers have refurbished products that offer the same features and performance of a new product for a lower cost.
Donate or recycle
Finally, when it’s time to say goodbye to an electronic item, sell or donate it if it still works and recycle it if it doesn’t. For recycling options, visit the Hennepin County Green Disposal Guide.