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The Short Life of Electronics

Photo Credit: Charlie Beldon via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Charlie Beldon via Compfight cc

I’m currently typing on my laptop which I use pretty much every single day. My smartphone is next to me charging on my bedside table. My husband is holding the iPad mini and next to him is his iPhone charging. Also in our bedroom is the Nook lying on the dresser! That’s already 5 electronics that are in the same room as us!

We tend to keep our electronics longer than most people but that doesn’t mean we have a lot of them. We also have two large tv’s, a pc tower and monitor, two older laptops, a Wii console, PS3, Nintendo, Nintendo DS, two DVD players, a surround sound system, and probably a few more than I can’t think of right now! That’s a lot of electronics for two people! A lot of them are older and we’ve kept them beyond what most people would keep them around for. The Nintendo doesn’t count for that though because it’s a classic. We’re planning to donate one older laptop but we just haven’t gotten around to it yet.

Electronics are made and upgraded so quickly that people cycle through them within a few months it seems like. I certainly am not one of these people. I can’t imagine how much money they’re spending to keep having the latest phone or newest computer. Then there’s the environmental aspect of where are all these electronics going? Are they ending up in landfills or do people actually recycle them?

Buy what you need

Before buying any electronics make sure you get the specs that you actually need. I usually try to go a little above what I need for my computer because I want it to last a few years before I need to buy another. This way as it gets older and software takes up more ram and processing power my computer can still keep up. Of course I wouldn’t mind buying the most expensive computer with all the upgrades possible, but it’s really not going to leave any money in my bank account. Also of course make sure you really want what you’re about to buy. This goes for anything but especially for electronics since they can get pretty pricey.

Keep electronics longer

Not having the latest and greatest electronics isn’t the end of the world. Phone companies now have been introducing new plans and deals about ways to get a new phone faster. People pay a premium every month along with their hefty phone bills just so they can get a new phone whenever they want. I’ve always waited for the 2 years to pass before getting a new phone. I get a nice discount on a new phone and my old phone is still in pretty good shape, even if not the newest. It’ll save money and help the environment a little to keep electronics around longer.

Another thing to keep in mind is the quality of what you are buying. Buying the cheapest electronics might also mean that you will have to replace it sooner. Paying a little more in the beginning for something a bit nicer isn’t a bad idea if you want to keep it around.
Try selling used electronics in good shape

There’s always the option of selling anything you don’t want on Ebay. I’ve had pretty good luck with selling old phones on Ebay and getting a good amount of money back. I had a HTC smartphone for 2 years and just recently got a new phone. I paid $50 for it 2 years ago and it sold on Ebay for $70. After all the fees and shipping I’ve basically just recouped the money I spent on it.

Donate to a school or charity

Even if the computer you have is too slow for you it might be perfectly fine for someone else. Schools and charities always need computers for help in teaching. Make sure to wipe your hard drive clean and then donate it to where it’ll be welcome. Goodwill is also another place to donate electronics.

Recycle it

If you can’t sell it or donate it then the last thing to do is to make sure electronics are properly recycled. Electronics not only contain hazardous materials but they also have precious metals inside that can be reused. A lot of electronics stores take back products for free and so does Goodwill. If its not in working condition Goodwill will make sure it is recycled.

 

I regularly use a lot of the electronics we have but others are pretty much neglected. The Nook just sits on the dresser for a very long time unless we have a good book we really like to read. It’s the same for the Nintendo DS. I usually like to take it with me on plane rides. It used to get a lot more usage out of it during family gatherings when everyone would have one.¬† I can’t imagine living without any electronics but I can try to be responsibly about how I use them.

Are you an electronics hog or do you try to pare down the amount you have?

Recycling Oddities

Photo courtesy of brita.com
Photo courtesy of brita.com

The most commonly recycled items are aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and glass jars. It seems that almost anywhere in the United States, these items have some kind of curbside program. Some areas, like Los Angeles, go even further than just those common items. Here, I can recycle any plastic of all numbers and plastic bags of almost every type too. Usually, curbside programs only accept plastics #1 and #2. The numbers actually go up to 7. The plastics after the first two are generally much harder to recycle, and thus there isn’t as great of a demand to recycle those. Recycling plants still are businesses that need to make a profit to keep running. If you’re lucky enough to live in a larger city, you probably have the same options that I do. It’s great to be able to recycle so much of our waste just outside our door.

There are a number of other items we can actually recycle that don’t go into curbside! This list can go from electronics, Brita filters, reusable bags, clothing, books, bras, and shoes. Some of these places take hard-to-recycle items, while others take gently-used items for reuse and distribution. It’s even more ways to cut down on the waste we create.

Beauty Products, Dental Products, Food Wrappers, Cigarette Butts, Diaper Packaging
Terracycle
This is one of my favorite businesses! Terracycle takes a high number of odd, not usually recycled, items and turns them into new products. For example, a messenger bag made of Capri Sun drink pouches or a small purse made of candy wrappers. You sign up, pick a collection to collect items for, send it in (free shipping), and get points that go towards schools. Individuals can do this, but a lot of schools are involved.

Electronics
Many electronics can’t just be dumped into the trash because of the hazardous and precious metals they contain. There are two ways I know of that are easy to dispose of electronics for proper handling. The easiest is going to your local Best Buy. They take basically any electronic from you. Inkjet cartridges, CD’s and DVD’s, electrical cables, clocks, old VCR’s, and the list goes on. Best Buy is best for smaller electronics. Once you get into things like TV’s, you have to pay them a $10 fee to recycle. Technically you get that back in the form of a $10 gift card, but I would prefer to go a different route.

For larger electronics, find an e-waste center that will take it for free. This can be a center only for e-waste, or it can be a hazardous waste facility. Cities also sometimes have e-waste or hazardous waste events. Check a local calendar to see if one is happening near you.

Brita Filters
Preserve: Gimme 5
Brita got a lot of flack when they didn’t even offer any option for recycling their filters. They generally promote their filters as environmentally-friendly, a great alternative to bottled water, but then their filters weren’t recyclable! Now, they’ve teamed up with Preserve to recycle their filters! Check out the link to see if there is a drop-off location near you. If not, you can ship it to them. Whole Foods might be a drop-off location. You do have to pay for the shipping fee, but for me it’s worth it to be more waste free.

Number 5 Plastics
Preserve: Gimme 5
For locations that don’t offer #5 plastic curbside recycling, you can still recycle those types of plastics. Preserve will take those plastics and turn them into products they sell. I’ve seen their toothbrushes made of recycled #5 plastics in store before. They also have sturdy plastic-ware for sale too. It’s the same company that takes Brita filters for recycling. Check the link to see if there’s a drop-off location nearby. Whole Foods might be a drop-off location. Or you can ship it to them.

Bottle Caps
Download Aveda Recap Collection PDF
Recycling bottle caps is generally hard to do also. Bottle caps are made of #5 plastic. Bottle caps are small and may clog machinery, plus they aren’t big enough to be worth recycling sometimes. I’ve heard that bottle caps are generally sorted out and thrown away. Aveda stores will take back these caps and make sure they are recycled! Read the PDF to see which types of caps are taken. I’m not sure if Aveda salons are participating. I’ve tried before and they didn’t take it there.

Shoes
Soles 4 Souls
If you don’t feel like giving away your shoes to a local Goodwill or Salvation Army, you could donate your shoes to Soles 4 Souls. They redistribute your shoes to people who need them. Request a box from them to fill up with shoes. You can always ask your friends to see if they have any shoes they don’t want anymore.

Bras
Bra Recycling
For the ladies reading this, and men too! Men, you can tell your lady friends about this. Thrift shops and Goodwill can’t take your bras, but this organization will distribute it to women that need bras!

Reusable Bags
Chico Bags
Chico bags takes old reusable bags and creates new items out of them, such as rugs and totebags! I haven’t had any reusable bags go kaput yet, but when I do then I’ll send them here.

There are a lot of businesses and non-profits out there who help make our waste into something better or recycle it properly. If you know of any other ones, please share! Goodwill is always great for donating items, but sometimes those items are better used elsewhere. It’s up to you where you want to donate your goods.

Have you heard of these recycling/reuse options before?

Harnessing the Power of the Sun

A pharox solar kit! Acts as a charger for small items and can be a light too!
A pharox solar kit! Acts as a charger for small items and can be a light too!

Living in bright sunny Southern California certainly has its benefits. The weather here every day is nearly always 72 degrees and sunny! It is rare that it rains and we do not get any snowfall. Instead we have numerous earthquakes, wildfires because of the dryness, and a lot of people living here.

The sun is certainly much stronger here than it is in the mid-west. I never used to burn at all during the summertime, but now I have to be careful year round to stay in the shade or use sunscreen or else I would end up looking like a lobster. That makes it a great location for solar energy! There are plenty of solar panels on buildings here. A lot of houses have them mounted on their rooftops! I have even heard of a solar panel lease so that people do not have to bear the initial hefty price. Solar energy still has a long way to go before really becoming widespread though. The initial cost of the panels themselves deter a lot of people, plus they are made with pieces that need to be properly recycled at the end of its life.

Since I am renting an apartment currently, solar panels are definitely not an option. The best I can do is to get a solar charger! The picture above is of my first ever solar charger that I decided to try. I spent $25 to get a charger and light combo. I have not really used it as a light much, but it produces a nice clean light in a few varying levels of brightness. Mainly I use it for charging small items that can connect via USB.

Other solar chargers I have seen are attached to backpacks or messenger bags. Some are much smaller and take much longer to charge up. Another one I considered was a compact one that folded out three wings like a fan. So far though, solar chargers are still on the pricey end and have limited use. I generally use the charger for my smartphone, it only charges about 1/8 of the way actually. It can give my bluetooth a full charge though! It is actually best used as a light, when fully charged the light can stay on 45 hours at the lowest light level. Or so the product website tells me. Haha I have never actually tried it before. Seems though that solar chargers for consumers are still best for smaller, less electricity sucking items.

The cost of a solar charger can be hefty depending on which product you choose. I have not used mine long enough to really know if the overall cost is gained back through the money you save by not using electricity as much. Technology will continue to advance and hopefully the price overall will drop! Definitely excited to see where this will go. Once my hubby and I get a place of our own I will look into solar panels for the house. They may not really be feasible yet, but one day…

The potential of using the sun’s energy for power is exciting! It is in theory absolutely limitless and if we can just finesse how we convert it to electricity, then really the sky is the limit! A beautiful option for cleaner energy that will make our planet a lot less polluted.

Do you have any solar panels or solar chargers? What has your experience been like?