Thursday, March 25, 2010

Toxic Take Down for Electronics

Two important aspects of "greening up" your family act are reducing the amount of fossil fuels & heavy metals used and hazardous materials - often found as chemicals or toxic compounds in household products.  Electronics have been evaluated thoroughly and Greenpeace publishes a Guide to Greener Electronics which you might find useful?

So What's the Big Deal?
Part 1 - Bringing the products into your house
This is a big decision in itself as budget, space and functionality are factors that need to be considered.  Sustainability aspects such as fossil fuel used in the production of the product and the chemicals and hazardous compounds the product might contain are important considerations - because the chemicals might affect your health, fossil fuel use affects climate change and your purchase sends a message - you are essentially VOTING WITH YOUR WALLET! (photo credit: The Jing - Flickr).  When you purchase one product over another it sends a strong message to the manufacturer by saying, "Hey I like your product over your competitor". 

Step 2 - Disposal of the product
How long will that product be in use with your family is an important consideration in your purchase. You don't want to waste your money on a product that will break before you get your money's worth of use out of it.  Another important consideration is where it will go to get disposed of?  Often if electronics end up in the garbage dump, crushed up they can leak heavy metals into the ground which are toxic.  If hazardous chemicals are part of the make up, those will end up back in the environment as well - either as air or ground pollution.  There is a social element as well - companies who do not properly recycle computers and ship them off to a developing nation to be "recycled" are contributing to conditions for workers where their health is severely impacted. Check out this video to see what I mean.

Here is Greenpeace's Guide to Greener Electronics and how companies stack up!  Use it to inform your next electronics purchase

Full details can be found here. 

Also, ask yourself, "Do I really need this product?" and if you do make a purchase, responsibly dispose of your old one - for example return the equipment to a manufacture or find an electronics recycler with good ethics.  Metals will only become more and more valuable as their scarcity increases so keep your eyes open for more recycling options - guaranteed they will's only a matter of when!

Tracy Lydiatt - B.Sc, M.Sc
The Green Families Guru

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