Technology has been integrated into our society over the last 20 years and is now a vital part of our life. It helps with everyday tasks, connects us with people around the world and has changed the way the world is run. It also allows information, stories, ideas and suggestions to be shared. For those reasons I love technology. On top of this, it can increase your productivity and ease of life, whilst being fun to use and a massive point of entertainment in the twenty-first century. However, technology and electrical products are often very poor at caring for the environment, which is something I hope they change and I am here to advocate for. I believe most people do not realise the impact they have on the world and this is more so in technology and getting the “latest” phone, laptop, camera or home tech. Therefore, for those that are considerate for our future but still wants to pick up some technology to help them connect with the world here are some key aspects to look for when making your next tech purchase:
Transparency is key to a green and sustainable future. The first step to being green is understanding your impact and to do this you need to understand the product and the company. Before you look at a specific product, look at the company, are they clear with their goals, aims and impact as a whole? In regards to a product, can you find out what parts are in it and where they come from, were it is put together. Even right down to the source of the base materials? This will all help with understanding the full impact the item will have. Look out for open and honest companies that give as much information about the product as possible. Just be careful of greenwashing, as the company might highlight certain credentials to hide or overshadow others or altogether have unfounded claims.
A clear and obvious one is to check how much carbon does the product produce in its creation and even its life (the power consumption). Carbon counting is and will hopefully continue to become a must have figure to all products and if a company offers this it is a good indication on a product's sustainability. The lower the carbon footprint the better. However, if the company does not tell you it can be very hard to find out. When looking at carbon footprint if it is possible you should look at the whole life carbon, as a higher initial carbon footprint might result in a lower one over the life of a product or even the carbon to recycle the item at the end of the products life. I believe this will become a huge part of our future, so look out for it and ask these companies to provide it.
Power is unfortunately not always sustainable and certainly not green or clean. It is also not infinite (yet) and with an ever growing population the demand for it is constantly increasing. Due to this, we need to get more power efficient items of tech going forward to reduce what we use. The more efficient and less we use the less is needed to be produced. This reduces any negative impact from fossil fuel power stations but also allows power to be used for more critical functions such as at hospitals.
Many materials in tech harm the planet. This can be from materials that are mined, which can scar the earth or can be from materials we create like Plastic that also pollute the planet. Therefore, it is good to look for sustainably sourced and natural materials that are used. When looking at the materials in a product look for those that have a higher recycled content, use natural & sustainable materials (if safe to do so) and that minimises the amount they use compared to others. Also, look at the packaging used and make sure this is recyclable. Look for sustainable, no-toxic and ethically sourced materials to be eco-friendly. It is also important to begin to think of the products end of life (see below) and how the materials used will affect this.
Ethical supply chain
This one might be a little tricky to track and check but a company may note it or have a certification with the product detailing it. An ethical supply chain looks at the social responsibility of the corporation. The aim of which is to ensure the product is created in a way that treats workers and the environment ethically. If you know where some of the parts of the product come from then you can check if they are ethical too. It is not just the company itself but the entire supply chain leading to the product being in your hands. Some obvious things to think about is making sure they pay their staff a living wage, do not use sweat factories or child labour or actively pollute our earth.
Repairable and Upgradable?
Moving away from our wasteful culture we need to look at keeping our items including tech in use for as long as possible. To do this we want products that are repairable, so we can continue to use them or upgrade them to keep up with the rest of the world without completely replacing the whole item. Upgradability is an important factor in technology in order to keep up with new software, games and the hardware needs to meet this demand. Therefore, we need to make products upgradable without having to waste the entire device. Look out for companies that design their device to have key components replace increasing the longevity of the product. This all leads to less waste, better use of resources and less carbon emissions, which is obviously better for the environment.
End of life
The world has grown a throw away culture, which is literally killing our planet. We need to get away from this and adopt a circular economy (cradle-to-cradle) approach that allows a product to be reused, remade, or recycled in some way. A lot of companies do buy back or offer discounts for your old trade in, which is a good start. However, the product needs to be made with materials that can be reused and recycled. When purchasing a new item consider its end of life, as this will be something that has to be dealt with in the future.
As an additional bonus a company may back positive initiatives such as charities, planting trees, carbon off-setting, recycling programmes and the like that help them get closer to a truly eco-friendly company. Although this is a great addition your first consideration should be the sustainability and eco-friendliness of the product itself but if the company supports charities you do it is a great addition to your purchase.
At the moment it might be quite hard to find out all this information, as many companies do not disclose it at all (especially when it is not very good for the environment). However, the more we understand about the product and company the better we can view how sustainable, eco-friendly or green it is for us to buy it. I understand you probably do not have the time to fully check a product , nor do I but a quick google search and a run through of the criteria above will help you make the right choice. Always think of the life of a product, as the longer we use something the less waste is produced and the less carbon is used. We also need to push for companies to fully disclose their products information and supply chain, as well as making their products repairable and upgradable. This will put sustainability and our planet's future as a priority when making new products. I hope the above will give you a few items to consider when making your next tech purchase and hopefully in time we will be able to find eco-friendly tech that meets our needs without jeopardising our future.