How to buy ethical and eco-friendly electronics (2022)
We all love shiny new electronics. But every new smartphone or laptop comes with baggage. Weighing up fear of the climate, terrible conditions for workers, energy consumption, and worries about e-waste hellish graveyards can quickly kill your enthusiasm for buying a new gadget. None of us want to be complicit, but what can you do if these issues concern you?
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find electronics that are made in an ethical and environmentally friendly way. But there are things you can do to lessen any negative impact your purchases may have. Here are some ideas we’ve compiled, with help from Tom Bryson, Technical Specialist at Ethical consumera British magazine that ranks brands according to various categories, from environmental reports to workers’ rights.
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The best way to minimize your impact is to avoid buying new devices if you can. The unpleasant truth is that every new gadget comes at a cost in terms of manufacturing, shipping, lifespan, and possibly waste.
“Most of the environmental impact, including carbon emissions, occurs during the manufacturing phase,” says Bryson. “It is estimated that the electricity consumption related to the actual use of a smartphone represents only 1% of the product’s carbon emissions.”
It’s best to continue using what you already own or have devices repaired to extend their lifespan whenever possible. Fortunately, with the United States Federal Trade Commission’s vote to enforce the right to repair, it’s getting easier. Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are starting to offer guides and repair kits, but there’s still a long way to go. If you want to check how repairable your gadgets are, iFixit has a guideand it’s also a great place to find tutorials, guides, and all the necessary components and tools you need to repair your devices.
Maybe your device is beyond repair or you are buying a new category of devices that you are not too familiar with. Then what ? Try to buy used or refurbished appliances. You can sometimes get a discount on devices that are often indistinguishable from brand new. You won’t get as many buy somewhere like Apple Certified Refurbished Storebut you can rest assured that you will get a fully working, like-new device with a warranty.
For higher discounts, you’ll have to buy used from resellers or private sellers, but the risk is higher. Follow our advice on the best technology used to buy and check out our guides on how to buy a used phone and how to buy used devices on eBay to increase your chances of getting a good deal while avoiding potential pitfalls. .
To manufacture electronic devices, companies need to source many materials and components, usually from various countries. This often means that mining and assembly often takes place in countries with low wages and limited protections for workers.
“This complexity means it’s hard to say with certainty that a device is produced in a completely ethical way that doesn’t involve the exploitation of workers or harm the environment,” Bryson says.
What you box do is take a close look at the manufacturer behind the device you want and figure out which issues are most important to you. Ideally, the company will have strong policies on managing labor rights issues in the supply chain and sourcing materials in an environmentally responsible manner. Look for evidence on how a company is reducing carbon emissions in line with science-based targets and find out if they are trying to reduce harmful chemicals in their products. Also consider tax evasion and policy transparency.