Archive for the 'Waste Reduction' Category

5 Source Reduction Tips for Electronics Consumers

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by

SEI-LinkedIn-Logo-colorHappy P2 Week, from the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), GLRPPR’s partner in creating a sustainable future! P2, or pollution prevention, is defined by the U.S. EPA as “reducing or eliminating waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less-toxic substances, implementing conservation techniques, and re-using materials rather than putting them into the waste stream.” Source reduction is a key element in P2.

So let’s talk about source reduction as it relates to electronics, and more specifically, electronics consumers. Not everyone reading this post is an electronics manufacturer, electrical engineer, computer scientist, electronics recycler, or someone else who might be involved the design, production, or end-of-life management of electronic devices. But you are all certainly electronics consumers, scanning these words on the screen of your smartphone, desktop, laptop, tablet, or other device. Given that, the following are five ways we can all practice source reduction in one way or another as we choose and use the gadgets that support our work and play.

1. Buy EPEAT registered products. Originally funded by the US EPA, Electronic Products Environmental Assessment Tool, or EPEAT, is a searchable database of electronics products in certain categories, which is administered currently by the Green Electronics Council. EPEAT criteria are developed collaboratively by a range of stakeholders, including manufacturers, environmental groups, academia, trade associations, government agencies, and recycling entities. Criteria for current product categories are based upon the IEEE 1680 family of Environmental Assessment Standards (IEEE is the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, also known primarily by its acronym). The criteria include attributes from throughout the product life cycle–i.e. throughout the stages of design, manufacture, use, and disposal, including such relevant issues as reduction/elimination of environmentally sensitive materials, and product longevity/life extension. The EPEAT registry currently includes desktops, laptops/notebooks, workstations, thin clients, displays (computer monitors), televisions, printers, copiers, scanners, multifunction devices, fax machines, digital duplicators and mailing machines. New products may be added to the registry in the future as criteria are developed for them.

2. Buy refurbished devices. Maybe you’re concerned about the environmental and social impacts of manufacturing electronics, such as mining, use of potentially hazardous materials, labor issues, energy use (did you know that most of the energy consumption in the life cycle of a computer is in its manufacture, not its use?). You might also worry about the ever growing mountains of e-waste that society is generating. The surest way to reduce all of those negative impacts is to reduce the number of new devices that are produced to meet our consumer demand. No, I’m not suggesting that we must all turn our backs on technology and join a commune. But if you genuinely need another device, or  a replacement for one that finally gave up the ghost, remember you don’t have to buy something grand spanking new. And that doesn’t mean you have to take your chances shopping for used electronics, which may or may not end up functioning correctly, from some anonymous source on an online marketplace. Refurbished electronics differ from “used” electronics in a key way–they’ve been tested and verified to function properly. Often these are items that have been returned to a manufacturer or retailer because someone had a change of heart, or there was some defect found while the item was under warranty. In that case, the item could be like new, or is easily repaired, but it can’t legally be resold as new. So, once it has been checked for proper functioning and repaired if necessary, the item is designated “refurbished”–and sold at a discount. Refurbished items may also have been used as display units or even sent to an electronics recycler who determined that the device still functioned, or who returned it to full functionality through repair. Finding refurbished items is pretty easy. Ask the clerks at the electronics retail outlet if there are any refurbished items in stock. If you’re shopping online, most big electronics retailer web sites allow you to search for refurbished items in their catalogs, and may even designate them as “certified refurbished” devices, granting their personal assurance that they’ve thoroughly tested those items. And some independent electronics recyclers and asset management firms have their own online stores for selling items they refurbish. If you decide to go that route, start at the US EPA’s list of certified electronics recyclers to find responsible recyclers in your area, and check their web sites. You’ll rest easy knowing you extended the useful life of a device AND saved yourself some money compared to a brand new device.

3. Use multifunction devices. Another great way to reduce the number of devices you or your organization buy, and thus ultimately have to dispose of, is to use devices that can serve more than one purpose. Classic examples are devices that can perform various combinations of the following tasks: printing, copying, scanning, faxing, and emailing. Now  “2-in-1″ computers are also popular–converting between laptop and tablet configurations through detachable keyboards or screen flipping and folding gymnastics. Besides reducing the number of devices being used, there’s also potential space saving, power saving, and cost savings to consider in favor of multifunction devices.

4. Use networking to reduce the number of printers in your home or office. Odds are your office already uses networking to connect multiple devices to one printer, but at home you might still have separate printers for the kids’ bedroom and the office space the adults use downstairs, for example. You can set up networking at home too, and you don’t have to be “technologically inclined” to do it. Check out Microsoft’s guide to setting up a network printer or this guide from About.com that can address non-Windows devices as well. And at work, even if you have to print confidential information, you can still use a network printer and not have your own machine by your desk, by using confidential printing options available on modern printers. See the University of Illinois guide to confidential printing, or this guide from Office to learn how. If these don’t exactly address the make and model of printer you have, search the Internet for “confidential printing” plus the brand of printer you have, and you’ll probably find the help you need.

5. Repair instead of replace. Again, this is not something only the “technologically inclined” can accomplish. We’ve been trained to think of our devices as both literal and figurative “black boxes” which run on magic by the grace of fickle technological gods, never to be understood by mere mortals. Nonsense. Not only can you likely find plenty of computer/technology repair services in your area (which is great for your local economy), you can actually perform repair yourself–I know you can. Check out the iFixit web site for example. They provide an online community for sharing photo-filled, easy to follow repair guides, not just for electronics, but for all sorts of things. Did your smartphone screen crack? Search for it on the iFixit site before you replace it. You might not only find the guide to show you how to fix the problem, but the new screen and the tools you’ll need to do the work as well, which will likely be cheaper than the new device you might buy otherwise. The folks at iFixit also like to assign “repairability scores” to devices, which can help you purchase items that are easier to repair, and thus keep around longer. Of course tinkering with your device might affect the warranty, if one still applies. Be sure you understand the terms of your warranties first. There are some discussions on the iFixit site related to warranties, and you might also be interested in their commentary on some of the controversy surrounding what is known as “the right to repair.”

Do you have other source reduction suggestions related to electronics? Feel free to share them in the comments section.

Join Us for a Webinar on Sustainable Electronics Wednesday, Sept. 19

Tuesday, September 18th, 2012 by

Join us tomorrow, September 19 at noon Central time, when Dr. Callie Babbitt of the Rochester Institute of Technology presents “Adapting Ecological Models for Linking Sustainable Production and Consumption Dynamic in Consumer Electronic Product Systems.” Registration for the webinar is available at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/541176247.

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Webinar–”Electronic Waste: Our Problem and What We Should Do About It”

Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 by

Join us for a webinar on Wednesday, September 5, 2012, 12:00 PM to 1:00 PM CDT. This seminar will be hosted live at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) in Champaign, IL, and simultaneously broadcast online. The presentation will be archived on the ISTC web site (see http://www.istc.illinois.edu/about/sustainability_seminars.cfm for more information and additional webinar archives).

Presenters include William Bullock, Affiliate with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and Professor of Industrial Design in the School of Art and Design, U of I at Urbana-Champaign; and Joy Scrogum, Emerging Technologies Resource Specialist at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute, U of I at Urbana- Champaign.

See the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) Blog for further information and a link to the online registration form.

2012 International E-Waste Design Competition Announced

Friday, July 6th, 2012 by

e-waste competition logoThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative has announced the 2012 International E-Waste Design Competition. Registration is free and open to current and recent college and university students, from any discipline, throughout the world. Participants submit ideas on products or services that will either prevent the generation of e-waste by prolonging the useful life of electronic products, or that reuse e-waste components in a new product. Entries include, among other components, a brief YouTube video describing the proposed product or service. Registration opens September 1, 2012. For full details, see the announcement on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative Blog.

As part of its continuing partnership with the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, GLRPPR will be co-hosting a series of webinars focused on sustainable electronics research and issues in Fall 2012. Look for more information on the presenters here in the GLRPPR Blog in late August, and check the GLRPPR Calendar for the webinars, as scheduling is confirmed.

Happy P2 Week! (Sept. 19-25, 2011)

Monday, September 19th, 2011 by

P2 Week Poster 2011Happy Pollution Prevention (P2) Week! Celebrated during the third full week of September every year, P2 Week is a time to reflect on what you and/or your organization are currently doing to promote pollution prevention and sustainability, as well as a prime time to consider what more you could be doing. Check out the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) web site and the US EPA site for more information on activities taking place this week throughout the country; tips for increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste and sustainable practices; and news. (And of course, you can always browse through the online resources on the GLRPPR and P2Rx web sites for more information and best practices specific to your sector.)

In the Great Lakes region, the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and the Indiana Partners for Pollution Prevention (P4P2) will be hosting the 14th Annual Pollution Prevention Conference and Trade Show on Thursday, September 22.

GLRPPR’s sister Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange (P2Rx) center, the Pacific Northwest Pollution Prevention Resource Center (PPRC) is hosting a 20th anniversary banquet for its regional P2 roundtable during P2 Week.  Highlights will include a presentation by Dara O’Rourke, founder of the Good Guide, and former PPRC staff member.

And to kick off P2 Week, P2Rx has announced the launch of the National Sustainable Lodging Network, an online community of sustainable hospitality practitioners and an information clearinghouse to support the work of this community, found online at www.SustainableLodging.org. This site brings lodging operations together with federal, state, local, and tribal sustainable hospitality programs, including environmental agencies, tourism boards, and lodging associations. The goals for the site are to provide forums for sustainable hospitality practitioners to share information on practices and challenges; elevate sustainable hospitality programs and the facilities that participate in them; increase the adoption of sustainable hospitality practices nationwide; and foster innovation in sustainable lodging through the exchange of ideas.

If your organization or community is hosting a special event this week, tell us about it in the comments section of this post.

Free Seminar to Precede Illinois Governor's Sustainability Awards

Friday, October 15th, 2010 by

A nationally known speaker on Sustainability and a panel of experts discussing energy savings programs will be featured in an upcoming seminar.  The sustainability seminar will be Thursday, October 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Champaign, IL.   The seminar is sponsored by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC).

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ISTC Technical Assistance Program Director Moving On After 19 Years

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010 by

Dr. Tim Lindsey is leaving the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) to take another job with the University of Illinois.  Dr. Lindsey has been an Associate Director of ISTC and head of the Technical Assistance Program.

He now will be the Director of Energy and Sustainable Business Programs at the U of I – Business Innovation Services (BIS).  He will lead the State’s Green Jobs Initiative and will also direct the State’s efforts to create a stronger local foods industry. Business Innovation Services (BIS) provides customized consulting and training services, as well as public workshops and certificate programs.

“It has been a pleasure to work with Tim,” said Dr. Manohar Kulkarni, PE; Director of ISTC.  “Tim is an innovator; passionate about pollution prevention; and a gentleman.  While his daily presence at the center will certainly be missed, I hope to work with Tim on collaborative projects in his new role.  On behalf of the scientists and staff of ISTC, I wish Dr. Lindsey a roaring success in his future endeavors.”

Lindsey recently received a P2 Champion award from the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable.  He has been at ISTC since 1991 and has directed the program that included work in pollution prevention, green business, energy efficiency, alternative energy, carbon foot-printing, water foot-printing, environmental cost analysis, life cycle analysis, and systems engineering.  He is best known for his pioneering work in developing Accelerated Diffusion of Pollution Prevention Technologies (ADOP2T), a model for technology diffusion that speeds the transfer of better environmental technologies and processes from the bench to the plant floor. Lindsey is the driving force behind the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, and has been the leader in ISTC’s effort to promote and improve biofuels.  In recent years, Lindsey has applied his expertise and passion to address sustainability problems in Haiti.  He has worked with local farmers and non-government organizations to set up biodiesel processors and to train Haitians in harvesting a suitable crop like Jatropha, processing it, and operating reactors to produce a quality bio-fuel.

Lindsey was previously employed at Exxon and worked as an Environmental consultant.  He received his B.S. and M.S. in Environmental Science from Southern Illinois University and his Ph.D. in Urban and Regional Planning from the University of Illinois.

We offer Tim our congratulations and best wishes. Those of us at ISTC will greatly miss him!

ISTC Receives Pair of National Environmental Awards

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010 by

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) has received a pair of national environmental awards. Awards were received for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) and by Dr. Tim Lindsey.

MVP2 Awards

The 2010 Most Valuable Pollution Prevention (MVP2) awards presented by the National Pollution Prevention Roundtable (NPPR) celebrate the successes of innovators in the areas of pollution prevention and sustainability. These prestigious awards were presented recently at a ceremony in Washington, DC.  ISTC is a unit of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch–Waste Free, That Is

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010 by

Laptop Lunch Box

My daughter started kindergarten last week and next week my son is off to preschool for the first time. We’ll all look back on these days fondly sometime in the future, but for now, I’m having some typical Mommy back-to-school blues. In the interest of combating those blues, I decided to focus on some greens–specifically in the form of green tips related to schools and students. In this post I’ll discuss how to reduce waste associated with school lunches; look for more discussions on green ideas and examples for K-12 and beyond in the days to come.

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Indiana Businesses Achieve Significant Environmental Reductions Since Joining ESP

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010 by

Hoosier businesses have implemented environmental improvement projects and achieved monumental results as members of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management’s (IDEM’s) Environmental Stewardship Program (ESP).

There are 46 ESP business members across the state, each committed to implementing or maintaining measurable environmental improvements, such as reducing water or energy use, decreasing solid or hazardous waste, or reducing air emissions. In an effort to recognize each company’s proven commitment to continual environmental improvement, ESP members recently met with IDEM Commissioner Thomas Easterly and five assistant commissioners.

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