Celebrate Earth Day with the Illini Gadget Garage

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The most sustainable device you will ever own is the one you currently have.

Learn what you and others can do to help keep your devices working by learning to troubleshoot and repair them. Yes, YOU can do it. No, you don’t need experience, we’re here to help walk you through the troubleshooting process to figure out what’s wrong, what parts might need to be replaced, and how to replace them. If you can solve puzzles and read recipes, then you’re about 80 percent of the way ready to jump into repairing a phone or a laptop. The other 20 percent is a combination of patience, practice, and a willingness to learn.

At the Gadget Garage, we want to keep as many devices out of landfills as we can and that all starts with YOU.

Find us at the Champaign Public Library (Friends meeting room, second floor) on Saturday, April 21st from 1:30-4:00 PM for our (day-early) Earth Day event. Find out more from us about: battery, CD/DVD, and CD case recycling; where to take working electronics you no longer want; where to recycle non-functioning electronics in the CU area; where to find local repair shops for those of you who do not want to work on your own devices; etc. We have a lot of information to offer! Stop in and help us help the Earth.

And help you of course.

Because you love it when technology works like it’s supposed to. We all do.

Illini Gadget Garage at Champaign Public Library

igg-at-cplHave broken gadgets or questions about what we do? Find us in the Champaign Public Library’s Library Friends Conference Room this Saturday, March 10th from 1-3. If you have items you are interested in repairing, we encourage you to email us about the items ahead of time, so that we can do some preliminary research and can accommodate the time and tool constraints needed for the repair. Contact us at: illiniGadgetGarage@gmail.com

IGG Featured on Urbana Public Television’s “It’s All About U”

Thanks to Urbana Public Television (UPTV6) for visiting the Illini Gadget Garage recently and featuring us in the February 2018 edition of “It’s All About U,” a program that highlights events, services, and programs in the City of Urbana, IL. Host Natalie Kenny Marquez spoke to project coordinator and sustainability specialist from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), Joy Scrogum, and IGG staff members Madeleine Wolske and Amanda Elzbieciak. If you’re just learning about our project, haven’t had a chance to visit our workshop, or would like some ideas for how to get involved, check out the video clip below. (Note the bit on the IGG starts at 8:59.)

Holiday Lights Repair Workshop

Join the IGG staff this coming Sunday, December 10th, from 1:00-3:00pm for an afternoon of festive repair! Bring in your broken holiday lights and we will help you repair them. After your repair, enjoy some hot chocolate or tea and create a card out of recycled electronics.  This event is free, but we will be accepting a suggested donation of $5 to help defray the costs of running the Illini Gadget Garage. For more information on how to donate, follow this link to our online form.

Happy Holidays!
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Support Repair on Giving Tuesday

Tomorrow, November 28, 2017, is #GivingTuesday. Celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving (in the U.S.) since 2012, this is a global movement that celebrates and encourages donations to charities and non-profits in your community. While consumerism abounds during the holiday season, with Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and other appeals to purchase and give items to express your affection for and appreciation of friends and family, Giving Tuesday is a chance to step back from consumerism and appreciate the various organizations and causes that work to make our communities better places by donating funds to support the missions of those organizations. It’s a day to give back ; a chance to contribute, literally and figuratively, to positive change. You can learn more about the history of Giving Tuesday at http://www.givingtuesday.org/about.

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Here in Champaign-Urbana, we’re very fortunate to have a lot of great community organizations which also include an element of reuse in their operations that divert items from the landfill while fostering positive change. Places like the IDEA Store, Courage Connection (with its Connections thrift store), the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, Salt and Light, and of course Goodwill and the Salvation Army are just a few that come to mind. And of course, the Eastern Illinois Food Bank, Daily Bread Soup Kitchen, and similar entities that fight hunger in our area also help fight waste by accepting donations of unwanted or surplus food, and thus feeding people instead of landfills. If sustainability is important to you, there are many worthy causes that address all three aspects of sustainability (social, economic, and environmental) here in CU. We’re proud to be able to contribute to positive change and waste reduction in such a community.

The Illini Gadget Garage hasn’t been around as long as other organizations you might consider this Giving Tuesday, and we certainly can’t claim to impact lives as deeply as those fine institutions, but we work to do our small part every day to foster positive change. We want to empower individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to feel confident enough to consider repairing devices instead of replacing them, thus stemming the tide of electronic waste while also making technology more understandable and accessible. While helping community members to repair their own devices, we help them understand how choices made at various points along a product’s life cycle–from design to manufacture, through use and end-of-life disposal–can impact human and environmental well being. A conversation about glued-in batteries versus ones that are easy to swap out, or lamenting how difficult a certain device is just to get open in order to troubleshoot can lead to broader discussions about sustainable design, reuse, and repair. In this we way we get people thinking about sustainability through the action of considering a practical problem in their own lives. When an item is genuinely beyond repair, we help people learn about local recycling options, or if something is unwanted by functional, we can help with information on donation opportunities. And we’re currently able to do all of this at no charge to the public–UI students, faculty, staff, and yes, members of the broader CU community and beyond–are all welcome to come to our work space or to one of our pop-up clinics for assistance. That’s all thanks to donations. We launched with seed funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee, but that funding has been used up, and we are currently powered 100% by donations from corporate sponsors, such as HOBI and iFixit, and individuals.

This Giving Tuesday, if you believe as we do that repair and reuse are important for a sustainable society, then we hope you’ll consider a donation to Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) Support Fund, the UI Foundation fund which allows the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center to coordinate the Illini Gadget Garage’s repair education and assistance efforts. Even a small donation of $5-10 is a big help, and every donation is greatly appreciated. Here’s what your donation helps with:

  • Funding the collection of single use and rechargeable batteries and shipping those to Call2Recycle and its partners for proper recycling.
  • Paying salaries for our hourly staff members, Madeleine and Amanda, who take care of our work space, train and coordinate volunteers, lead the public in one-on-one troubleshooting and repair, produce informative blog posts and podcasts, and in general help others learn not only how to repair, but why it’s both important and lots of fun.
  • Paying for recurring expenses like utilities and cleaning of our work space, purchasing supplies and equipment from printer paper to tools, paying for room rental to host community pop-up clinics, paying for marketing materials, etc.
  • Conducting not only open hours at our workshop, but also pop-up repair clinics in public spaces both on and off campus.
  • You can read about the impact we’re having, including the pounds of devices and materials we’ve diverted from landfill, at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/about/our-impact/.

Visit http://www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu/SEIdonation.html on Giving Tuesday to contribute to our efforts on campus and beyond. Note that the Illini Gadget Garage is the sole educational project of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative currently, so your entire contribution will support the IGG. Our sincere thanks for your support!

Shop Safe this Holiday Season

The holiday season is upon us, and for many that means that online shopping will see an uptick in numbers, not only from Black Friday deals, but also Cyber Monday and beyond. Just last year consumers spent $3.45 billion on online shopping on Cyber Monday; Black Friday’s online sales trailing behind that figure by only $110 million less. To keep your money and information from ending up in places where it shouldn’t be, here are some best practices to keep in mind when online shopping this holiday season (and beyond):

Use “https” encrypted websites

Look for “https” in the web address (the “s” at the end of “http” stands for secure). This should be in the web address of every page you’re on (especially ones which ask for personal information) and not just on Sign In pages. This is an added level of protection which encrypts any information you submit.

Protect your passwords

Harder passwords may be more difficult to remember but it makes them more difficult for outsiders to crack. Avoid using things which can easily be found online like names, birthdates, phone numbers, and addresses. And don’t tell others your password.

Only give them the information that’s required

If you can get away with not filling out every field, like optional phone numbers, don’t bother giving them any extra information. The less you provide the less someone could possibly swipe and the great thing is this can help save time, too.

Skip debit cards

Use credit cards or services like PayPal to protect yourself. Debit cards link directly to your bank account and we don’t want any strangers getting their hands on that. Credit cards can offer a certain amount of protection and lower liability should your card number be stolen.

Do a little research

That ad or email offering a deal too good to be true? It just may be. Check to make sure the company you’re dealing with is reputable. Type in the company name into a search box and try out keywords with it like “complaint,” “review,” or “scam” and see what comes up. Then decide if you feel secure enough providing them with your information.

Avoid clicking links and attachments

This goes along a bit with the last point. When you open emails, check the sender’s email address. If it looks suspicious, you can delete the email or mark it as spam or perhaps a phishing attempt depending on the content of the email. Phishing is an identity theft crime where an email or website looks like a legitimate site or person but is in fact there to collect your information by asking you to do simple things like: update your account information, reset your password, or verify your address. If you’re not sure about the authenticity of an email do a quick search to see if it might be a scam and/or (without clicking any links in the email) access the website (by typing it into your browser) and check that the legitimate site is indeed asking for your information.

Don’t overshare on social media

You got a super ginormous HD television for $100? That’s great, but not everyone on social media needs to know. Publicly announcing purchases is a good way for thieves to know where to get the goods. Be sure to check your privacy settings on social media, as well. Can only your friends see your posts? Can your friends’ friends? Can EVERYONE see them? How well do you trust all of these people? – Privacy settings are also important because the things you post to social media are clues for people to hack your accounts. That fancy boat “windwalker” that you took a picture with better not be one of your passwords.

Make sure your virus protection is on and software up to date

Having up to date software can give you a base level of security against viruses. Having anti-virus is helpful, but it’s malware that you have to watch out for. Malware has to be downloaded to your device, it’s not something you can just “catch,” but it’s usually attached to a legitimate-looking program or download. To guard yourself against this, only download applications from a legitimate, trusted source like Google Play or the App Store.

Avoid using unsecured networks or public hotspots

If you don’t need a password to get onto the WI-FI, identity thieves don’t either. Public networks can leave your information exposed. The safest method is avoiding wireless altogether.

Avoid saving your credit card information on the site

It can be helpful to have a site you use often to store your information, but that also makes it a bit easier for people who get into your account to purchase things. – This doesn’t even have to be a stranger, say you left your browser open and a child or family member decided to do a little shopping.

Check your financial statements regularly for odd charges

This is good practice any time. If odd charges come up, its best to know sooner better than later in order to minimize possible damage.

Check the company’s privacy policy to see who they share your information with

A lot of people skim over the fine print when they sign up for things, but it doesn’t hurt to know what you’re getting yourself into by signing up. Check to see if they share your information with any third parties and decide if that’s something you’re okay with.

 

Hopefully these tips will help you have a less stressful online shopping season, so shop smart, stay safe, and enjoy your holidays everyone. 🙂