Death by Design Screening, August 22 at Champaign Public Library

On Tuesday, August 22, the Illini Gadget Garage will be hosting a screening of the documentary Death by Design at the Champaign Public Library. Doors will open at 6:30 PM and the film will begin at 7:00. The film duration is 73 minutes.

The Illini Gadget Garage is a repair center that helps consumers with “do-it-together” troubleshooting and repair of minor damage and performance issues of electronics and small appliances. The project promotes repair as a means to keep products in service and out of the waste stream. The Illini Gadget Garage is coordinated by the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center.

Death by Design explores the environmental and human costs of electronics, particularly considering their impacts in the design and manufacture stages, bearing in mind that many electronic devices are not built to be durable products that we use for many years. Cell phones, for example, are items that consumers change frequently, sometimes using for less than 2 years before replacing with a new model. When we analyze the effort put into, and potential negative impacts of, obtaining materials for devices through efforts like mining, the exposure to potentially harmful substances endured by laborers in manufacturing plants, and the environmental degradation and human health risks associated with informal electronics recycling practices in various parts of the word, the idea that we might see these pieces of technology as “disposable” in any way becomes particularly poignant. For more information on the film, including reviews, see http://deathbydesignfilm.com/about/  and
http://bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/dbd.html. You can also check out the trailer at the end of this post.

After the film, there will be a brief discussion and Q&A session facilitated by Joy Scrogum, Sustainability Specialist from the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) and project coordinator for the Illini Gadget Garage. UI Industrial Design Professor William Bullock will also participate in the panel discussion; other panelists will be announced as they are confirmed. Professor Bullock is also an adviser for the Illini Gadget Garage project; see more about IGG advisers at http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/meet-the-advisers/.  Check the IGG web site calendar and Facebook page for room details and panelist announcements.

Admission to this public screening is FREE, but donations are suggested and appreciated to support future outreach and educational efforts of the Illini Gadget Garage. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/donate/donation-form/ to make an online donation and http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/ilgadgetgarage/ for more information on the project.

Bullfrog Films presents…DEATH BY DESIGN from Bullfrog Films on Vimeo.

Illini Gadget Garage Spring 2017 Open Hours, Pop-up Clinics

The Illini Gadget Garage, a collaborative repair center on the UI campus where students, staff, faculty, and community members can receive assistance with troubleshooting and repair of their personally owned electronics and small appliances with electronic components, has established its schedule for the Spring 2017 semester.

The repair shop, located at 1833 S. Oak St. in Champaign (click here for a map), is open from noon to 4 PM on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and from 10 AM to 2 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. No appointment is necessary, but it is recommended that you fill out the online diagnostic form prior to stopping by. This will give staff the opportunity to do some research on your devices and the problem you’re experiencing ahead of time to make your one-on-one session more efficient.

Note that Illini Gadget Garage staff and volunteers do not repair items FOR you, but rather WITH you, guiding you through the process of determining the problem, necessary steps to address it, and providing tools to accomplish the repairs. In this way, consumers can become empowered to take action to extend the useful life of their products without the potentially intimidating task of attempting repair, or determining what parts are needed, where to go for help, etc. all on their own. Working with the Illini Gadget Garage can also eliminate the need for more technically savvy do-it-yourselfers to obtain tools they may only need to use one time.

If you can’t fit a trip to the Oak St. facility into your schedule, consider stopping by Tech Tuesdays on Tuesday evenings from 6-9 PM at the Undergraduate Library Media Commons. Illini Gadget Garage staff will be on hand for assistance with devices, and to provide information on the project, volunteer opportunities, and other opportunities for collaboration. If your group or department is interested in hosting a pop-up repair clinic in your building, please fill out the online form to express interest in hosting a clinic.

Illini Gadget Garage assistance is currently available free of charge, thanks to seed funding from the UI Student Sustainability Committee and other sponsors. Questions about services, open hours, and volunteer opportunities can be addressed to illinigadgetgarage@gmail.com. General questions about the project, educational collaboration, sponsorship opportunities and related issues can be addressed to Joy Scrogum at jscrogum@illinois.edu or 217-333-8948.

circuit board with open hours for repair center listed

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ERCC Publishes Report on Consumer Awareness of Electronics Recycling Programs

ERCC logoThe Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) published a report on March 15, 2016 entitled “ERCC Consumer Awareness Survey: A Look at How Electronics Recycling Programs Have Impacted E-Cycling Activities And Awareness.”  According to the Northeast Recycling Council (NERC), this is “the first study comparing state-level consumer awareness levels of electronics recycling programs as well as other important consumer preferences. Previous surveys of consumer awareness on electronics recycling have focused on a nationwide rate or within a single state. ERCC undertook the surveys in order to establish an additional measure of performance for electronics recycling programs, and to compare rates of awareness of electronics recycling options among states as well as ask other important questions. After developing a survey script with 10 standard questions on awareness, collection preference, barriers to recycling and other topics, ERCC surveyed member states who stepped forward to fund their survey costs, as well as other member and non-member states made possible by affiliate member contributions. In all, ERCC surveyed 6 states WITHOUT electronics recycling laws and 6 states WITH electronics recycling laws at varying levels of confidence. To carry out the surveys, ERCC contracted with Service 800, a company with 20 years of experience in the design and execution of customer satisfaction measurement surveys.”

States participating which do have electronics recycling legislation included Connecticut, Hawaii, Michigan, New York, Oregon, and Texas. Participating states without such legislation included Arizona, Florida, Massachusetts, Ohio, Tennessee, and Wyoming.

The executive summary of the report states:

“As of late 2015, there are 25 states with laws on electronics recycling, and most have had multiple years of implementation. As the programs mature, many stakeholders are wanting a better understanding of measures of performance that goes beyond the current knowledge of “pounds collected” or “number of collection sites”. One desired measure of performance is the level of awareness of electronics recycling programs among consumers for whom the services are available. Prior to this study, a handful of states and one national organization measured awareness rates, but none had done so to compare rates among different states. The goal of the consumer awareness surveys featured in this report was to do just that.

The Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC) conducted surveys of consumers in states where the state agency expressed an interest and was able to fund a survey. In addition, ERCC received contributions and surveyed an additional number of states (both with laws and without). The goal was to increase the number of state-level results and to gauge any difference in awareness and attitudes between states with and without laws, and also to get a general understanding overall awareness and other factors in increasing electronics recycling.

Survey results indicate that there does not appear to be a significant difference in awareness of recycling options when comparing states that have laws versus those that don’t. 40.7% of those surveyed across LAW STATES and NON-LAW STATES are CERTAIN they know where to recycle their electronics. Adding in those who “THINK THEY KNOW” where to take their used electronics, the national result is just over 70% awareness. The state with the highest combined response of “Yes, I know where” to recycle and “I think I know where” to recycle was Oregon at 79.7%. The lowest was Wyoming at 62.4%.

It is important to note the limitations to this survey – approximately 83% of the responses were from individuals in states that have laws. All of the non-law states were conducted at lower levels of confidence due to funding limitations, but they do give insights that were previously unavailable. Taken as a whole, the surveys conducted give us a baseline for comparing future awareness level results as programs become more widespread (or potentially contract), and key pieces of data on how consumers seek out and participate in electronics recycling programs across the country. One other limitation worth mentioning is that awareness and convenience have very distinct differences. A person may know they can recycle a computer 150 miles away, but that may not be a convenient location for them. Convenience (or accessibility) is key in determining whether a resident will recycle 3/15/2016 ERCC CONSUMER AWARENESS SURVEY 2 their electronics. In some states, the law specifically spells out how many recycling drop-off locations there must be for electronics in various counties. In other states, this is not something that is spelled out in the law at all. Furthermore, when looking at states without laws, there are no laws of convenience for electronics recycling. It is up to the consumer to source out a location in order to recycle. That location may or may not be convenient. Does this have an impact on recycling rates across the states? This may be something worth looking at in a future survey – whether or not convenience (distance from the closest collection site) effects recycling rates.”

To read the full report, go to http://www.electronicsrecycling.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/ERCC-Consumer-Awareness-Survey-Summary-Report-FINAL.pdf. This link is included with the SEI Resource Complilations.

Deadline Extended: Apply for the 2016 EPEAT Purchaser Awards by April 27th

EPEAT_logoThe deadline has been extended until April 27th to submit applications for the EPEAT Purchaser Awards. The awards recognize excellence in green procurement of electronics. EPEAT Purchasers will earn a star for each product category for which they have a written policy in place that requires the purchase of EPEAT registered electronics.

The EPEAT Purchaser Awards are open to all organizations that purchase EPEAT-registered products and meet the following requirements:

  1. Agree to have your organization as an EPEAT Purchaser. EPEAT Purchasers agree to share their specific EPEAT vendor contract language and to be listed on the EPEAT website. By submitting the EPEAT Purchaser Award Application, you agree to have your organization listed as an EPEAT Purchaser.
  2. Must have an organizational purchasing policy in place for environmentally preferable procurement of electronics (see model policy language)
  3. Must set specifications in contracts with vendors requiring that all electronic products in a specific category (PC/Displays, Imaging Equipment, and Televisions) achieve Bronze registration or higher in the EPEAT system in the country/countries of purchase (see model contract language)
  4. Must report annual purchase volume  of EPEAT registered products

Winners will be honored on Monday, May 23, during a ceremony in Washington DC. The Awards ceremony will be co-located with the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (SPLC) Summit at the Kellogg Conference Center and will take place immediately following the SPLC Pre-Summit Courses. All EPEAT Purchaser Award winners are invited to attend a brief reception before the ceremony, and then to participate in the ceremony itself.

For more information, and to apply, visit the EPEAT web site.

 

New ISTC Publication: “Reducing E-Waste Through Purchasing Decisions”

The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), host agency for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), recently announced the publication of a new research report (TR-061): “Reducing E-Waste Through Purchasing Decisions.” Delta Institute Logo

This research was conducted by the Delta Institute of Chicago, IL, with funding from ISTC’s sponsored research program.

Abstract: “Purchasing decisions made by companies for electronic office equipment, such as computers, printers, and fax machines, are often not made with the equipment end-of-life disposition in mind. Purchasing agents develop technical specifications for office equipment and make final purchasing decisions based on the needs of their users. The end result is that final disposition of this electronic waste, or e-waste, may sometimes be through the trash or through unchecked third party disposal companies which increases the potential for contaminants to enter the environment.

The Delta Institute, in consultation with the Green Electronics Council (GEC) – the program manager for the EPEAT® program – and the University of Illinois Survey Research Laboratory (SRL), worked on the project, Reducing E-waste through Purchasing Decisions, to identify opportunities and barriers for purchasing agents to include end-of-life decisions in the purchasing process and for asset managers to practice responsible recycling. Delta used a survey process, company interviews, and live and videotaped presentations with private companies to identify barriers and test strategies that can be used by private company purchasing agents and asset managers to facilitate recycling of electronic equipment.

Delta concluded that by far the two most prevalent and widespread barriers to using best management practices for purchasing and recycling of electronics were (1) a lack of awareness around electronics purchasing and recycling certifications and registries, and (2) persistent negative perceptions around electronic certifications and registries. Delta beta-tested on company representatives the effectiveness of two delivery methods designed to raise awareness and remove negative perceptions: a live educational presentation and a videotaped webinar. Results from the taped webinar were inconclusive. However, responses from the live presentation suggested that the presentation was successful at raising awareness and dispelling negative perceptions about electronics registrations and certifications to encourage their use. While it is hoped and anticipated that removal of these barriers led to increased recycling of electronics in participating companies, verification was beyond the scope of this study.”

For more ISTC publications, see http://www.istc.illinois.edu/info/library_clearinghouse.cfmISTC logo

Illini Gadget Garage Hours Set, Courses Begin

Illini Gadget Garage project team
Photo by Joyce Seay-Knoblauch. Pictured (left to right): William Bullock, professor of industrial design, Joy Scrogum, coordinator of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, and Martin Wolske, research scientist and adjunct faculty member in library and information science.

In case you missed it, check out the UI News Bureau coverage of the Illini Gadget Garage project. Thanks to Jodi Heckel for helping spread the word!

As noted in this article, the Gadget Garage will open to the general campus community for repair assistance on Monday, September 14. Fall hours will be Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from 2 to 6 p.m.

Professors Martin Wolske and William Bullock are also teaching courses associated with the Gadget Garage, with classes beginning this week. Professor Bullock’s class is a multidisciplinary effort with the following course objectives:

  • Collaborate with peers from business, design & technology in planning and startup
  • Experience project management, leadership and team building
  • Create a business and marketing plan to insure success going forward
  • Plan and implement new branding, advertising and wayfinding strategies
  • Participation in the iFixit Technical Writing Project (a unique portfolio piece)
  • Knowledge to create more sustainable designs and extend product life cycles

Professor Bullock is particularly interested in having students with interests in marketing and engineering participate alongside their peers from industrial design. A few seats are still available; interested students should see the course flyer and contact Professor Bullock directly with questions. Professor Wolske’s Introduction to Network Systems class will be meeting in the Gadget Garage space, and students will have opportunities to work on service learning projects associated with this project for the course.

See the Illini Gadget Garage page on the Sustainable Electronics Initiative web site for more information on the courses and the project itself, including a map of its location. General questions can be addressed to Joy Scrogum.

Illini Gadget Garage Discussion, Wednesday, August 5th

laptop and stethoscope
Photo by jfcherry on flickr. CC by 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Members of the UI sustainable electronics campus consortium and other interested parties are invited to attend a meeting at 11:30 AM on Wednesday, Aug. 5th at ISTC to learn more about and discuss the Illini Gadget Garage project. The project team will be meeting to discuss current progress (location, classes to be associated with the project, etc.) and next steps.  Anyone interested in learning more or providing feedback is welcome to attend. Feel free to bring lunch along with you. Because this meeting will involve a group discussion, rather than formal presentations, it will not be simultaneously broadcast as a webinar.

Funded by the Student Sustainability Committee, this project involves the establishment of a collaborative repair center on campus for student and staff-owned electronic devices. See http://wp.istc.illinois.edu/blog/2015/06/30/illini-gadget-garage-project-will-extend-useful-life-of-student-and-staff-electronics/ for further information. For those unable to attend, minutes will be posted to the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) web site. At any time, please feel free to contact Joy Scrogum with any questions about the project, or to discuss ways to become involved. A page devoted to the project will be added to the SEI web site in the near future.

ISTC Webinar: How Sustainable is Information Technology?

http://www.istc.illinois.edu/images/parts/ISTClogo.gifJoin SEI’s parent organization, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) for a webinar this Thursday, February 12, from 12:00 – 1:00 pm CST. Our presenter will be Eric Masanet – Morris E. Fine Junior Professor in Materials and Manufacturing and Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering and Chemical and Biological Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, Northwestern University. Dr. Masanet will discuss How sustainable is information technology? Trends, challenges, and opportunities.

Abstract: The growing numbers of information technology (IT) devices—and the environmental impacts associated with their manufacture, use, and disposal—are topics that have received much attention in both the media and research communities. While the environmental footprint of IT devices is indeed significant, each new device generation typically brings substantial operational energy efficiency improvements. Furthermore, a singular focus on their direct impacts ignores the indirect environmental benefits that IT devices might provide by improving societal energy and resource efficiencies. A growing body of research suggests that such benefits might be substantial across the economy through such applications as replacing physical goods with digital services, building controls for energy efficiency, and real-time logistics optimization. This presentation will review the life-cycle impacts of IT systems, discuss trends in these impacts as a function of technology progress and growing consumption over time, and highlight the challenges and opportunities associated with managing and reducing the environmental impacts of IT systems moving forward.

Register for the webinar online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7017258394988082434. This webinar will be broadcast live and also archived on our website at http://www.istc.illinois.edu/about/sustainability_seminars.cfm for later viewing.

To view details and registration information for other upcoming ISTC seminars please visit our calendar.

5 Source Reduction Tips for Electronics Consumers

In case you missed it, this post, written by Joy Scrogum, was originally published on the Great Lakes Regional Pollution Prevention Roundtable (GLRPPR) blog, as part of a series of posts in honor of Pollution Prevention Week during the third week in September.

Happy 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.

Webinar, Oct. 21: Sustainable Electronics for Purchasers

Join Joy Scrogum of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center‘s Sustainable Electronics Initiative to learn about topics related to electronic devices and greener procurement. She’ll discuss purchase avoidance, reuse, repairing instead of replacing, supply chain issues (e.g. conflict minerals), and resources to help make more responsible choices. This webinar is a presentation for the IL Green Governments Coordinating Council Procurement Subcommittee, but is open to other interested parties. The webinar will take place from 9-10 AM (Central time) on Tuesday, October 21, 2014. Register at https://www4.gotomeeting.com/register/890717127.