SEI Receives National Award

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. Continue reading “SEI Receives National Award”

Exciting new electronic designs

As I have been browsing the internet for new e-waste related news, I have found a few news items that have sparked my interest. All of the following are exciting, since they promote the use of less energy and also less electronic waste. This is not an advertisement for a particular organization or company, but of a pat on the back to the designers and engineers who are concerned about sustainability.

1. Universal Laptop Chargers

asusTwo Taiwanese companies have openly stated that they are in favor of universal laptop chargers! The two companies are Asustek and Acer, who place fifth and second, in all worldwide laptop shipments (PC Pro). This is very exciting news, as chargers and other laptop and electronics accessories are large suppliers of electronic waste. According to DigiTimes, manufacturers such as  Quanta Computer, Compal Electronics, Wistron, Pegatron Technology and Inventec also support the move to uniform laptop chargers. I am interested to see this new development, since verbal support does not always materialize in financial support. As someone who lives in a household with three laptops for two people, I would be very happy to see a move to a more efficient use of our resources and cables.

2. Bike-Powered Electronic Devices

Cell phones are ubiquitous in today’s society, and one thing accompanying cell phones are their chargers. nokiabicyclechargerkit01There have been several design concepts suggesting various ways to charge cell phones by simply using kinetic energy; these ideas include foot power, cranking, rotating, and more (Green Diary). One concept I have heard about on several occasions have been a bicycle-powered cell phone charger. Most designs I have heard about, however, have been student project designs with little marketing capabilities. But it seems that Nokia has created a bike-powered cell phone charger that is marketed toward developing nations or nations with high bike-riding populations (Inhabitat). As someone who loves to ride her bike to work and also forgets to charge her cell phone frequently, this concept is perfect – and perfectly sustainable! With this new product, you can charge your phone, help the environment, and also prevent your cell phone charger from turning into an energy vampire.

3. Cell Phone Charger Energy Vampire Slayer

vampire_finalAs briefly mentioned above, cell phone chargers have a tendency to be energy vampires. Energy vampires are devices that draw energy while plugged into a wall but not plugged into another device. This means that you cell phone is drawing energy when it is only plugged into the wall and not plugged into your cell phone as well. To combat this problem, AT&T has recently announced their first Zero Draw charger. This new technology turns off the charger once your phone or other electronic device is fully charged. This helps protect the environment and your pocketbook! In addition, this charger also aims to increase its compatibility with various chargers and ports.

I hope that you share my excitement in these new developments. I hope the market will answer in a positive way that will only encourage more sustainable design!

30% of use still means there is 70% waste

apple_iphoneRecently, AppleInsider published a story titled “Nearly 30% of Apple’s first-gen iPhones are still in use – report“. In short, the report mentions several statistics regarding the first generation iPhone. Please keep in mind that the first iPhone was released in June 2007, only to be replaced by the iPhone 3G in July 2008. That means that this phone was marketed (very well, if I remember correctly) for a mere 13 months.  The first generation iPhone sold 6.1 million units, which were  most likely all purchased within those 13 months. After all, why would someone want to buy an old version of a phone, if the newer, cooler, faster, sleeker model is available for a similar price?

The report names several other statistic, but I want to focus on the main statistic here. 30% of first generation iPhones are still being used. This means that 1.83 million first generation iPhones are still in use. And yes, that is a large number. However, 4.27 million is a greater number – this represents the amount of first generation iPhones that are no longer in use. What happened to these phones? Did they break? Did they suffer a fall that rendered them incapable of functioning correctly? I bet this happened only rarely. Instead, Apple came out with a new product. This product was superior to the previous generation of Apple products.  If my memory serves me correctly, since the introduction of the first generation iPhone, the world has also been introduced to two more generations of iPhones, as well as the iTouch and the brand new iPad. (And in related news: Apple Sold 1 million iPads in a month!)

While these new gadgets are a lot of fun, I am concerned about our lasting impact on the environment. The resources and natural capital needed to make these products is expensive, as well as environmentally hazardous. More importantly, the vast disposal and often improper disposal methods increase our need for a more sustainable system. However, Electronics Recyclers International CEO John Shegerian seems to disagree with me. In the article “Why the E-Waste Industry Love the iPad“, he mentions that this the iPad is a good thing.

I wonder if it is possible to allow designers to be creative and create new products, which would add to existing gadgets, instead of creating a desire for increased disposal and consumption of new products? Even if Apple, or any other electronics designer and manufacturer, would introduce a new performance-based, rather than product-based, model for their business and industry. We still have to convince consumers  that a cell phone, computer, or other electronic device can function to its full potential by simply maintaining the equipment, similar to the way you maintain your car, and possibly upgrading to a few new features. This would allow us to use our new gadgets until they actually fail, instead of only lasting as long as we think they are fun. For example, when the seats in your car start to wear down, do you get rid of your car and purchase a new one? Why can’t we have the same model for our electronics?

Apple is obviously concerned about their impact on the environment, as they have published information about the carbon emissions related to their products. By performing such analyses, one only hopes that Apple designers and engineers will be able to make products which will improve their products by leaving a lower environmental footprint. But I do want to encourage Apple and other electronic recyclers to research the life cycle impacts of their products, and consider not only the design of their products, but also the lasting environmental impact their products will leave on the Earth and future generations.

E-Waste Competition Winners Announced

poster2010

Winners have been announced in the International E-Waste Competition.  The competition is part of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The competition is designed to prompt the industrialized world to dialogue about product designs for environmentally responsible computing and entertainment. The goals of this competition are to learn about ways to re-use electronic waste (E-Waste) for new and productive means, explore new ideas of how to address E-Waste problems, and contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design.

The winners were announced at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), the coordinating agency for the Sustainable Electronics Initiative.  ISTC is part of the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois.

The videos of the winning entrants were shown as a part of the International E-Waste Video Film Festival. The videos of the winning entries will be shown on the websites of the e-waste competition www.ewaste.illinois.edu, www.istc.illinois.edu, www.sustainelectronics.illinois.edu, as well as SEI’s YouTube Channel.

Entries were judged in two categories: Technical/Geek and Artist/Designer. A total of 33 entries were submitted; 26 were in the Artist/Designer category, and 7 in the Technical/Geek category. Prizes were awarded for the top three projects within each category, along with two honorable mentions in the Artist/Designer category. The first, second, and third place winners will receive $5000, $3000, and $1000 monetary prizes, respectively. In addition, honorable mentions will receive $500. The total amount of money to be given out during the International E-Waste Competition is close to $20,000, which has been made possible through generous contributions by several sponsors, including Dell and Wal-mart.

Technical/Geek Category Winners

First Place

  • Team: Port-e-garden
  • Project name: Port-e-garden
  • School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Video

Second Place

  • Team: Chaps
  • Project name: BioGrow
  • School: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Video

Third Place

  • Team: CSULB Studio Group #1
  • Project name: The Pure Drive Home Automation and Computing System
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA
  • Video

Artist/Designer Category Winners

First Place

  • Team: revOlve
  • Project name: revOlve
  • School: Rochester Institute of Technology, New York
  • Video

Second Place

  • Team: eLiminators
  • Project name: E-volve
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA
  • Video

Third Place

  • Team: eMotion
  • Project name: eMotion
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA
  • Video

Honorable Mention

  • Team: CSULB ID 2011
  • Project name: The Personalized E-Waste Recycling Bin
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA

Honorable Mention

  • Team: CSULB ID Team
  • Project name: E-Responsibility
  • School: California State University, Long Beach CA

The competition was started at UIUC in the fall of 2009. In 2010, the competition was expanded to an international base, where students from all over the globe were able to submit their projects and a 2-minute video online. Each project was judged on their project description and video.

The international scope of the competition was evident through students who submitted entries from various states in the US (Illinois, Minnesota, California, New York) and other countries (Cyprus, Canada, Australia, Turkey and South Korea). The jury of the competition included a variety of experts, including

  • Vicky Matranga, Design Program Coordinator of International Housewares Association;
  • Clive Roux, CEO of the Industrial Designers Society of America;
  • Joe Jasinski, Global Senior Industrial Design Manager at Dell, Inc.;
  • Steve Belletire, Design Area Head at Southern Illinois University;
  • Sam Al-Basha, Engineer at the IL Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity;
  • Chris Newman, Materials and Management Branch of US EPA;
  • Mike Tibbs, Sr. Director of Information Systems Division Compliance at Wal-mart;
  • Roger L. Franz, Engineering Manager at Motorola;
  • and Will Larkin, Director of Vendor Management Office and Star Complex at Wal-mart.

Designing Wastefulness

In one of my classes at the University of Illinois, each student was assigned to study a modern product in depth and then give a presentation on it a couple weeks later. The overall theme for the presentations was, “Newer is Better!” Whether it was a presentation about LED lights, Blue Ray lasers, Teflon, or electronics, the message was clear, this new technology far exceeds the old so it’s out with the old, in with the new.

I agree that most of these products exceed their earlier generation versions. They usually offer more features, perform better, and they even often use less energy. I am all for better designs, in fact, that is what my 4 years of undergrad in Industrial Design was all about.

I am, however, fearful that these designs encourage wastefulness. Continue reading “Designing Wastefulness”

Electronics and Sustainability: Design for Energy and the Environment

greenearthThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI), part of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center and the Institute of Natural Resource Sustainability at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), is hosting their first electronics and sustainability symposium. The event will be he held on February 23 and 24, 2010 at the I-Hotel and Conference Center.

Continue reading “Electronics and Sustainability: Design for Energy and the Environment”

Helping two great causes at once!

cell phone recycling By now, everyone has heard of the massive earthquake which struck Haiti last week. Undoubtedly, everyone has heard horrid stories of devastation. As I wondered what to write this week’s blog about, I found an article, which really speaks for itself, and I just wanted to make our blog followers aware of this cause, because it is a wonderful way to incorporate ewaste issues along with charity.

Continue reading “Helping two great causes at once!”

Sustainability in the eyes of a recent graduate

SEI welcomes new staff member Aida Williams. In this post, Aida talks about her training as an engineer, how the concept of sustainability was dealt with in her experience as a student, and ideas for how engineering programs could foster the type of thinking needed to approach sustainability issues.

Sustainability is a term used often in today’s technical professions, and it is most certainly a buzz word heard around college campuses. I am a recent graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, shortly referred to as Georgia Tech. There, I majored in mechanical engineering, where I received a good education at a top-notch school. But how much did this education prepare me for my current line of work dealing with sustainability and e-waste?
Continue reading “Sustainability in the eyes of a recent graduate”

Diigo Digest: Environmentalists Teach Dos and Don'ts of E-Waste : NPR

NPR’s comprehensive overview of E-Waste according to Barbara Kyle of the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and Garth Hickle of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.