Being a 'green' tech geek. Possible?

I’m looking at a couple of new home computers (for work+play) and all the recent Foxconn type reveals over apple products etc have made me much more aware of the range of environmental and social issues that being a computer ‘geek’ can bring up.

So i’m hoping to compile so info in this thread to be of use to other ‘green/ethical’ tech users like myself, and if anyone has more info on the subject please chip in.

Handy websites:

Greenpeace do the ‘Guide to Greener Electronics’:

Greenest computer parts tech brands:

  1. Gigabyte (non Foxconn)

  1. Gooshing website - helps search for ‘ethical’ PC parts

(to be updated)

General advice:

Upgrade less often (so extend the use of your hardware) and buy less tech gadgets (as most are made with huge impact on the environment and social factors like exploiting child labour etc).

Here’s what Apple officially says:

As far as CO2 output per unit time of use, tablets are far in front of any computer, and laptops are generally superior to most desktops. And aside from typical Apple dystopian social practices it’s unlikely that Greenpeace chart has enough granularity to tell much distinction between a couple close companies. They’re all basically not green, but it’s also likely that most of the environmental impact is in the manufacturing of it, rather than the power used by it, unless you’re using it as a server 24-7 or part of a Folding@home farm. Actually that leads me to wonder if there isn’t a work unit/watt folding@home comparison somewhere…

In other words; be green by buying a used tablet. :)

The best thing you can do for the environment as a tech guy is not falling into the ‘ooh, shiny’ trap. People who buy a new iPhone every year are basically taking a dump on Mother Nature’s forehead.

Like Enidigm said, buy used, choose a tablet, and - most importantly - buy stuff that is made to last and somewhat future proof.

I think that being a gadget guy is basically incompatible with being environmentally responsible.

Or don’t buy.

I learned that PCBs are made of highly toxic materials. Pretty much all gadgets, now and in the foreseeable future, continues to use PCBs. So yeah, the only way we can rationalize being green is to buy and use fewer gadgets.

The only green computing you could hope to do is using abacus.

All electronics, both boards and chips, utilize highly toxic chemicals in manufacturing.

The best you could hope is to go for energy efficient, look for the energy efficiency star on displays and high-efficiency PSUs.

Ethical? Probably also impossible, even Texas Instruments manufactures in China. If you assemble devices from parts on your own, then you can probably cut out sweat shops, individual components are all products of automated production lines.

I do the ‘buying few’ option already, in many area’s. I tend to keep my favourite hardware (and games) and never buy the next ‘new’ thing if it does not significantly improve on things (one reason i ducked this generation of consoles) to my requirements.

I am not like a magpie, so ‘shinny’ things do not attract me (i don’t own a smart-phone nor i-anything).

But the family home does rely on computers for work and play, so i do end up building desktops and buying laptops from time to time.

My partners old P4 she uses for work stuff is due an upgrade, and probably i could do with one too (how long can you keep a socket 939? Quite long it turns out as most games i play still run fine on it as does Photoshop etc!). Laptops are all good for now.

I had a look at the PDF from Greenpeace, and they are pretty in-depth, and as an independent, i much rather trust their report over any self-published company report, as i’m sure with their background on environmental concerns, they will be a much harsher critic.

Avoiding Foxconn is nearly impossible, BUT you can cut down by trying to pick parts made by companies that don’t use them as much as others. That list is small, but i’ll be working to add names to the first post as i get them. ‘Gigabyte’ is one (they also have quite a strong ‘apple-like’ self imposed company policy on trying to be ethical).

A related theme, this is about saving money on your electricity bill in relation to heavy gadget reliance.

‘Death metal: tin mining in Indonesia’:

There is a chain here: Bangka and Belitung produce 90% of Indonesia’s tin, and Indonesia is the world’s second-largest exporter of the metal.
A recent Businessweek investigation into tin mining in Bangka found that Indonesia’s national tin corporation, PT Timah, supplies companies such as Samsung directly, as well as solder makers Chernan and Shenmao, which in turn supply Foxconn (which manufactures many Apple products).

Chernan has also supplied Samsung, Sony and LG. So it is highly likely that the smartphone or tablet you use has Bangkanese tin in it, perhaps mined by Suge or one of the many tens of thousands of men like him, most of whom earn around £5 a day in a local industry that fetches roughly £42m of revenue for Indonesia every year.

In some ways yes, in other ways no. If your gadgets mean you can work from home, even occasionally, you are saving a bunch of environmental damage by not commuting. If your gadgets let you skype with people rather than flying/driving to meet with them, the same applies.
Plus I’m saving a bunch of energy by shopping online rather than in stores, buying digital rather than physical copies etc…

Also you can stretch the definition of gadget to stuff like hybrid cars and solar panels, both of which are obviously pretty green.

Desktops may use more materials than laptops/tablets, but I’ve never managed to upgrade a laptop/tablet, and apple won’t even let you replace a battery.

But agreed that the best thing is not to be one of those guys with an ipad1, ipad2, ipad3 and so on, or at least make sure your old gadgets get given/sold rather than binned.

I pulled out my old, unused 2006 iMac recently and started using that instead of my main computer. Ironically it boots faster and is more responsive than my 2010 Mac Mini.

Avoid the WD "Green Power# hard Drives. Apparently they have an issue that cause them to fail after only a few months. happened to me and when reading about it on the interwebs it seems like it was a common problem.

It’s getting more and more difficult. Rare earth metals are used in a wide variety of electronics. The mining of rare earths uses vast amounts of water, consumes staggering amounts of electricity and can leave radioactive waste.

The article does point out that mining can be done more safely using proper waste disposal procedures, but that process uses even more water.

That may change soon. Limits on rare earth are already driving innovation in that area:

Child labour now part of the issue of that Indonesian tin mining issue:

Apple and Samsung are in trouble for child exploitation and environmental pollution, according to reports. Both companies have been slammed by Friends of the Earth

Samsung has admitted to using tin from mines in Indonesia and says it is committed to addressing the problem. Apple is yet to release a statement on the matter.

We wrote in February that Friends of the Earth had accused Apple and Samsung of “trashing tropical forests and coral reefs in Indonesia” with its use of tin in the iPhone and iPad.

Samsung responded to Friends of the Earth’s claims, however, Apple has not issued a statement on the matter. "Apple has refused to answer its own customers’ questions about Bangka - even though Apple almost certainly uses the island’s tin,” a Friends of the Earth spokesperson told Korea Times.

Samsung issued the following statement to Friends of the Earth: “While we do not have a direct relationship with tin suppliers from Bangka Island, we do know that some of the tin that we use for manufacturing our products does originate from this area.”

Samsung promised: “We are also undertaking a thorough investigation of our supply chain in the region to better understand what is happening, and what part we play.”

A Guardian report states that the unregulated tin mining “depends on child labour, wrecks the environment and kills an estimated 150 miners every year”.

An investigation by The Guardian last November, found that 150 miners a year die trying to mine the islands tin.

Since “tech” can refer to non-computer technologies, and given predicaments such as a global financial crisis, peak oil, and global warming, then one may consider skills and tools connected to localization, such as permaculture, herbal medicine, rain water management, food storage and preservation, etc.

Yeah, this was a thread more about the possibilities of getting info on the best sources for ‘green’ computer technology, and general ‘geek’ gadgets (like i-pads etc). Some things can be reasonable (as in the greenpeace guide thing), many not so (as in the apple and smart phone manufacturing issues etc).

This seems relevant to the discussion

So… I guess downloadable games for the win!

Awesome, and thanks nKoan for the infos. So true.

A small article in the guardian:

‘Go gadget, go green’:

There is a bunch of reasonable ‘green living’ tips in the various links from that one page :)