Ask Pablo

I confess: I am addicted to the latest tech gadgets. Can I be green too?

Topics: Environment, Global Warming

Dear Pablo,

Like many people in my generation, I am both a technophile and an environmentalist. Can I have the latest gadgets and be green?

I think you may have discovered the quandary of Generation Y (or is it “Why?”). How do we reconcile our visions for a more sustainable world with that uncontrollable urge to bring everything shiny and electronic back to our nests? The most sustainable answer, of course, is to address the root of this perceived need. Do I really need it? Can I borrow one? Can I rent one? Can I fix my old one? Can I play with it for hours at the Apple store until the novelty wears off?

Assuming that the answer to all of these questions is no, and that you have justified the acquisition of this gadget in your highly rational cranium (“But look, Mom, it will save me gas”), where does that leave us? I could just end my answer there, but I think that there is still a chance that you will make a more environmentally friendly decision.

To help answer your question, I will turn to the recently released ninth edition of “Greenpeace’s Guide to Greener Electronics.” The guide aims to help you reduce toxic substances and encourage end-of-life product take-back and recycling, essentially mirroring the efforts of the European Union’s RoHS (reduction of hazardous substances) and WEEE (waste electronic and electrical equipment) directives. Since the initial guide came out in 2006, the requirements on the reduction of toxic substances have been increased and criteria have been added to improve corporate policies and practices with respect to climate and energy.

You Might Also Like

Over the years, the field of companies included in this guide has slowly moved in a positive direction, while some companies advanced more than others, or even worsened their environmental performance. Most notably, longtime environmental laggard Apple has moved up from an overall ranking of 2.7 (out of 10) to a 4.1 in the current report. With a new line of iPods, which have eliminated many of the toxic substances previously found in its products, Apple seems to be on the green path, or at least heading in the right direction.

When you go out to buy your new gadget, review the rankings of companies in the Greenpeace guide and remember a few things:

  • Find products that comply with the E.U.’s RoHS law. This should be clearly identified on the packaging or on the product itself.
  • Look for companies that feature end-of-life take-back and recycling programs. No one wants his old computer or cellphone to end up in a landfill or an incinerator.
  • Support companies that have made an effort to reduce their packaging and whose packaging is made from recycled and recyclable materials.
  • Compare the energy use of comparable products. Appliances or electronics that consume a lot of energy will cause the most environmental harm by being used rather than in their manufacture, so make sure that they have an Energy Star label or otherwise perform more efficiently than other options.
  • Make sure that the product is durable. Even if a broken product is covered by warranty and is replaced at no cost to you, the environmental impact of your gadget’s production is now doubled.

    Familiarizing yourself with the environmental performance of companies and their products, as well as remembering these few tips, will enable you to make an informed decision that will help protect the environment and still allow you to feed your gadget need.

  • Got a question about the environment? Ask Pablo at AskPablo@Salon.com.

    More Related Stories

    Featured Slide Shows

    • Share on Twitter
    • Share on Facebook
    • 1 of 11
    • Close
    • Fullscreen
    • Thumbnails
      Martyna Blaszczyk/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 1

      Pond de l'Archeveche - hundreds thousands of padlocks locked to a bridge by random couples, as a symbol of their eternal love. After another iconic Pont des Arts bridge was cleared of the padlocks in 2010 (as a safety measure), people started to place their love symbols on this one. Today both of the bridges are full of love locks again.

      Anders Andersson/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 2

      A bird's view of tulip fields near Voorhout in the Netherlands, photographed with a drone in April 2015.

      Aashit Desai/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 3

      Angalamman Festival is celebrated every year in a small town called Kaveripattinam in Tamil Nadu. Devotees, numbering in tens of thousands, converge in this town the day after Maha Shivratri to worship the deity Angalamman, meaning 'The Guardian God'. During the festival some of the worshippers paint their faces that personifies Goddess Kali. Other indulge in the ritual of piercing iron rods throughout their cheeks.

      Allan Gichigi/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 4

      Kit Mikai is a natural rock formation about 40m high found in Western Kenya. She goes up the rocks regularly to meditate. Kit Mikai, Kenya

      Chris Ludlow/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 5

      On a weekend trip to buffalo from Toronto we made a pit stop at Niagara Falls on the Canadian side. I took this shot with my nexus 5 smartphone. I was randomly shooting the falls themselves from different viewpoints when I happened to get a pretty lucky and interesting shot of this lone seagull on patrol over the falls. I didn't even realize I had captured it in the shot until I went back through the photos a few days later

      Jassen T./National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 6

      Incredibly beautiful and extremely remote. Koehn Lake, Mojave Desert, California. Aerial Image.

      Howard Singleton/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 7

      Lucky timing! The oxpecker was originally sitting on hippo's head. I could see the hippo was going into a huge yawn (threat display?) and the oxpecker had to vacate it's perch. When I snapped the pic, the oxpecker appeared on the verge of being inhaled and was perfectly positioned between the massive gaping jaws of the hippo. The oxpecker also appears to be screeching in terror and back-pedaling to avoid being a snack!

      Abrar Mohsin/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 8

      The Yetis of Nepal - The Aghoris as they are called are marked by colorful body paint and clothes

      Madeline Crowley/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 9

      Taken from a zodiac raft on a painfully cold, rainy day

      Ian Bird/National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest

      National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest Entries

      Slide 10

      This wave is situated right near the CBD of Sydney. Some describe it as the most dangerous wave in Australia, due to it breaking on barnacle covered rocks only a few feet deep and only ten metres from the cliff face. If you fall off you could find yourself in a life and death situation. This photo was taken 300 feet directly above the wave from a helicopter, just as the surfer is pulling into the lip of the barrel.

    • Recent Slide Shows

    Comments

    0 Comments

    Comment Preview

    Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

    You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>