I currently have five desktop computers in my apartment, ranging in age from a 1999 Power Mac “Sawtooth” to a 2005 Power Mac G5. In between are three Windows PCs – none newer than 2004 – in various stages of disrepair.
The laptop you’re reading this post on likely has more processing power than all of my computers combined. Le sigh. But that’s not what I’m writing about.
What’s got me thinking is the fact that, for the past 15 years, I’ve been happily obsessed with computers and the purchasing/acquiring thereof. What I haven’t been obsessed with is what happens to all of these metallic menaces once they’re no longer capable of providing the computing experience I desire. I have more mercury in my bedroom than NASA did in the 60’s, people. Now what?
In World of Warcraft, one of the first skills an enchanter learns is how to “disenchant” items, breaking them down into component parts in order to enchant or make other items. I wish I had this skill in real life – break down the crap that I acquire and make something usable out of it – but a man can only own so many motherboard clocks. At a certain point, it’s time to throw it away.
Human beings excel at making things, but frankly we’re pretty lame at unmaking things. As Americans we often put all our thoughts into obtaining and acquiring – car, phone, computer. When was the last time you bought a piece of technology and thought about what would happen to it when you didn’t want it anymore? It’s not such a big deal for organic things, but the stuff computers are made out of – mercury, lead, adamantium – doesn’t go away. The plastic in the keyboard I’m typing this on is going to outlive me, my children, my children’s children. How scary is that!
I’ve been doing some digging about what the heck to do with old tech. Here are the most promising and pragmatic that I’ve found:
Create a green job by donating it to Goodwill (thanks, Dell Reconnect!)
Recycle it at Best Buy (free)
Recycle it at Office Depot ($5-$15 depending on the size)
Donate old phones to victims of domestic abuse in your community (thanks, Verizon!)
What do you think? What’s the best way to be a technology geek and not trash the planet upon which we depend for everything?