Features | July 15, 2008 |
Green Gadgeteers of the Maker Movement
Sadly, the fallout from this practice doesn’t just pinch the pocketbook. Landfills in America are overflowing with broken, worn out, or otherwise not currently useful products; things that decades ago might have been simply repaired or serviced with a replacement part. Now it’s rare to find devices that can even be disassembled without voiding a warranty.
This problem is especially true of electronics, like cell phones, personal music players and televisions. These products often contain large amounts of hazardous materials like lead, cadmium, and phosphorous, which present a serious ecological danger if—as all to often happens—they are disposed of improperly.
But one group of Americans, equal parts enterprising, thrifty, environmentally conscious, and curious, have begun a literal movement to contravene the wastefulness of consumerist culture. It’s called the “Maker Movement,” and it’s begun to make an impact; the movement’s bible, Make Magazine, already claims a circulation of 110,000.
As Make Magazine editor Dale Dougherty recently told NPR, the movement boils down to a simple question: “What can I do with my first generation digital camera or second generation digital camera or my first iPod? I mean, they’re lying in a closet somewhere. I can do something interesting with them, that—it’s part of the assets we have at hand; why not use them somehow?”
Being a member of the Maker Movement, or simply a “Maker,” as they’ve termed themselves, has not always been easy. Corporate culture, especially profitable corporate culture, dies hard. But with a clearly delineated manifesto, several corporations have taken notice of the rising demand for parts than can be replaced, devices that can be opened, and schematics that can be easily read.
Apple has been one of the most obvious converts to this new corporate ideology. While first-generation iPods were glued shut and unserviceable, a recent analysis shows that nearly every part on the new iPhone 3G can be accessed and replaced with a minimal amount of technical savvy. The company’s distinctive laptops also have also become far more user serviceable over the years; new MacBooks now have memory and a hard drive tucked just behind the battery, where drive replacement on an older iBook was a complex, time-consuming project.
The end result of all this reinventing and refurbishing isn’t just less junk in landfills, and fewer chemicals in the water supply. Reducing the turnover of products decreases the amount of energy spent on production, and, as a vast majority of products are produced in distant areas where labor comes cheap, energy spent in transport as well.
That adds up to a tremendous reduction in carbon footprint, as well as lessened demand on thin-stretched gas and diesel supplies, and thus lowered pressure to drill for oil in ecologically sensitive areas. So it’s clear to see that, in the long run, reusing, repairing, and refurbishing your old or damaged products can end up saving you far more than money.
Constant Computer Turnover Equals Electronic Waste
iPhone Testing Reveals Hazardous Substances
The Dangers of Recycling E-Waste
Computer Manufacturers Compete with Eco-Friendly Initiatives
Best Buy Will Recycle Your Electronic Waste
Photo by Flickr user Michael R. Johnson