Eco-Electronics 101: The Top 3 Sustainable Gadgets

It’s not uncommon to hear people bitching about the woes of the 21st century. Short attention spans this, lazy millennials that, and before ya know it someone brings up the most beloved topic of our times...technology. Yes, that dreaded stuff that gets blamed for everyone’s ratchet behavior but maintains its status as one of the most purchased-from categories out there.

But there’s something that isn’t often discussed about problems with technology - the electronic waste (or e-waste) that results from it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as attached to my tablet, headphones, and smartphone as the next person (whether you wanna admit it or not). But we’ve got a big problem here you guys! In 2014 alone, more than 41 million metric tons of e-waste was generated. Out of this 41 million metric tons, only about 6.5 million tonnes became a part of “take back systems” (basically electronic upcycling.)

What happens to the rest of it, you ask? Turns out there’s not enough research to tell, so unfortunately we assume the worst, which is that it ends up in the trash. We know by now that too much trash is definitely a bad thing, but because of the materials involved, e-waste is a complete shit show. So what’s someone trying to lead a sustainable lifestyle to do? I mean you can always quit modern life and live off the grid in a mountain somewhere, but in case you miss wifi and you find out that’s not for you, you could always try for more sustainable electronics.

Don’t know where, why, and/or how to start? No worries! Imma break it down for you.

01. Headphones

If you’re like me, you go through headphones like Twitter goes through Trump tweets...okay, maybe not quite that fast, but you get the picture. And you don’t know what to do with them when they’re done for. So they sit in your junk drawer because you know if you throw them away they’ll just end up at the bottom of the ocean, prolly as some water animal’s lunch. Ahem...anyway, enough about my headphone probs.

Better Brands:

Earth Bass uses bamboo and bioplastics to make dope headphones. So far it seems you can only get them on Amazon, which isn’t exactly known for being sustainable, but maybe the fact that they’re compostable makes that trade off worth it.

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House of Marley How does 10% off sound? What about free shipping over $29.99? How about both of these with durable headphones made from FSC-certified wood, organic cotton, and recyclable aluminum? Yeah, we thought you’d be down.

OnBeat While not compostable or recyclable, OnBeat headphones made the list because they’re solar powered. Not only that, they can charge your phone while you use them, so it ticks both an environmental and a lazy multitasking box.

02. Computers

How did people do shit before computers? Pardon my first world probs but it sounds like a massive pain in the ass to be a student or run a business without a computer around to do half the shit for you, or at least make it easier. I know they’ve got an ugly environmental impact, but some companies have been finding a way to combine the best of both worlds. With that being said, check out what’s hot on the streets as far as sustainable computers go.

Better Brands:

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Recompute This is hands down the weirdest - and weirdest looking - thing on this list. But! It’s what on the inside that counts. Recompute is a desktop computer that requires fewer materials and less energy to produce than your conventional computer, and get this - it’s exterior is made from cardboard. It’s designed to last longer than your typical computer as well, and the company has a take-back program to recycle the whole thing when it can’t help but go kaput.

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iameco The v3 desktop computer by iameco touts having a carbon footprint that is 70% less than your typical computer. This apparently makes it eligible for some flower certification I’ve never heard of. Apparently the computer is made from minimal hazardous materials and as many recyclable components as possible. The downside is...it’s shipped from Ireland, so have fun with the international shipping price tag.

The Computer You’re Prolly Using to Read This Oftentimes the most sustainable product is the one you already have! Maybe the computer you have wasn’t made sustainably (most aren’t after all), but before throwing it out for its eco-friendly counterpart, try to remember that you’ll avoid the e-waste problem from your computer as long as you keep it and use it. Try to have it fixed as much as possible before replacing it, even if it is with a more environmentally friendly option.

03. Smartphones

Last but certainly not least, the mother of all gadgets, the leader of the pack...the one and only smartphone. Unfortunately the device of all devices most definitely has an eco footprint. To be fair, this footprint changes based on what the phone is being used for (for instance, it turns out that texting is more eco-friendly than calling), but the fact is that smartphones and the data centers that end up powering them both require a buttload of energy that ends up emitted as carbon emissions. Some companies have been pioneering improvements for planet friendly phones though.

Better Brands:

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Fairphone In a world where you’re either an iPhoner or a Samsunger, it’s hard for the new kid on the block to get any street cred. Fairphone is gradually climbing the ranks though, and that’s probably because the company has a sustainable business model that no one else in the smartphone industry has yet. If you want a long-lasting, repairable, ethical phone, you def need to check out the Fairphone.

Nokia Nokia is kind of a grandpa in the tech world now, but maybe we should take that as a sign that they know what they’re doing. The Good Shopping Guide certainly seems to think they do since they rank Nokia quite high in their ethical smartphones list. So even though they’re prolly not the perfect company, if you must get a new phone from a conventional company, Nokia is probably your best bet.

BlackBerry Another dark horse on the list, especially considering it was once on Greenpeace’s shit list. It’s now being applauded for its efforts in environmental reporting, eco-labeling, and animal welfare and human rights responsibility among others. Who says people never change?

Although this list is by no means all-inclusive, it’s a starting point in the sustainable electronics world. And if you find you can’t get your hands on anything on this list, you can still check us out on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as a way to #protectyourwild (I never promised no shameless plugs.)

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By Darian Williams, ALDA's Blog and Digital Marketing Specialist Intern