Go Green: Repair, not discard, electronics

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In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.

Q: My smartphone broke, my MP3 player died and my computer monitor isn't working. What do I do with all these electronics after I finish spending a lot of money on replacements?

A: First, sorry about all your bad luck with electronics. You're right that buying new devices will cost you some money, and recycling electronics (or "e-waste") needs to be done in a very specific way, lest they end up in landfills leaking toxic substances into the groundwater.

You should find a recycler certified to R2 or e-Stewards standards (or both) to be sure that they're following the best practices for recycling your devices. You can find more information about that at RecyclingworksMA.com. The cheaper and more sustainable thing to do is to repair your electronics, though.

Q: You mean fix them myself? I can't do that!

A: Sure you can, but you don't necessarily have to. If your device is still under manufacturer warranty, your repair could be inexpensive or even free. You could also find an electronic repair shop in your area, saving your device(s) for a fraction of the cost of buying new ones.

If your warranty is up, and there isn't a shop nearby, you can still save money by making your own repairs. With the appropriate tools, replacement parts and a little know-how, you can join the electronics repair movement. There arem many online resources to help, including illustrated and video guides for many common (anduncommon) repairs.

Some that we've discovered include:

IFixIt.com/guide hosts how-to guides for repairing all kinds of electronics and accessories, from smartphones to game consoles and cameras to cars, IFixIt has an illustrated guide to fixing many of the things that can go wrong with electronics. They also sell some replacement parts and tools you may need.

RepairClinic.com hosts how-to videos and guides for many other appliances and devices (focusing more on lawn care, home appliances, power tools, etc.), and also sells parts and tools.

HowStuffWorks.com is not built as a repair guide hub, but offers easy-to-read explanations of the theory behind how stuff works. This can help you understand the internal components of your devices before you begin to repair them. With some creativity, you can also find some repair instructions.

Repair is the smart thing to do. It saves you money and keeps your electronics (and their toxic components) out of landfills, but it also reduces production of new devices, which is an enormous drain on natural resources and energy. The only real question is ... what are you going to repair first?

Look for this column every two weeks. Send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.


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