Zero-Waste, Minimalism, and technology

I hope everyone has had a great week! I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately on how anyone could possibly be minimalist/zero-waste while still using technology. I guess to be truly “zero-waste”, you wouldn’t use technology except for perhaps shared computers at the library, etc. Or live off-grid in a yurt in the middle of the wilderness…

I don’t know about you, but I’m not willing to go completely off-grid just yet. Mostly because certain parts of my life require access to technology, like my job, as well as for bill paying, etc. Not only that, but technology can make certain aspects of life more convenient. But I do believe there are ways to be more conscious about what technology you use, how much you own, and how long you keep it/how you dispose of it once it’s no longer usable.

Let me start by stating that in my mind technology is usually some sort of electronic gizmo, mostly made of plastic and metals….now this could cover everything from toaster ovens to cell phones, but for the sake of time I’m just going to stick with tech that falls underneath the categories of phones, televisions, computers, videogames, etc. You know, the ones that tend to be a black hole sucking up all our free-time 🙂

Anyway, the best way to keep technology minimal with as little waste as possible is to not have that much of it in the first place. I personally own a cell phone, a tablet, a digital camera, an iPod, and the accessories to go with them (power cords, headphones, etc.). I don’t own any video game consoles or devices, smart watches, fitbits, or the like, and I personally do not own a television myself, though there is one where I live currently.

What Technology you use/How much you owntechnology-1260x840

 

How much/what types of technology you need and use can vary from person to person. One person might have to have a certain type of computer set-up for their job while another only needs access to a landline. One person can live without a cell phone, while others might need it to keep in touch with family, etc.

Ideally I would love to get to the point where I’d only need one or two devices that would fit all my needs, but I’m still working on it. Until then I do my best to keep things as simple as possible.

To keep my personal devices as minimalistic as possible I have a few non-negotiables for each item:

  1. The device has to serve a useful function in my daily life. For example, my phone let’s me call, text, and check my emails on a daily basis.
  2. The device has to be small and easily portable/easily stored. This is why I bought a tablet instead of a full-sized laptop computer. Easier to put away, and easy to take with me wherever I need to go.
  3. The device should serve multiple purposes if possible. Like my phone, which calls, texts, and has the ability to connect me with my emails. (For those of you wondering, it also has a camera, but the camera takes horrible pictures, hence my actual digital camera) *another good example here would be having 1 remote for your television, dvd player, etc instead of 3 or 4*
  4. It has to be able to serve it’s purpose for a long time before breaking down, or at least be easily fixable. I try to cut down on my electronic waste by keeping each cell phone I own until it literally bites the dust and is completely unusable. The same goes for my other devices as well as their accompanying power cords, etc.
  5. When it has finished it’s life it has a way to be recycled or repurposed. Cell phones can usually be recycled at local electronics stores, while my digital camera when dead will eventually be repurposed into a decorative piece of art.

By having these guidelines in mind when shopping for a new device, or even considering purchasing a new device, I can make really responsible choices with my technology.

How long you keep it

Some people run through cell phones like used tissues, waiting hours and hours in line to get the “new” version of what they already own…..I’m not one of those people 🙂

My phone is almost 5 years old. My tablet is already 3. My camera is almost 8 years old, and my iPod is closer to 10.

Why replace something that isn’t broken?

As far as I’m concerned, I’ll be using each of these devices until there is literally no way to use them anymore. If that means having an old sliding keyboard phone for another 3-5 years then so be it. Not only do I get to keep the money I would spend on a new one, but I’m also keeping extra electronics out of the landfill. Good for my wallet and the planet 🙂

How to dispose of them

Disposal is a huge issue with electronics, because when they end up in the landfill they can cause all sorts of trouble. Right now the best option is to recycle them when they’ve outlived their usefulness. I know a lot of stores will recycle old cell phones, some stores will recycle old video game consoles, even BestBuy will recycle old cords.

At least when the device is recycled it can then be taken apart to reuse the metals inside. Did you know a lot of phones have small bits of gold inside?

*If the device is still usable, but you don’t want it anymore….try giving it away to a friend or donating it*

Any way you slice it, technology is going to create waste, and if we’re not careful it can create clutter in our homes as well.

So, to recap..

  1. Refuse random gadgets and useless gizmos that you know you won’t use.
  2. Reduce what you do need/own. Consolidate and prefer multifunctional devices over single purpose ones.
  3. Reuse old gadgets- or in my case keep using them until they kick the bucket.
  4. Recycle those sad gadgets that have finally kicked the bucket.

 

Zero-Waste/minimalist tips for the workplace

Work is a fact of life. Working brings in the money that we need to survive, pay rent, buy food, etc. No matter what sort of job you have, there are ways to bring your zero-waste/minimalist aspirations into play.

Here are some tips:

  1. Bring your own lunch– this is an easy one if you work in an office-ish environment, or even if you are on the road most of the time. Bringing your own lunch is both wallet-friendly and eco-friendly. I take my lunches in a cloth bag, reusable glass containers, and a metal lunchbot container (I also bring my own silverware).
  2. Ditch the tissues- Bring a few hankies instead, you can keep a small zipper bag in your purse/desk to hold the used ones and then just wash them with your weekly load of towels.
  3. Check out these tips for eco-friendly shipping, they are great if you are in the position of buying things online.
  4. Let go of the sticky notes– they clutter up computer edges and desk space, it is less wasteful to use the note/sticky note program on your computer which puts your notes right on your desktop.
  5. Pens/Pencils– for the minimalist in you, do not hoard writing utensils. I finally went through all of my drawers and found over 100 writing utensils….you only need a handful at most, preferably reusable ones (mechanical pencils/ refillable pens).
  6. Carpool if you can- if you have a co-worker that lives near you, ask if they want to carpool, take turns with whose car you drive, that way you save half the money on gas.
  7. Minimize your printing/copies- instead of paper files, try to go paperless if it is possible.
  8. Take the initiative– does your workplace have recycling bins? How about a paperless filing system? Etc. If your workplace doesn’t have these things, try to see if they would get one. If you speak up, you can make a change.

Always remember….one drop of water raises the ocean.

Maybe they don’t seem like big, profound moves, but each choice you make has an impact 🙂

What other tips would you add to the list?