Making Sustainability A Priority In Consumer Electronics

It’s been evident for years that humanity has a direct and profound impact on climate change. But, unfortunately, it’s not a positive impact. Due to the unsatiated consumption of raw materials and energy, there is a developing climate crisis on the horizon that needs to be addressed immediately and intelligently.

The consumption of raw materials and energy that drive our current social and economic engines, built on fossil fuels, is not sustainable. Creative solutions are needed to address the issue.

In that vein, the concept of circular electronics, which is a philosophy based on the longevity of a product vs. planned obsolescence and encouraging recirculation of existing electronics, is an idea that is quickly gaining steam.

Planned obsolescence is a strategy that stresses an “end date” for a product to become obsolete to encourage purchasing upgrades or improved versions of the product. This concept creates much of the retail return business, especially in consumer electronics, which is a significant driver in waste and consumption of resources.

Instead, circular electronics is a strategy to build longer-lasting devices and repurpose and reuse existing older models, all hoping to eliminate the use of resources and waste associated with discarding obsolete electronics.

Circular Electronics Concept Versus Planned Obsolescence

The concept of planned obsolescence has additional issues and the primary one being its an uneconomical, unsustainable practice. The cellphone industry best exemplifies the idea. Under this concept, how does a cell phone company continue to expand and grow its profits when the market is saturated by personally owned phones? By creating the next, best thing.

While this manufactured demand is good for the profits in the short-term, at some point, sales will naturally increase and stall as people begin to feel less and less inclined to purchase the newest upgrade at a higher price point.

With new releases every 18 months approximately, the demand will become inverse to the supply as production will outstrip the public’s purchasing power.

Recently, there has been a movement afoot to change the nature of consumer electronics to focus on sustainability problems, and that initiative is an ongoing discussion.

One of the founders of the circular electronics initiative TCO and their development manager Andreas Nobell sums up the necessity for the initiative this way; “the resources of our planet are finite. So the initiative is all about helping buyers and consumers…to take a more responsible approach to the electronics they use.”

With businesses and consumers more aware than ever of the impact of their purchasing and consumption habits, what are some ways that an individual can help decrease the climate’s adverse effects?

Suggested Sustainability Practices

There are a few ways a consumer can practice sustainability, though it starts with thinking about how your purchase decisions and consumption trends may influence businesses.

For example, choosing to eat locally within walking distance rather than drive your car clear across the city for a meal is one good starting point.

Other suggestions include:

  • Researching a businesses’ commitment to sustainability
  • Limit single-use packaging and bags
  • Recycle and repurpose packaging and other materials when possible
  • Make long-term electronics purchases rather than regularly upgrading
  • Move away from fossil fuel vehicles, choosing public transportation or electric vehicle options
  • Find energy reduction appliances and unplug them when not in use
  • Choose products from local farms rather than large supermarket chains
  • Focus on a plant-based diet and move away from consuming too much meat

One of the primary drivers of the climate crisis is our energy dependence on fossil fuels.

Changing your driving habits, moving from fossil fuel driving cars and trucks, and using public transportation if possible are all excellent suggestions.

If you choose to turn your gas-guzzling vehicle in for a more sustainable electric vehicle, evaluate the efficiency and type of electric vehicle charging station you utilize.

Joint action between public, private, and consumer interests are the best bet to combat the climate crisis.

But, as Andreas Nobell said, it will take all of us, it’s something that everyone should work toward, and it is the accumulation of small actions that will compound to have a positive or negative effect on climate change.

In other words, we are all in this together, with shared sacrifices and benefits to make a more sustainable climate.