Tech

What Really Makes a Gadget Eco-Friendly

It’s more than just low power consumption.

central thesis

  • Nintendo Switch is the most energy-efficient gaming console ever.
  • Smartphones can replace an entire wardrobe full of old gadgets.
  • Buying fewer gadgets is the greenest way to shop.

Charlie Sorell / Lifewire

The Nintendo Switch is the “greenest” console, using far less energy than other consoles. But can all gadgets really be considered eco-friendly?

According to NerdWallet’s research, the Switch uses half the power of the Xbox lineup and less than two-thirds the power of the Playstation system. Both have been fairly consistent in their respective power consumption figures over the past few generations. But energy is only part of the equation. Add here the materials used to build this machine and the resources used to transport it. And the problem isn’t just game consoles, of course. This applies to all devices.

“Accurately identifying green devices requires rigorous scrutiny of every aspect of product production, life and death,” Mallory Strom, co-creator of Sustain-A-Block, told Lifewire in an email. “We need to ask ourselves what resources the planet extracts to make it, the energy and water needed to design and manufacture our products, and our company’s practices for water, renewable energy, mining and recycled materials.”

green gadget

Energy use is a start, but perhaps carbon footprint is a more useful metric.

“Accurate identification of green devices requires rigorous review of every aspect of product production, life and death.”

Alex Beale, founder of green living website FootprintHero, told Lifewire in an email, “‘Green’ is such a vague term that it won’t help unless you define it further.” “’Green’ devices [is] A gadget that has a lower carbon footprint compared to alternatives or a device that helps reduce your carbon footprint.”

However, no gadget, or indeed any device that is made today, can actually be considered green. There are too many ways to pollute the planet or deplete its resources.

Inside view of circuit board

Charlie Sorell / Lifewire

Julia LF Goldstein, author of “How Do Manufacturers Power Their Factories?” material value, interviewed in an email sent to Lifewire. “How much recycled material do they use in their products and packaging? How to avoid conflict minerals?”

And the problem doesn’t end after the product is sold. “Is there a take-back program that promotes high recycling rates for e-waste,” says Goldstein. “What is the repairability of the product?”

Smartphone: Worst choice?

Smartphones are no better than any other device in terms of environmental impact, but they do have one advantage. If you have a smartphone, you wouldn’t buy a camera, MP3 player, handheld game console, GPS satellite navigator, GPS tracker, or pedometer.

“There are claims that smartphones are good for the environment because of their condensed nature,” James Black, founder of outdoor activity site Wilderness Redefined, told Lifewire in an email. “You don’t need a phone, camera or MP3 player anymore. Smartphones combine technologies that reduce waste in gadget production.”

“’Green’ devices [is] A gadget that has a lower carbon footprint compared to alternatives or a device that helps reduce your carbon footprint.”

This may sound like an upside-down justification, but a look at the market for these gadgets will tell you everything you need to know. Camera sales are declining every year, and while sales of computers, tablets and mobile phones have been strong over the past year, the camera market has shrunk by 40%. But, of course, there are problems with the phone itself. Perhaps the biggest is our compulsion to throw them away after a year or two.

“The way you burn your smartphone is definitely a waste,” says Black. “Most smartphone users will want to upgrade in a few years if their phone lasts that long.”

Photo of a vintage Sony Ericsson cell phone placed on a laptop

Charlie Sorell / Lifewire

To what extent does ethical buying really mean that consumers are actually accountable for the behavior of large manufacturers? Government regulation is the answer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help.

Don’t throw your phone away once every 1-2 years, keep it for 4 years. And when you’re done, you can pass it on to your friends or young family. This is much better than recycling because it prevents you from buying another phone. And what if you want a game console? A switch is a great option!


More information

What Really Makes a Gadget Eco-Friendly

It’s more than just how little power it uses

Key Takeaways
The Nintendo Switch is the most power-efficient gaming console.
A smartphone can replace a whole closet full of obsolete devices.
Buying fewer gadgets is the greenest way to shop.

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire
The Nintendo Switch is the most “eco-friendly” console, using a fraction of the energy of other consoles. But can any gadget really be considered green?

According to research by NerdWallet, the Switch uses half the energy of the Xbox line, and less than two-thirds the energy of the Playstation systems—both of which have been pretty consistent in their respective energy consumption levels over the past few generations. But energy is only part of the equation. There’s also the materials used to make these machines, and the resources consumed through shipping. And, of course, the problem isn’t just game consoles—this applies to all gadgets.

“Accurately identifying an eco-friendly gadget would require a rigorous review of every aspect of the product’s production, life, and death,” Mallory Strom, co-creator of Sustain-A-Block, told Lifewire via email. “We have to ask ourselves about the resources extracted from the Earth to create it, the energy and water required to design and produce the product, and the company’s practices regarding renewable energy, mining, and recycled materials.”

Green Gadgets

Energy usage is a start, but perhaps a more useful measure might be a carbon footprint.

“Accurately identifying an eco-friendly gadget would require a rigorous review of every aspect of the product’s production, life, and death.”

“‘Eco-friendly’ is such a squishy term that I find unhelpful without further definition,” Alex Beale, founder of eco-friendly living site FootprintHero, told Lifewire via email. “An ‘eco-friendly’ gadget [is] a gadget that has a low carbon footprint relative to the alternatives, or one that helps you reduce your carbon footprint.”

But gadgets, or really any devices manufactured today, can’t really be considered green. There are just too many ways to pollute the planet, or diminish its resources. 

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire
“How do manufacturers power their factories?” Julia L. F. Goldstein, author of Material Value, questioned in an email to Lifewire. “How much recycled content do they use in their products and packaging? How do they address avoiding conflict minerals?”

And the problems aren’t over after the product is sold. “Do they have take-back programs that encourage high e-waste recycling rates?” says Goldstein. “What about product repairability?”

Smartphones: The Least Worst Option?

Smartphones are no better than any other gadget in terms of their environmental impact, but they do have one thing going for them; if you have a smartphone, you’re probably not buying a camera, an MP3 player, a portable games console, a GPS satellite navigation unit, a GPS tracker, or a step counter.

“There’s an argument to be made that smartphones are good for the environment due to their condensing nature,” James Black, founder of outdoor activity site Wilderness Redefined, told Lifewire via email. “No longer do you need a phone, camera, and MP3 player. Smartphones have combined technologies to reduce waste in the production of gadgets.”

“An ‘eco-friendly’ gadget [is] a gadget that has a low carbon footprint relative to the alternatives, or one that helps you reduce your carbon footprint.”

This might sound like backwards justification, but one look at the markets for these gadgets tells you everything you need to know. Camera sales drop every year, and while computer, tablet, and phone sales were strong last year, the camera market shrank by 40%. But, of course, phones themselves have their own problems. The biggest might be our compulsion to toss them out after a year or two.

“The way that we burn through smartphones is definitely wasteful,” says Black. “Most smartphone users look to upgrade after a couple of years—if their phone lasts that long.”

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire
Ethical buying only goes so far, and should the consumer really have to take responsibility for the behavior of large manufacturers? Government regulation is the proper answer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help.

Instead of ditching your phone every year or two, keep it for four. And when you’re done with it, maybe pass it on to a friend or a younger family member. That’s a lot better than recycling because it stops one more phone from being bought. And if you do want a games console? Well, the Switch is a great option!

#Gadget #EcoFriendly

What Really Makes a Gadget Eco-Friendly

It’s more than just how little power it uses

Key Takeaways
The Nintendo Switch is the most power-efficient gaming console.
A smartphone can replace a whole closet full of obsolete devices.
Buying fewer gadgets is the greenest way to shop.

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire
The Nintendo Switch is the most “eco-friendly” console, using a fraction of the energy of other consoles. But can any gadget really be considered green?

According to research by NerdWallet, the Switch uses half the energy of the Xbox line, and less than two-thirds the energy of the Playstation systems—both of which have been pretty consistent in their respective energy consumption levels over the past few generations. But energy is only part of the equation. There’s also the materials used to make these machines, and the resources consumed through shipping. And, of course, the problem isn’t just game consoles—this applies to all gadgets.

“Accurately identifying an eco-friendly gadget would require a rigorous review of every aspect of the product’s production, life, and death,” Mallory Strom, co-creator of Sustain-A-Block, told Lifewire via email. “We have to ask ourselves about the resources extracted from the Earth to create it, the energy and water required to design and produce the product, and the company’s practices regarding renewable energy, mining, and recycled materials.”

Green Gadgets

Energy usage is a start, but perhaps a more useful measure might be a carbon footprint.

“Accurately identifying an eco-friendly gadget would require a rigorous review of every aspect of the product’s production, life, and death.”

“‘Eco-friendly’ is such a squishy term that I find unhelpful without further definition,” Alex Beale, founder of eco-friendly living site FootprintHero, told Lifewire via email. “An ‘eco-friendly’ gadget [is] a gadget that has a low carbon footprint relative to the alternatives, or one that helps you reduce your carbon footprint.”

But gadgets, or really any devices manufactured today, can’t really be considered green. There are just too many ways to pollute the planet, or diminish its resources. 

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire
“How do manufacturers power their factories?” Julia L. F. Goldstein, author of Material Value, questioned in an email to Lifewire. “How much recycled content do they use in their products and packaging? How do they address avoiding conflict minerals?”

And the problems aren’t over after the product is sold. “Do they have take-back programs that encourage high e-waste recycling rates?” says Goldstein. “What about product repairability?”

Smartphones: The Least Worst Option?

Smartphones are no better than any other gadget in terms of their environmental impact, but they do have one thing going for them; if you have a smartphone, you’re probably not buying a camera, an MP3 player, a portable games console, a GPS satellite navigation unit, a GPS tracker, or a step counter.

“There’s an argument to be made that smartphones are good for the environment due to their condensing nature,” James Black, founder of outdoor activity site Wilderness Redefined, told Lifewire via email. “No longer do you need a phone, camera, and MP3 player. Smartphones have combined technologies to reduce waste in the production of gadgets.”

“An ‘eco-friendly’ gadget [is] a gadget that has a low carbon footprint relative to the alternatives, or one that helps you reduce your carbon footprint.”

This might sound like backwards justification, but one look at the markets for these gadgets tells you everything you need to know. Camera sales drop every year, and while computer, tablet, and phone sales were strong last year, the camera market shrank by 40%. But, of course, phones themselves have their own problems. The biggest might be our compulsion to toss them out after a year or two.

“The way that we burn through smartphones is definitely wasteful,” says Black. “Most smartphone users look to upgrade after a couple of years—if their phone lasts that long.”

Charlie Sorrel / Lifewire
Ethical buying only goes so far, and should the consumer really have to take responsibility for the behavior of large manufacturers? Government regulation is the proper answer, but that doesn’t mean we can’t help.

Instead of ditching your phone every year or two, keep it for four. And when you’re done with it, maybe pass it on to a friend or a younger family member. That’s a lot better than recycling because it stops one more phone from being bought. And if you do want a games console? Well, the Switch is a great option!

#Gadget #EcoFriendly


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