Computing/Consumer electronics

Techtastic: upcycling old electronics and mechanical items in a big way – in pictures

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Responsible disposal of electronic and mechanical items is a global challenge, but there is a creative way out. Here is a selection of the best of upcycled tech.

Apple swings for the fences with $848 million solar deal

Read the full story in GreenBiz.

In October, Apple‘s Vice President of Environmental Initiatives Lisa Jackson told a GreenBiz audience that the Silicon Valley tech giant is “swinging for the fences” on sustainability and renewable power.

On Tuesday, Apple made good on Jackson’s promise — and then some — by announcing the largest commercial purchase of solar power ever with an $848 million deal with First Solar to buy the electricity generated from a huge solar farm the equipment firm is building in California.

We need to talk about your old basement TV

Read the full post at Grist.

In the latest episode of “So You Think You’re Doing a Good Thing?” we discuss what to do with outdated yet still perfectly useful electronics. Spoiler: You’re going to feel guilty no matter what because that’s what it means to be environmentally conscious in a consumerist society.

If you live in the Champaign-Urbana (Illinois) area, the Champaign County Regional Planning Commission publishes a list of local places to recycle used electronics. Note that many of these locations are national chains or charities, so you may find it helpful even if you don’t live in the Champaign-Urbana area.

‘Clicking Clean:’ The Overlooked Opportunity and Scalable Benefits of Sustainable Web Design

Read the full post from Sustainable Brands.

According to a phenomenon known as Jevons Paradox, the increase in efficiency with which a resource is used tends to increase (rather than decrease) the rate of that resource’s consumption. In other words, the easier it becomes to use something, the more said thing gets used. It happened with coal, it happened with automobiles, and now it’s happening with the Internet; we are unwittingly tweeting and posting our way to a warmer planet. With sustainable web practices, however, the latter doesn’t have to follow the same environmentally disastrous path as the two former.

Smartphone Encore Challenge

Unleash your inner inventor and give old smartphones a new lease on life.

Millions of smartphones get discarded each year as consumers upgrade to new models. The old phones get tucked away in drawers or thrown away, burdening landfills. According to the EPA, only about 10% of phones in the U.S. are reused or recycled. It’s such a waste – these devices are still wonders of technology, with an amazing capacity to capture, process, store, and transfer data. They’re often chock full of features, including an accelerometer, gyroscope, GPS, camera, and more. They’re also an untapped business opportunity.

Can you think of a product or solution that will extend the life of retired smartphones? Sprint, Brightstar, and HOBI International, in conjunction with Net Impact, are challenging students to do just that. We want you to find profitable and innovative ways to repurpose old smartphones or their components. You get to put your creative and business skills to use addressing an important issue, and, if you win, you’ll get some support to put your idea in motion.

The winning individual or team will receive $5,000, which can be used toward attending a Startup Weekend to help take their business idea to the next level. And they’ll receive strategic guidance from executives at Sprint, Brightstar, and HOBI to strengthen the team’s business model.

In addition, the winner and two runners up will be featured in a Net Impact “Issues in Depth” webinar on Earth Day. They’ll also present their business ideas to sponsor executives through a videoconference, and will be highlighted in a national press release from Sprint.

  • Students in the United States who are members of Net Impact can enter this competition in teams or individually. (Not a member? Joining is easy – and free!)
  • Participation is limited to the first 25 teams to register.
  • Registration opens on February 2, 2015.
  • Each team develops a product concept and business pitch (and optionally a brief video) and submits the idea by March 27, 2015, at 11:59 pm PT.
  • A panel of judges including representatives from Net Impact and the sponsors, thought leaders, and entrepreneurs will evaluate submissions and pick one winner and two runners up.

For more information, visit

New ISTC Publication: Teaching Sustainability with Electronics

Download the document.

Changing perceptions about our place in, and relationship to, the rest of the natural world, is a crucial aspect of fostering sustainable behavior. Worldviews shape decisions. Lack of awareness, confusion, or apathy toward the effects of our actions on the greater system to which we belong, can be seen as the root causes of many of our collective environmental, social, and economic problems — in other words, as threats to sustainability. However, the concept of “sustainability” can seem abstract and complex without context to make it relatable to an individual’s everyday experiences. Electronic devices permeate our society, and serve as a point of interest and familiarity in discussions of sustainability issues. Considering the impacts of the production, use, and disposal of your smartphone, for example, can be more engaging and comprehensible than out-of-context discussions of issues like rainforest destruction, climate change, etc. One of the goals of the Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is to use examination of the product life cycles of electronic devices to teach concepts of sustainability and systems thinking.


Telecoms, Data Center Trends Heighten Climate Risks, Vulnerability

Read the full story in Triple Pundit.

Like water, energy and waste management, digital telecommunications and data centers have become utilities essential for modern societies to function sustainably. It is generally accepted that the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme weather events — and the onset of gradual, long-terms shifts in weather patterns and climate — pose existential threats to critical information and communications technology (ICT) supply chains, as well as infrastructure.

But a recent report from Riverside Technology and Acclimatise found that the business risks of climate change as they relate to telecommunications and data centers are poorly recognized — particularly with respect to infrastructure and supply chains. Similarly, climate change resiliency and adaptation plans in this critical segment of the U.S. ICT sector are poorly developed, concluded the report, which was conducted on behalf of the federal government’s General Services Administration (GSA).