How Green can Electronics get?

I was hoping to start running a list of how, even if in theory, one can green an electronics gadget. Not limited soley to ID. This is a collective effort, afterall. If you add to the list I will try and capture it in this original list at the top of the thread. If you have specific materials, processes, or case studies, please share as well. I will do what I can to capture them in some manner that makes it public and accessible (my blog, Core77…something).

Some of the ways that come to top of mind are:

  1. Better power management algorithms
  2. ROHS Compliant Electronics (Lead Free…)
  3. Mercury, Arsenic, PVC free
  4. Design for Disassembly
  5. Recyclable Materials for enclosure
  6. Reduce/eliminate packaging size
  7. If packaging necessary, use only recyclable materials

8. Centralized Production and Minimized Shipping
9. bringing as many component’s production as close to one central location as possible if not all under one roof
10. reduce distance of shipping raw materials
11. reduce packing for shipping for assembly and final product

Plus paint technology is getting really advanced, they could probably start moving away from the current colors towards green, but I don’t really know how that would make them more sustainable.

I couldnt resist.

Don’t quit your day job, Carton :wink:

Centralized Production and Minimized Shipping
-bringing as many component’s production as close to one central location as possible if not all under one roof
-reduce distance of shipping raw materials
-reduce packing for shipping for assembly and final product
Think small local farms and farmer’s market model.

Maybe one idea could be to get shippers to take better care of items, less risk of breakage could translate to less necessary packaging material.


take a page from the green giant, Walmart (sarcasm alert) and use reusable totes for shipping that are returned to the manufacturer/distributer for more items.

I like the alternative materials deal. and I know I keep talking about this, but i really like it. Olympus figured a way to mold/hot press wood into injection molded-esque shapes. very cool, and if I remember stronger than a lot of plastics. plus it ages better than plastic.

Better recycling incentives. My girlfriend says apple offers 10% back if you trade an old machine in. OOOO 10% let me gather all my items now, this is such a good deal for me!! year right.

Cell phone companies hand out phones like candy at halloween, but they don’t ask for them back. They should demand them back in leiu of a surcharge/or if you get a new plan/phone, the hookup fee. Its not like if you switch carriers you can take your old phone with you, nor would you want to.

I feel like making products last longer is not the answer. Part of the experience of a product is the newness. an important part of it.

Hmm…10% sounds pretty good to me. Eliminates most of the sales tax (well, here in Canada at least)…pays for a hard drive…a good chunk of an iPod.

Yow…can’t disagree more. This is the consumer culture that I believe requires a revamp. You create a product that is more like an heirloom. A cell phone that you can pass along to your kids with a simple HW update. Computers are getting powerful enough that you a good chunk of the population can get away with the same machine for 10 years and it will do everything they need.

Quality vs. quantity.

It worked on me. An iPod is a great candidate for this b/c of its ease of transport. An incentive for my old tv isn’t the problem, the fact that it weights 150 lbs, is.

Short of a fully leased program, a discount incentive or extremely strict regulations are some of the only ways to get people to recycle who wouldn’t normally.

Imagine a future where a consumer is required to account for previously purchased versions of technology or goods before buy another.

reminds me of a line from a Douglas Adams about a planet that was so concerned about erosion that if the amount food consumed did not equal the amount ‘deposited’ then it would be surgically removed before they could leave the planet. :wink:

Hmmm heirlooms, do we even make those anymore?

I like the heirloom idea as an exception to the newness rule, but newness will never go away, nor should it. You can’t tell me that at least part of what made you want to be a designer was that christmas morning experince with a new product. Thats part of the reason Apple is so succesful. The packaging is such that when you are opening it your getting the excitement and anticipation of your new ido-dad. (how about this, your new iTem, don’t worry I’m not persuing a career in standup)

I think the heirloom would be appropriate for some things but I’m having trouble getting there for technology. The speed doubling would have to almost stop for that to be succesful.

There has to be a way to keep the new experience and still have sustainability, at least a compromise. Obviously unless we all give up everything and live like nomads, we’re going to leave a footprint. We need to find a reasonable balance.

This is a highly intriguing topic. This is something I’ve been working on - it’s my own attempt at the “greenest” possible gadget. I’m not trying to solicit sales - this is the only documentation I have at the moment.

Don’t be afraid to comment.

I think this idea is interesting. So much is changing that I think people want to hold onto things a little more, they want to have familiar things around them that they love. And when we succeed in making objects that people desire to keep, not just to buy, they take better care of them, they hold onto them, and we reduce consumption. If we can help people to realize this on the front end, to realize they may keep this product,2,3, 10 times longer than the one they bought before it, we can also convince them to spend more money on that product because it will last. When we get a little more money to play with, we can invest more in new processes that have less environmental impact.

How this relates to CE is tough because of the speed of light progress of processors, memory, display technology. I love my gen 1 iMac as an object and for what it represents. It sits in my home studio closet, alone, and unplugged. I’d love it I could take the guts out and drop in a faster processor, a hugh flash drive, a brighter screen. The case is still perfect, the keyboard is fine (the mouse did die after 7 years of daily use)

We are already reaching the size envelope where a phone is about as small as it should be (until it can just be the earpiece) and and iPod can clip on your jacket… maybe one of the next things to figure out is out to have an heirloom type case that you cherish and keep forever, but the guts are all replaceable at home, by a certified retailer, or by sending it back to the manufacturer?

An heriloom-type cellphone is what AiAlone (my blog) started out as. A custom one-off/limited edition cellphone manufacturer.

I got as far as having a couple of ODMs being interested in the idea, but basically backed out as soon as push came to shove. They wanted millions, not 1, or 100 units at a time.

The rub is that I tend to believe for this to work it has to become a basic phone. A simple GSM Plain F**king Phone (PFP). GSM is the size of a chip, an antenna, an LCD and a keyboard. The electronics are only going to get smaller as time progresses. We’ve blown way past the intersection of moore’s law limiting the possibility of a multi-generational phone housing, just as Yo suggests.

So, if anyone is interested in the idea of collaborating/investing in this kind of idea…I have the team in place and 75% of the leg-work done :wink: What is needed is a Hardware design that is modular enough for multi-generational phones, a handful of designs, and a client or 3…or 1000.

i really love this guy from moto…

in a world of iPhones and crackberries, I just really want a phone that sounds good, has a loooong battery life and isn’t a fragile, yet large, brick. The intended market is the developing world, but this westerner would love it. Now if only they would sell it to the US and Canada.

I’ve actually never seen one in the wild.

its got green cred too…

this really is a great example of universal design, the needs of the developing world, make for a great no nonsense phone in the US.

I’m right there with you on the quality issue, I think that we need to remind all of the fashion followers out there the reason people who can buy the ultra expensive luxury items do so in the first place, quality. I was reading an article about this recently. The people who are keeping up appearances don’t realize why they are buying these coach bags and rolex watches, (or what have you). The trend setters do so because of the quality, the followers do so for the image.

what I mean is the extreme quality brands are the ones that ought to be going sustainable, as those are the ones that will create heirlooms. Apple is cool and everything, but an ipod is no heirloom. They don’t (currently but should) have that quality that your talking about.

A 100 year old pocket watch from your grandfather is an heirloom because it was his, but more importantly because it STILL WORKS, probably better than a lot of other desirable items. Antique furniture is of higher quality than most furniture people buy today

So does an heirloom have to be great enough to purchase in the first place (newness) and then compete well with succeeding generations of products?

There in lies the rub. We’ve gotten so far along the technology curve that it seems that no one is willing/capable of admitting that all we need is a simple phone. A smart phone is not necessary. It’s cool…but not necessary.

So these “simple” phones are created for “developing countries” but really need to be sold and used in non-developing (developed?)countries .

The pendulum has swung so far towards creating the next gadget that does more - and does more faster - that fulfilling the basic fundamental purpose of the device is completely overlooked.

I think there are a lot of product categories like that in CE right now. I’ve been looking for a nice corded pone for years. YEARS. I just want a sculptural, beautiful, corded phone that I can use once a year when the power goes out. Maybe there just aren’t enough people that want that. Same with cordless home phones… is it too much to ask to have these things be simple and beautiful? I want them to be a part of my home, not look like a cell phone sticking up out of my night stand. I think it is this type of need that makes the Tivoli audio systems so nice. Or the Speck Audio iPod system:

there has always been a high end. the question is why has the low end become so dominate? price and desire for more stuff.

its not because the high end wasn’t there.

my mother is a good example. she grew up with 5 brothers and not much money. You would think that she would then lean towards saving up to buy quality, but the opposite is true. What she values is money, she is amazingly frugal. I used to argue about cordless phones with her “don’t buy the cheapest one, it’ll just break.” but never the less she could not pass up a ‘deal’. I think that’s what is sooo difficult about changing the disposable culture we are in.

Hope that’s not too far off track, but I see it as part of the whole issue, technology just makes it worse.

a lot of this heirloom talk has reminded me of this podcast
give it a listen