I first learned about GreenCitizen several years ago when I was trying to figure out what to do with old CDs and DVDs. Since then, Michael and I have taken several dead gadgets to them: our old rice cooker, our old blender, and some obsolete computer equipment. So I was excited to take a tour of GreenCitizen’s hub in Burlingame this weekend and have a chat with founder and CEO James Kao.
Kao was born in Taiwan and graduated from UCLA in 1982 with a degree in math and computer science. He went on to get an MBA and work for companies like HP, IBM, and Oracle as a software engineer. As a guy with an engineering mindset, he’s all about solving problems. So, after seeing a short film called “Exporting Harm: The High Tech Trashing of Asia” about e-waste pollution overseas, he set out to create a solution.
GreenCitizen is more than a recycling center for e-waste. Kao wants to rethink the idea of waste in the first place. As… Read the rest
On Blog Action Day, bloggers around the world all post articles on a single topic. This year, the topic is human rights, and as I sit here typing (or Swyping) this post into my Android mobile phone, I’m acutely aware that having a smartphone is very definitely NOT a human right. (Okay, this is going to be one of those weird, winding, philosophical posts that may not end up where we think it will. Let’s just see where it goes, okay?) So yes, human rights. But first, let me explain why I bought this phone.… Read the rest
It’s frustrating when electronic gadgets break, and not just because you have to go through the hassle of fixing or replacing them but because in doing so, a lot of waste is created. So when the headphone jack on my phone stopped working intermittently, I put off doing anything about it for several months. But finally, it got so bad that I could no longer use my headset, which meant an extra dose of radiation from putting my phone right against my head to talk (and of course, also not being able to listen to music and podcasts, but that’s a personal problem), so I decided it was time to do something about it.
I called CREDO Mobile, my phone provider, and was told I’d have to send it back to them for a replacement phone. I wondered if I should scout around for someone to open it up and try to fix it for me (as I did with my hair dryer, rice cooker, kitchen scale, and other appliances, with varying degrees of success), but when CREDO told me that opening… Read the rest
Another day, another broken gadget. Plastic-free rule #1 when something breaks is to try and fix it instead of replacing it. But that’s not always easy since so many appliances are built to be tossed instead of repaired. Well Easy Schmeasy. Fixing things is fun. Saves money. Makes you feel like a Super Hero instead of a victim. A few weeks ago, I got to don my cape again after Michael plugged in the rice cooker and nothing happened. The light didn’t come on. The element didn’t heat up. The rice did not get cooked. But the wheels in my brain started turning.
(And before any of you leave comments about how we don’t need a rice cooker and could easily cook rice on the stove and here are the instructions how to do it etc etc… yeah, I know. But we have a rice cooker. And we like it. And this one broke, so this is how we fixed it.)
See, back in 2008, the same thing happened to my hair dryer, and my dad helped me out… Read the rest
If you use a cell phone, you should wear a headset, right? I got my first cell phone in 2000 and have known for years that it might be dangerous to hold the phone right up to my head. Nevertheless, year after year, I did exactly that and felt the heat cooking my brain. I think I was in denial. But a few weeks ago, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radiofrequency electromagnetic fields as possibly carcinogenic to humans (PDF), based on an increased risk for glioma, a malignant type of brain cancer associated with wireless phone use. And while there is debate about results of studies conducted to date, this recent news was enough to wake me up.
I really don’t want brain cancer.
But I also didn’t want to have to go out and search for a plastic headset in plastic packaging. I was being stubborn. Fortunately, I discovered that thinksound, the company that makes the PVC-free headphones I … Read the rest
What is an LCD monitor made of? And what do you do if it breaks? I learned the answers to these questions the hard way.
The Stupid Thing I Did
Laptop monitors break easily, as I discovered a couple of months ago after closing the lid down on a couple of earbuds I had left on the keyboard. The ironic thing is that I had done it on purpose, trying to protect my expensive thinksound earbuds from my niece’s dog while I went to the bathroom. I learned that a laptop monitor is way more expensive than a pair of earbuds, and that the best option would have been to simply put them away in their case.
My heart sank when I opened my laptop back up and watched the words drizzle down the screen into a single black puddle. I’ll admit it looks kind of artistic in a minimalist way, but not very useful.
Crap! I just got this computer in November, and I’ve already ruined it!
Thankfully, Michael still had an ancient desktop computer monitor I could connect to and keep … Read the rest
Back in January, I posted on my Facebook profile:
The foam pads (read: plastic) on my headphones are wearing out. Motivation to learn to crochet because I hate round knitting.
Well, this weekend, April 23, I finally summoned up the motivation to learn enough crochet basics to fix my headphones.
See, even though I use my wooden thinksound ear buds for most electronic listening, I also have a pair of big cordless headphones for watching TV late at night and another scrappy pair of regular headphones that probably came with an old Walkman or something. The foam pads on both pairs were just in shreds. And while it’s possible to buy replacements, I didn’t want any new plastic.
So, after Googling for a while (my favorite thing) I found some instructions for crocheting my own.
Crochet Headphone Covers from Craftbits.com
Crochet: Headphone Covers, Revisited from Sewhooked.org.
Great! Except I didn’t know how to crochet. My grandmother… Read the rest
Dear Toshiba Satellite S105 Laptop Computer:
I’m sorry I never gave you a better name in the 9 years that we were together. I was so sad last week when I traded you in at CeX in Berkeley for a bigger, faster, more powerful computer. For a second, I thought I might jump across the counter and grab you back from that sales dude who was checking all your buttons and parts to make sure you worked okay. I don’t think anyone else has had their hands on you except for Michael maybe and that computer doctor I brought you to a few times when you crashed. See? I loved you. I didn’t toss you away like most people would after two years.
With you, I learned to blog and create web sites and little Flash videos. Remember that stupid animation we made back in 2003 where we knocked off the Governator’s head with a baseball bat? Good times. And better — you were there when Michael and I got married. You helped me make the DVDs we inflicted on our friends and… Read the rest
One of the strategies I use to acquire less new plastic is to fix stuff that breaks instead of replacing it with new gadgets and to use resources like Craigslist, Freecycle, and thrift stores to get it secondhand. So I get really irritated when despite my best efforts, I find that my broken gadgets are not designed to be repaired. I’ve ranted about the HP Monitor and the digital scale that I tried to have fixed. I bragged about working with my dad to fix my old hair dryer, but lamented the fact that it wasn’t made to be repaired and that only the fact that my dad is an electronics technician allowed us to open it up and replace the broken part.
Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff Project in conjunction with the Electronics TakeBack Coalition and Center for Environmental Health have just released a new video today: The Story of Electronics. And it explains in 7 minutes the entire toxic life-cycle of gadgets designed for the dump and what we as consumers… Read the rest
I’ve been looking for a webcam for a while because I want to be able to meet with people via Skype rather than travel to meet up in person. I’ve done way too much flying this year, and all those emissions are weighing hard on my conscience.
I hoped to find a secondhand webcam rather than buying a new one. But after an unfortunate incident with a Radio Shack employee last month, I ended up with a $20 store credit and nothing else to spend it on. So I applied the credit toward the purchase of a very basic Logitech webcam.
Check out what Arya and I found when I got home and opened the box:
The camera, install disk, and instruction manual together weigh 4.3 ounces. The packaging material weighs 4.4 ounces — more than the product itself! The plastic window will be added to my tally in September. The cardboard box will go into the recycling bin. But I can’t let that be the end of the story. Some small amounts of packaging are unavoidable,… Read the rest