For many of us, the most challenging item to de-clutter from our homes and offices is old computer equipment. How come it’s so hard? There are several reasons:
- “I paid good money for that!” Computers, printers, monitors, laptops, software, upgrades — they all cost money. Lots of it. Getting rid of something that represents our hard-earned dollars is especially painful.
- Busted! Most of us know just enough to get by when it comes to operating our computers. When something goes wrong, unless you live with, or are friends with, a Techie, getting a computer repaired can be an intimidating and costly process. It can be awfully tempting to just get a new one.
- "Your computer is so 2009!" Technology changes really, really quickly. If dog years are supposedly equivalent to 7 human years, then computers are more like 20 years! Upgrades are constant and often costly.
- Private I What if something confidential is still on your hard drive — be it banking information or family photos? Sometimes it feels safer just to hide your old hard drive in the basement rather than risk exposing yourself.
- "It might come in handy." I know some individuals who are capable of building functional computers out of salvaged pieces. Truly, a skill to be admired. Most of us, however, do not possess this skill. Most likely, we will not "someday" acquire it. Like most "someday projects", hanging onto bits and pieces just distracts and overwhelms us.
- "That’s ‘Hal’ to you!" If you know a hard-core geek, there’s a good chance they’ve named every computer they’ve ever had (trust me on this). For them, letting go feels personal.
- e-Waste. “A global nightmare,” is how Annie Leonard describes the disposal of the 5 to 7 million tons of electronics becoming obsolete each year in her highly-informative, by turns scary and hopeful, book The Story of Stuff.
For most of us, this last reason is probably the main one our basements, office floors, and spare rooms are filling up with old computer equipment — we don’t know how to get rid of it safely and responsibly.
There aren’t any easy solutions to e-Waste. The most effective place to solve the problem, according to Leonard, “is upstream... Producers could introduce vast improvements to make electronics more durable, less hazardous, and easier to upgrade and repair.”
Thanks to consumer pressure, some computer companies (Apple, Dell, HP) now offer take-back programs. Check out their websites for more information. Or check out computer recycling programs in your area by using e-Stewards (e-Stewards.org) to make sure they meet rigorous environmental and social justice standards. If you live in the Metro Vancouver area, you definitely want to pay a visit to the folks at The Hackery or Free Geek.
In the meantime, I'm going to learn a little more about the computer I have, perhaps resist the siren-call of the new and shiny a little longer, and continue to develop a good working relationship with my computer professional!
Posted on Mon, August 2, 2010