How to Buy Ethical and Eco-Friendly Electronics (2022)

We all love shiny new electronics. But every new smartphone or laptop comes with baggage. Balancing climate scares, horrific conditions for workers, energy consumption, and worries about hellish e-waste graveyards can quickly dampen your excitement about buying a new gadget. None of us want to be complicit, but what can you do when these issues concern you?

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to find ethically made and environmentally friendly electronics. But there are things you can do to lessen the negative impact of your purchases. Here are a few ideas we’ve put together – with the help of Tom Bryson, Tech Specialist at Ethical Consumera UK magazine that ranks brands across categories ranging from environmental reporting to labor rights.

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The best way to minimize your impact is to avoid buying new equipment if you can. The inconvenient truth is that every new piece of equipment has costs associated with manufacturing, shipping, service life, and eventually waste.

“Most environmental impacts, including carbon emissions, occur during the manufacturing phase,” says Bryson. “It is estimated that when a smartphone is actually used, the electricity consumption accounts for only 1 percent of the product’s CO2 emissions.”

It’s best to keep using what you already have, or have equipment repaired to extend its life wherever possible. Thankfully, with the US Federal Trade Commission voting to enforce the right to repair, this will become easier. Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung are starting to offer guides and repair kits, but there’s still a long way to go. If you want to check how repairable your gadgets are, iFixit has a guide, and it’s also a great place to find tutorials, guides, and all the necessary components and tools you need to fix your devices.

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Maybe your device is beyond repair, or you’re shopping for a new category of device that you’re not too familiar with. So what? Try to buy used or refurbished equipment. You can sometimes get a discount on devices that are often indistinguishable from brand new ones. you won’t get it how It’s a great deal to buy from somewhere like Apple’s Certified Refurbished Store, but you can rest assured that you’re getting a perfectly working device in mint condition, guaranteed.

For deeper discounts, you must buy used from dealers or private sellers, but there is a higher risk. Follow our advice on buying used tech and check out our guides to buying a used phone and buying used equipment on eBay to increase your chances of finding a bargain while avoiding potential pitfalls.

In order to manufacture electronic devices, companies need to source numerous materials and components, usually from a large number of countries. This often means that dismantling and assembly often take place in countries with low wages and little protection for workers.

“This complexity means it’s difficult to say with certainty that a device is being manufactured in a completely ethical manner that doesn’t involve exploitation of workers and doesn’t harm the environment,” says Bryson.

What you can Take a close look at the manufacturer behind the desired device and consider which points are most important to you. Ideally, the company will have strict policies on how to deal with labor rights issues in the supply chain and how to source materials in an environmentally friendly manner. Look for evidence of how a company is reducing its carbon emissions in line with science-based targets, and find out if it’s trying to reduce harmful chemicals in its products. Also consider tax avoidance and political transparency.

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