Does Being Green Mean Lagging The Technology Curve?


New kit may claim to be better for the environment, but does that consider all the impacts? Jim Rapoza thinks you might be better off sticking with older tech

The best course to going green is often sticking with what you have for as long as you can, but that goes against a geek’s grain. eWEEK Labs’ Jim Rapoza offers some advice for tech enthusiasts who want to be environmentally friendly.

You love technology. Whenever the coolest new gadgets and tools come out, you rush to get them (or at least start planning to get them in the near future).

Technology is at the centre of nearly everything you do — from work to home to social settings. Simply put, you are about as far from a Luddite as possible.

But there’s also another side to you. You love the outdoors, going for hikes and walks, the sea, the mountains and pretty much everything in nature. You want to do the right thing when it comes to the environment and do as little harm as possible.

Unfortunately, these two sides of you are often at odds. It can be a very tough task to be green while also being an avid consumer of technology.

That’s because when it comes to enemies of the environment, most modern technologies rank pretty high on the list. Technology products can consume lots of resources, both in their production and in their daily use. And, if these products are improperly disposed of, they can cause significant damage to the environment. Even Web-based social services and other applications have a big environmental impact due to the power usage and computing resources required by the massive data centers that run them.

So, what’s the green technologist to do? Is there any way to find balance and prevent the clash between technology and nature? Unfortunately, there are no easy solutions.

One course of action (and the one that would most likely be recommended by many technology vendors) is to invest in the latest, most efficient and “green” products. Many of these products use less power than older models, and in some cases have cut down on the use of toxic materials. So, by upgrading to new, greener products, you can cut down on some of the environmental impact of being a technology lover.

But this course isn’t without its pitfalls. In some cases, the environmental benefit of the greener product is outweighed by the production costs. Indeed, it has been argued that keeping an old gas guzzler has less impact on the environment than buying a new hybrid car.

Also, acquiring new products can have a cascading effect on other technology products. For example, if you buy the latest green MacBook, you’ll not only have to get rid of your old one but will also likely have to replace the technology units that relied on the FireWire connection no longer provided in Apple’s new systems.

The same can be true for other technology. For example, a new phone can result in the dumping of countless chargers and connectors.

Often, the greenest course when it comes to technology is to stick with products as long as you can before replacing them with a new technology. But, of course, this goes against most tech enthusiasts’ very nature.

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this green technology dilemma. Like many things in life, dealing with this dilemma demands a tough balancing act.

This means sticking with old tech when it makes sense. When you do move on, try to find someone who will want (and who will dispose of properly when the time comes) your old devices. When you are disposing of technology yourself, make sure you work with an organisation you trust will treat the tech in the greenest way possible.

When choosing new technology, make sure that it is greener than older products. And track the environmental practices of the companies and Web service providers that you do business with. Make sure that they understand that green and efficient data centres are important when it comes to keeping your business.

And then maybe someday, being a green technologist won’t pose the dilemma that it does today.