How Zero Waste is Technology?

I've been contemplating my motto recently. Why do I feel so strongly about ditching perfection? Why do I continuously preach grace?

How zero waste is technology? Is it eco-friendly? How energy intensive is it? Find out more from www.goingzerowaste.com

It's because I am far, far from perfect.

Yesterday, I started freaking out about how much energy I consume at home. I was concerned about the amount of energy used to heat my home, how much energy it took to run lights or my stove. 

I was jamming to some old records, and I started thinking about music streaming services online. I started thinking about all those servers and the energy they use. What does that do to the environment? 

Focusing on landfill trash is great! But, it's not the true essence of the zero waste movement. Trash is a physical representation of the resources we've used, albeit a very small sample of the large picture, but a physical representation none the less. 

No, the true essence of the movement is to redesign the system so that resources don't have to be discarded. Rather they can be resumed back into the system like in nature.  So, where does that put us with technology? 

How zero waste is technology? Is it eco-friendly? How energy intensive is it? Find out more from www.goingzerowaste.com
  • E-waste is the most rapidly growing segment of the municipal solid waste stream.
  • E-waste contains many valuable, recoverable materials such as aluminum, copper, gold, silver, plastics, and ferrous metals. In order to conserve natural resources and the energy needed to produce new electronic equipment from virgin resources, electronic equipment can be refurbished, reused, and recycled instead of being landfilled.
  • E-waste also contains toxic and hazardous materials including mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, chromium, and chemical flame retardants, which have the potential to leach into our soil and water. (1)

That second point makes it sound like recycling is great! And, while it's true that you should never landfill electronics, recycling isn't the answer. As we've discussed before. 

Most e-waste is dropped off in developing countries where they don't have proper recycling processes. Instead, they strip it of precious metals (if they can) and leave the hazardous materials lying around.

We're also depleting the earth very quickly of the rare-earth minerals used to make electronics. This will definitely be an issue in the future of the industry. (2)

On top of the e-waste think about how many servers it takes to run your cloud, your Netflix binge, your Spotify. Think about the amount energy it takes to stream music, movies, and websites.

Technology has made my life simple, streamlined. I no longer have to own and fill my space with tons of copies of books, DVDs, and CDs. But, on the other hand, what's the environmental impact of relying on servers?

Tanks containing coolant for servers at a Google Data center in Saint Ghislain, Belgium. Image via The Atlantic

Tanks containing coolant for servers at a Google Data center in Saint Ghislain, Belgium. Image via The Atlantic

It's really made me question whether or not minimalism applies to this area. We need more libraries, we need to have a larger sharing economy. We need to really focus on reducing in so many aspects. 

We need to reduce what we have to what we truly love and cherish. We need to reduce the amount of time we spend bingeing Facebook, Spotify, and Netflix. 

I used to keep Netflix or Spotify on in the background. Even if it was a CD or record that I already owned, it was more convenient to play it on Spotify. Instead of defaulting to Spotify or Netflix, I'm going to make sure that I'm listening and truly enjoying these streaming services with intention.

It will no longer be background. I will no longer mindlessly participate in these activities. That's a really sobering thought as you mindlessly scroll through your facebook feed. Sometimes I waste 20 minutes looking at facebook. Why? I don't know. I don't get anything out of it. This will definitely help me be conscious in the future. 

I don't think there is one correct answer here. Rather we might need to reframe our intentions and reassess our consumption. After all, the first R of zero waste is reduce.

I think the internet provides us with great resources and is a wonderful tool. We just need to be more conscious of the amount of time we spend and make sure that we're truly engaged and present with what we're doing. 

Do you think we'll be able to move to all renewable energy for streaming services? What do you think about the role the internet and electronics play into waste?


take away points:

This is a very text heavy post compared to most my writing so I want to make a few things clear. 

  • Technology is amazing. I am for it. Β 
  • Be intentional with technology and actively engaged with what you're using. If you want to marathon 8 hours of Netflix go for it. Just try to be engaged while you do it and not spend hours scrolling through social media simultaneously. 
  • Instead of getting caught up in the never ending Facebook feed black hole, try and set certain times for checking social media. That way you don't get sucked in, but can still connect with friends and family. Β 
  • Relax and remember everything in moderation. Β 

And, I'm guilty of all of these things. Living with more intention is one of my goals for 2017 (especially focusing on my technology and data consumption.)

I've definitely noticed a lack of work life-balance since blogging is something I can do almost anywhere. 

FYI: The irony of you reading this on my blog is not lost on me. But, I am considering migrating to WordPress where I can host my blog with clean energy. If you're a blogger you should check out Green Host It

I also recently switched my search engine to Ecosia.org. They plant trees while you search. :)