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How can you incorporate sustainability into your use of electronics?

Updated: Jan 3

In today's blog post, we will be taking a short high-level look at the best practices for consumers in the context of electronics and e-waste.

Why is it important to consider sustainability in the context of electronics?

The production of electronics and the disposal of the resulting e-waste can lead to an array of social and environmental issues – such as labor exploitation, child labor, soil and groundwater contamination, health problems, and even premature deaths. By making sustainable and ethical choices when purchasing and using electronics, valuable resources can be conserved and the impacts on the planet and people can be mitigated.

What should you consider when purchasing new devices?

Ask yourself if a new device is actually necessary prior to making a new purchase. Consider sharing devices with others (in your household or community) or buying used or refurbished devices. When buying new devices, try to buy devices that are durable, energy-efficient, modular or easy to repair, and for which spare parts will be readily available for longer periods. Where possible, avoid devices sold in excessive amounts of packaging (especially Styrofoam packaging).

How can you extend the life of your devices?

Protect your devices well during use and transport (e.g. through a protective case or by placing them on a sturdy base). Ensure the batteries are charged optimally, by using a suitable charger and avoiding overcharging as well as undercharging. Take steps to make sure your devices are well-maintained by inspecting, cleaning, repairing and if needed updating them regularly. Follow the instructions on safe usage for your device and use a grounded outlet where possible. Consider repairing broken devices – optimally, at a local repair café or a local repair shop – and selling or donating devices you no longer need.

How should you dispose of your e-waste?

Do not dispose of electrical and electronic equipment until it is broken beyond (reasonable) repair. If you do not want to repair a broken device, consider selling or donating it rather than disposing of it. When disposing of e-waste, return devices to the retailer or bring them to a trusted and certified collection site. Do not hold onto broken devices for unnecessarily long, as giving your e-waste free for recycling can reduce carbon emissions and contribute to the circular economy.

Other best practices

We will be looking at further best practices (for different industries) in closer detail throughout future columns, so stay tuned!

⬇️ Let me know in the comments below how you go about purchasing electronics and disposing of your e-waste. If you have additional tips on sustainable ways to use electronics and recycle e-waste, please feel free to share them with all of us in the comments section!


About the author

Christine Nikander is the founder of the environmental and social sustainability consultancy, Palsa & Pulk. She studied law at the universities of Columbia (New York), Edinburgh (Scotland), and Leiden (the Netherlands). Christine has been doing scholarly research into the legal and policy framework surrounding e-waste and conflict minerals since 2015.


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Our weekly column is published on Wednesdays at 12PM CET (The Hague) or 6AM EST (New York) on our website and on LinkedIn. Our monthly newsletter is published here on our blog, on Substack, and on LinkedIn.


Read more about personal best practices regarding e-waste here:

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