Note: This post was written by SEI staff, Aida Sefic Williams.
The Onion is a very popular, purely fictional and extremely satirical website. The Onion usually consists of stories whose point is only to amuse, with stories such as “Most College Males Admit to Regularly Getting Stoked”. As topics become more interesting to media outlets, The Onion is usually there to make fun of those same topics with their dead-pan sarcasm. While amusing, most of their articles have never struck a particular chord with me until their article titled “New Device Desirable, Old Device Undesirable”.
I will ask for a few minutes of your time to read that enticing article. As I was reading it, I tried not to laugh out loud, because it’s just really funny. The rhetoric used in the article makes the consumers seem like mindless individuals who have fully functional devices, only to replace them with newer devices. The new devices may not have any significantly improved features, but they are mainly purchased because of their novelty. This article was undoubtedly written as a response to the sales which occur on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the upcoming holiday purchases. During times like these, when there are sales on most desired items, people start thinking about purchasing that better, newer version of a given product. I am sure that we have all been there. But it is important that we consider the longer term impacts of our actions.
In his lecture on Nov. 11 (you can watch it here), Willie Cade spoke about computers and their obsolescence. He stated that when dealing with electronics, it is not the obsolescence that is a problem and reason for most of our purchases. Instead, he suggests, it is the appearance of obsolescence that poses a problem. Most computers and electronics are not obsolete, yet they are still rendered useless after only a few years of use. The hardware can still perform its functions, but it is our desire for the better, smaller, light-weight model, as well as the software glitches we experience, that fool us into thinking that our devices are obsolete.
So, before updating your electronics this holiday season, please ask yourself if this new gadget is a necessity. Also, if you chose to update your electronic devices, please consider donating or re-selling your used electronics. If your computers are still functional, you can donate them at organizations such as PCRR, which will take your old computer, wipe off the data from your hard drive, and then refurbish the computer and sell it at a very low price to schools or other non-profit organizations. You can also sell your small gadgets at Gazelle, or you can recycle them at common locations, such as Office Depot, Best Buy, Staples, Office Max and others.
I never thought that The Onion would write such a witty article on a very relevant topic that is so near and dear to my heart. But it seems that they were able to obviously point out our insatiable desire for the newest electronics at any cost.
Links to businesses that recycle or refurbish electronics are provided for information purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by SEI, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) or any affiliated organization.