The Living Lightly column is venturing into new territory. If readers will send in their burning questions related to sustainable lifestyle or environmental health, I will try to find the answer. Then after I publish an answer, if you have a better or different answer that you would like to share with the public, send it my way at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Help. My spare bedroom is full of obsolete computers and monitors. I have boxes full of keyboards, cables, and mice. Some of this stuff still works. Surely somebody could give it a good home. What can I do with it?
These days we all want the latest techno-gadget. To check my assumption that there is very little demand for old computers, I headed over to Click Computers on University in Georgetown. Sometimes it is just too weird how things work out. Standing next to me at the counter was a very nice man, George Lourigan, who overheard my question. He immediately spoke up and offered that he takes donated computers and fixes them up for formerly homeless people. George and a friend, Bob Pearson, run Bridge Ministries, which helps the homeless find permanent living arrangements and get reconnected to society, which of course involves internet access. George will take computers that are several years old and overwrite the hard drives to remove all personal information. Now what are the chances that someone who actually wants old computers would be standing at Click’s counter the very moment I walk in to ask my question? George isn’t sure how many computers he can handle at present, but if you have a good one to donate, contact him at 512 635-3329 or George@georgelourigan.com.
If George doesn’t want it, or if your stuff is in bad shape, you can still reclaim the spare room by taking your old electronics to Goodwill. They will wipe the hard drive, salvage the good components, rebuild a few functional computers for resale, and recycle the rest. Goodwill has a deal with Dell Computers called Dell Reconnect. They will take any brand of computer equipment and recycle it responsibly. They promise not to export the waste to developing countries for disposal and not to use child or prison labor in the recycling process.
What is the most effective thing I can do to “save the earth?”
On a global scale, the most effective thing we could do as a species is have fewer children. But for those of us who are already here, the three biggest contributors to our carbon footprints are: Your diet, your car, and your house. Meat production, especially cattle, uses huge amounts of both energy and water, so switching to a plant based diet is one of the most important changes you can make, and healthier as well. Even giving up meat one day a week (Meatless Mondays) is helpful. Drive a fuel efficient car, or better yet, drive less altogether. And third, use your air conditioner sparingly. Wear shorts to sit on the porch and drink iced tea. (Of course, this idea has more appeal in April than it does in August.) The impact of changes in the way you eat and live can be huge or small, depending on how enthusiastically you throw yourself into the project. Notice that recycling is not on the big three list. Recycling is wonderful, and we should all do it, but the impact on your carbon footprint is not as great as that of diet, transportation, and home energy usage. It’s just so much easier to focus on recycling because it doesn’t involve those pesky lifestyle changes which are so inconvenient.