Navitron Renewable Energy and Sustainability Forum

Energy/Electricity Storage and Use/Grid Connection => Low Energy Computing => Topic started by: martin on October 07, 2012, 09:13:59 AM

Title: Is there an ethical laptop?
Post by: martin on October 07, 2012, 09:13:59 AM
"My old laptop has finally given up. I'd like an iPad or a small laptop but I'm concerned about poor factory conditions and the mining for the minerals that go into them. Please help…

from - (

The sleekness of the gadgets that dominate our lives gives little hint of the chaos that lies beneath – not just their innards, which include rare-earth materials such as neodymium (magnets) and europium (which makes your phone glow), but their backstories. Most of these materials are mined in Baotou, Inner Mongolia, a place described as "the apocalypse".

Add on conflict minerals such as cassiterite, gold, wolframite, cobalt and coltan from the Congo, plus the damage from huge pits and deep tunnels. The manufacture of gadgets is energy-hungry, too. Experts extrapolating data from one of the world's largest dam projects suggest it takes 50,000 litres of water passing through a hydroelectric dam to smelt the aluminium for a single laptop. This means, they say, 3ft2 of rainforest is flooded per laptop.

As new aluminium equals energy use and environmental destruction, this raises the question: why can't computers be made from recycled aluminium, given that this uses 95% less energy? And why can't laptops and PCs be built for disassembly (where all the parts come apart to aid recycling)? Depressingly, some commentators think the tech stars are heading the other way, citing the MacBook Air as being extremely integrated. The harder it is to get at the components, the harder it is to recycle. So praise, please, for the Xi3® Modular™ computer. Not only does it use 80-90% less power than a similar desktop PC, but it is modular, and its casing is made of recycled aluminium.

In addition, accounts have emerged recently of factories producing major brands that sound – with their dormitories and oppressive guards – similar to badly run prisons.

You could say we're all enslaved by gadgets. Brands and consumers prioritise perfection over people (and planet). So ethi-tech (as I'm calling a hoped-for sustainable technological revolution) has yet to get going.

Ethical Consumer magazine carries ratings tables for laptops, tablets and phones, but remember that the world chucks away 20-50m tonnes of e-waste a year. Is your computer really dead? Or do you just fancy a new one? Having it refurbished in a factory may not be an answer, because you can't be sure of working conditions. But iFixit ( ( is a free, editable online repair manual for gadgets from toasters to iPods. That's the smartest idea I've heard so far"

Title: Re: Is there an ethical laptop?
Post by: murraymint on October 07, 2012, 09:32:05 AM
Are servers this forum run on ethical, is the electricity they use ethical. In truth all we can do is try our best to make a difference in the devices and services we bye, also try to refrain from buying from the companies that have dubious working conditions.

Title: Re: Is there an ethical laptop?
Post by: martin on October 07, 2012, 10:10:37 AM
"all we can do" - I think we can do far more than that, a very simple way is to try to extend the working life of whatever computer we have - I've found for instance that you can often obtain a Windoze machine sporting a "Vista" badge remarkably cheaply -  just add some more memory and overwrite the appalling operating system with Mint - instant "flier" of a machine unencumbered with Windoze bloatware, that can then be used for several more years........ We can also run our own computers off renewable sources (as well as choosing carefully if buying new equipment)

Title: Re: Is there an ethical laptop?
Post by: jonesy on October 07, 2012, 06:04:10 PM
As most people only surf or stream a 2005 xp latop  is fine.  Cheap on fleabay-reuse first. And only 40w vs pc at 150w