Thinking about investing in eco-friendly tech? Or simply looking to find out about advancements in green technology? This is the post for you. I’ve been documenting kinder ways to live and dress here for just under 10 years, and across that time, I’ve had to invest in a LOT of tech for my work. Yet it’s only now that I really feel like truly green options are available! So, here’s a round-up of my favourite pieces of tech, their pros and cons, and where I hope the tech industry will go next…
What Is Eco-Friendly Tech?
Eco-friendly tech – also dubbed green tech, clean tech, environmental technology, and more – refers to any form of technology that is made in a more sustainable way. It’s worth noting that there is no legal definition for the term ‘eco-friendly’, but the UK’s Green Claims Code is cracking down on green claims that do not have clear, substantial evidence of a product’s green credentials. In the technology field, eco-friendly tech predominantly refers to hardware, but there is a lot of eco-friendly advancements taking place in software, data storage, and even AI.
What To Look For In Eco-Friendly Tech
In the field of consumer tech, you may have noticed more eco-friendly options becoming available. It’s about time! However, it’s important to be able to understand the difference between genuinely sustainable options, and ones which may be a bit more surface-level. It’s also important to note that e-waste is the world’s fastest growing waste stream, with less than 40% recycled. So in reality, the need for tech that respects people and planet is long overdue.
When looking for eco-friendly tech, consider the following aspects:
- Environmental impact
For instance, it may be tempting to soon invest in a new mobile phone that benefits from the upcoming EU law that ensures batteries can be replaced. Sure, that might increase the lifecycle of the phone overall, but what about choosing a refurbished phone instead? Or how about keeping your old phone going, and getting a recycled case from Casely*? Circular options reduce the demand for unethical labour, new materials, and also stop items from going to landfill prematurely. A holistic look at a product’s sustainable credentials is key!
My Eco-Friendly Tech Collection, Reviewed
To give some real-world examples of advancements in eco-friendly tech, I wanted to share with you what’s on my desk. And I’ll admit, despite my best efforts, some of it isn’t as green as I’d like!
Razer Laptop Stand
Starting from the bottom, we have my Razer Mercury Laptop Stand (gifted). I received this after speaking with Razer at the start of this year to find out more about their Restorify program, which traces and calculates the carbon impact of your purchase and provides you with the option to buy carbon credits at the checkout. While carbon offsetting isn’t anything new, the Restorify program is innovative, highlighting the exact carbon emissions associated with any given purchase. Let’s hope it gets more gamers thinking about not just touching grass, but also preserving it. In return, I’d also like Razer to share more about who makes their products, and if they’re being paid fairly.
Refurbished Apple MacBook
Next, my pride and joy: my refurbished Apple MacBook* from BornGood. You might remember my collaboration with the BornGood team in the run up to Black Friday last year, where I highlighted that a huge 44% of Black Friday purchases are tech, and the benefits of refurbished tech instead. Choosing a refurbished MacBook not only saved me over £1,000, but it also saved on kilos of carbon emissions. Eight months later, I can happily say I’m still satisfied with the performance of my machine, and it’s the main component in my setup. When the time comes to replace this laptop, I know I’ll also be able to either resell it or donate it to charitable campaigns such as Tech-TakeBack, based here in Brighton.
Logitech Recycled Keyboard
Next, a little treat for the fingers. My Logitech MX Mechanical Keyboard for Mac was a purchase I made soon after my refurbished laptop and stand, to give me a more ergonomic workstation, as well as a more satisfying typing experience. The MX Keyboard for Mac is a bluetooth-enabled, battery powered mechanical keyboard. It’s made with recycled plastic, low carbon aluminium, and is carbon offset by Logitech. (Honestly I wish all tech was this well considered.)
I will say, I’m not a fan of backlit keyboards and have always kept mine off, which makes a full charge last months. And I mean months. I type on this keyboard daily, and I’ve only charged it twice since acquiring it in December 2022. It gives credence to Logitech’s own claim that the battery will last up 10 months with the backlighting turned off!
And what happens when I’m finally ready to say goodbye to this keyboard? I can take it to a WEEE recycling centre. It’s not as good as Logitech having its own recycling facilities, but it’s pretty close.
IKEA Rechargeable Batteries
Onto another rechargeable dream: my mouse. As an Apple fan, I also have an Apple Mouse which I bought new (but have linked to a refurbished option). In the mouse, I like to use my IKEA LADDA Batteries, which I’ve been using since 2019. This set of batteries has completely eliminated the use of disposable AA batteries around our home, and they still hold their charge incredibly well four years on. If you’ve been on the fence about investing in rechargeable batteries, let this be the sign to do so now.
Next, we have to talk about my phone. I have a refurbished Apple iPhone from GiffGaff, who I worked with a few years ago to promote the launch of their refurbished devices. At the time, I wasn’t able to share that it was from Apple, but it is, and it was so good that it converted me to only ever buy refurbished! After years with that phone, I recently traded it in for an Apple iPhone 14, again refurbished. And in the past, I’ve also donated old mobile devices to Hubbub’s Community Calling campaign.
Refurbished Apple iPad
To add to my collection of refurbished tech, I recently invested in an Apple iPad from CeX. I chose a slightly older model for just over £200, and in the process I saved myself £££. I also was able to pick it up the same day I wanted it, from my local store. So far, it has performed incredibly well, and has been on work trips and holidays alike.
Belkin Recycled Charge Pad
This Christmas I was lucky enough to receive a Belkin BoostCharge Pro charge pad* as a gift, and it’s become the main way I charge my iPhone, AirPods, and Apple Watch (I joke… I don’t have an Apple Watch… But if I did, this charge pad would charge it!) Since then, I’ve kept a keen eye on Belkin as they’re actively investing in more sustainable systems across their business. The charge pad, for example, is made with Post-Consumer Recycled (PCR) materials. And while it’s one small change, the fact that Belkin has adopted this material across its range means it will keep an estimated 7,000 metric tons of CO2-eq emissions from being released into the environment! Next, I’d love to see more transparent supply chains, and where else Belkin is actively working to be more sustainable…
Herman Miller Fairly-Made Desk Chair
Did you know, Herman Miller was the first furniture company to fuel their entire worldwide facilities with renewable energy? It’s not the reason I bought my Setu Desk Chair, but it does make me happy knowing that it was made in a more environmentally-friendly way. The chair itself is an ergonomic dream, and I’ve been sitting in it to work at my desk daily for more than three years now. The chair comes with a 12-year warranty that includes parts and service, and I have to say when it was first delivered, I had the friendliest interaction with the technician, who not only carried up six flights of stairs, but also helped me to get comfy with it.
Stoov Heated Chair Cover
They say heat the human, not the home, and the Stoov Big Hug (gifted) has become my way of tackling this cost of living crisis. The Big Hug is a cosy heating pad that is designed to fit most chairs, and I have to say it fits my Setu Chair incredibly well. It’s ethically made in the Netherlands, and costs around £4 to use per year – which is a fraction of our utility bills! The Big Hug has three levels of heat, and feels just like an in-car heated seat, radiating warm, dry heat across the back and bottom. It works consistently across 1-2 full work days before requiring recharging (which you can do while it’s still on). I’ve been very taken with this heat pad, and hope to gift a few to friends and family members who also work from home come the chillier months.
Where To Buy Eco-Friendly Tech Products
BackMarket: Second-hand marketplace for lots of tech goods.
BornGood: Refurbished laptops, computers, and more, all with warranty.
CeX: Second-hand tech store on every major high street. Great for tech, games, and more!
eBay: Check out eBay’s new refurbished products, with 1-year guarantee across verified items.
GiffGaff: Reclaimed and refurbished mobile phones and handsets.
Herman Miller: Ergonomic desk chairs and office equipment built to last.
John Lewis*: Ethical department store selling tech products from all major brands.
Logitech: Tech accessories made with recycled materials.
Razer: Gaming products with Restorify carbon offsetting program.
Stoov: Ethically-made heat pads, chair covers, and more, that are eco-friendly and efficient.
Obstacles For Eco-Friendly Tech
Before I sign off on this piece, I wanted to highlight a few obstacles that could potentially play a part in stopping the tech industry from being as sustainable as it really should be…
Tech Is Advancing Too Quickly To Be Sustainable
Tech is one of the biggest industries to have grown over the last few decades. We’ve gone from brick-like mobile handsets to slim-line smart technology in just a few short years, and with that super-fast advancement comes huge investment and lots of corner cutting. Why spend money on sustainability when your business is making money hand over fist? Except, oh yeah, the climate crisis.
New legislation, such as the Right to Repair Act, is helping to change that. Not only are products now going to be repairable, they’ll also be monitored for planned obsolescence. It seems wild that we’re already on the 14th iPhone – do we really need to be? Tara Button’s book, A Life Less Throwaway*, goes into this in more detail, and is well worth a read.
Tech Includes More Than Hardware
In this round-up, I’ve only focused on hardware. That’s partly because I would be here all day explaining every single piece of software I use if I was to include it here, but also because the impact of software is practically hidden from view. That being said, everything we do online has a carbon impact. Even sending a single email will add carbon into our atmosphere. It’s why sustainable data centres and carbon offsetting for social media exist. It feels difficult to simply rationalise that typing this here is creating a negative impact on the environment (although I do try to mitigate this by being with a renewable energy provider, and using a renewable hosting company), so it makes sense that much of the tech industry has removed itself from its obligations to people and planet until now.
Tech Is Removing Us From ‘The Real World’
Finally, let’s talk about a more philosophical point: that tech is removing us from the ‘real world’. This is a worry that originally occurred to me years ago, but one that I quietly tucked away. Years ago, when I first tried on an Oculus Rift, the number one thing I wanted to do was travel the world (and I did, for 10 whole minutes, before feeling like I was going to throw up). Then came the Metaverse, and honestly, I dismissed it out of hand (who didn’t?!). But now, this same worry has returned, with the boom in AI, and also the launch of the Apple Vision Pro. And while these sensory-encompassing tools do physically and mentally distance us from the planet around us, I do trust that users will know this and know the different between life online and IRL. But it’s the bias that’s programmed into these machines that really needs addressing – consider, who is funding this tech? What is their aim? Where is the training data sourced from? And how do these products, designed in the Global North, and built in the Global South, really create global equality? Joycelyn Longdon’s musings on this are well worth exploring.
What do you think? Rate my setup in the comments (be kind!) and let me know your thoughts on the wider ideas explored around sustainability and tech!