Sing O Muse, of the terrible furniture that once adorned my college apartments. Sing of the pockmarked TV stand made of the heaviest particle board. Of the back pain my father and brother have endured with (not so) quiet humility thanks to their heroic lugging of said TV stand up shaky apartment stairs. Sing of my bookshelf with the unpronounceable Swedish name that warped with the first rainstorm of the season.
As a recent graduate school grad with limited funds, I’ve been known to head to superstores that allow me to furnish my apartments with lower-priced furniture, oft-fashioned out of manufactured, disposable materials like particleboard or medium-density fibreboard.
I’ve been drawn to disposable furniture for reasons I hear echoed by others in my age group: Read the rest of this article »
In a low, canary yellow warehouse in Kumasi, Ghana, eleven men command a mass of tools—a band saw, grinder, and drill press—to clean and prepare a huge pile of bamboo. What are they making? Bikes: inexpensive, lightweight bikes strong enough to stand up to Kumasi’s long rainy season.
These men are employees of Bamboo Bikes Limited, the Ghana factory of the Bamboo Bike Project, a non-governmental organization dedicated to providing more affordable transportation options in rural Africa and teaching job skills to last a lifetime. It was started by a group of scientists and engineers from The Earth Institute at Columbia University in New York and sponsored by the Millennium Cities Initiative.
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This post originally ran with Motherboard.
The iPad’s light, sleek, simple construction belies its complex origins. There’s a lot of stuff in the iPad: aluminum and glass, of course, but also other heavy metals and toxic chemicals. And manufacturing each 1.44-pound iPad results in over 285 times its own weight in greenhouse gas emissions. The manufacturing of and material used in the iPad are two reasons why the iPad must be made in China—and not just in the ways you’d expect.
Servers were the size of refrigerators and a single CPU chip had about $300 of gold when Montreal-based electronics recycling company FCM Recycling started harvesting precious metals from computers’ circuit boards and memory. Last week, I chatted with FCM representatives Chris and Andrew about the the work they’re doing and the e-waste climate in Canada.
This post was originally published in The Atlantic.
That big hole in the ground? It’s a pit mine at the Molycorp Mountain Pass rare earth facility in California’s Mojave Desert. Metals mined from pits like that were used to make the cell phone in your pocket and the computer screen you’re staring at right now. I visited Molycorp two weeks ago, as part of our investigation into the sources and consequences of consumer electronics manufacturing.