Sometimes we feel like a broken record, calling for repairable design. That’s why we created our Self-Repair Manifesto. Electronics should be made with modular parts. Screws, not glues. Quality, durable materials. Service documentation should be clear and freely available.
So we were thrilled to see this new “Design for Product Lifetime” infographic, from Makeshift Magazine and Autodesk. It makes some hard-hitting, unequivocal points about how the expansion of the electronics industry is unsustainable—and proposes repairable design as a solution. (Full disclaimer: it does mention our repair guides, so endorsing it makes me feel a bit like a professor who assigns her own book.)
Congratulations, Apple, and thank you for reaffirming your environmental commitment. Last week, we reported that Apple had dropped out of the EPA green consumer electronics standard, the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT). After a week of media attention and a strong public outcry, Apple announced today that they have re-signed with EPEAT.
“I recognize that this was a mistake,” Apple Vice President of Hardware Engineering Bob Mansfield said of the decision to leave EPEAT, in an open letter to customers. “Starting today, all eligible Apple products are back on EPEAT.” Robert Frisbee, EPEAT CEO, also published an open letter on their site.
Companies like Apple are generally loathe to admit errors. So we applaud their willingness to apologize to their rightly appalled customers.
Electronic waste contains 40-50 times the amount of gold in ore mined from the ground, according to a report last week by the Global e-Sustainability Initiative and the United Nations University.
According to the report, between 2001 and 2011, the electronics industry as a whole went from using 197 to 320 tons of gold. This seems counterintuitive, because compared to computers of thirty years ago, today’s computers have less gold inside—chips often have tiny gold microplated pins rather than solid gold wiring. But we are making many more electronics, and even more products are becoming computerized. Everything from blenders to toy dinosaurs have microchips, most of which have some gold.
Also, devices have gotten smaller, and less of the volume of electronic scrap is composed of bulky CRTs and heavy cases. So it’s no surprise that e-waste contains so much gold.
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Federal agencies can no longer buy Apple products for their offices. According to a recent announcement, Apple will be pulling all of their products from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool (EPEAT), the leading green consumer electronics standard. EPEAT is designed to mitigate the negative environmental and social impacts of electronics manufacturing by requiring that products meet eight environmental “performance categories,” including product lifetime, toxic materials, and recyclability of components and packaging materials.
Did it come from outer space? Did it rise up from the depths of the lost city of Atlantis? How much of it was really made in the United States? When Google announced the Nexus Q at the I/O keynote on June 27, we decided to take one apart and see what we could uncover. Join us in our quest to quell our quandary!
Google mentioned that their case parts were manufactured in the U.S., and we’ll trust them on their word. But we’ve gone ahead and identified (to the best of our ability) the country of origin of each integrated circuit we found inside the device. As the list below shows, it’s nearly impossible to have a truly American-made electronic device; the Q also exemplifies how international all our electronics have become—not everything just shows up on a boat from China.
The Nexus Q netted a great 8 out of 10 repairability score. Disassembling the entire device is pretty straightforward—limited amounts of adhesive and non-exotic screws help to make repairing the Q fairly easy. But adventurous users should be forewarned: there are lots and lots of tiny parts inside that could be potentially lost, which makes the device a bit cumbersome to put back together.
Today we delved inside a Nexus 7, Google / Asus’ new 7-inch tablet; and what did we find? Sometimes the biggest difference can be the most minute of all.
The Nexus 7 is just one millimeter thicker than the latest iPad (10.4 mm vs. 9.4 mm). And yet that tiny millimeter could save users hours of time and hundreds of dollars, should the device ever need to be serviced. Why? Because Asus used retaining clips to hold the case together, not glue. Opening up the Nexus 7 requires a couple of minutes and some plastic opening tools.
All-in-all, the Nexus 7 earned a 7 out of 10 repairability score, just slightly lower than the Kindle Fire‘s 8 out of 10. The Nexus 7 display glass and LCD are fused together, meaning you’ll have to replace both components should one of the two break (which is not the case with the Fire). But the rear case is very easy to open, the battery can be replaced without ever reaching for a screwdriver, and all fasteners inside are Phillips #00 screws. All in all, it’s light-years more repairable than its Apple counterpart, and not too far off its Amazonian cousin.