The largest wildfires in history blazed through California and Australia last year, Siberia reached a record-breaking 38-degrees Celcius, and the Arctic continues to melt.

Just days ahead of Earth Day 2021, the UK Government announced it would aim to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to levels in 1990.

The pressure is on for a greener future, but what can we do to help - especially as consumers of technology? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1. Recycle (or upcycle) your old tech

This one may be obvious, but boy is it important. Electronic waste is destroying the planet, and the UK is one of the biggest producers of e-waste in the world. Electronic waste is anything from plugs and cables to old laptops, appliances and phones.

A 2019 UN report found that the world produced 54 million tonnes of e-waste and that the amount is growing three times faster than the global population (via the Guardian).

Our technology contains precious metals like copper, iron, silver, and gold which often go straight to landfills. The same UN report concluded $14 billion's worth of these valuable metals was thrown away. If that's not bad enough, toxic elements in lithium-ion batteries, along with mercury and lead also leach into the ground and pollute the air when burnt, which is typically how they're disposed of. 

There are many ways you can recycle your old devices. If it's still working, see if you can give it away locally on sites such as Freecycle or Gumtree. You can also donate it to your high street charity shops. Just be sure to factory reset your device first.

You can also upcycle it. Samsung's Galaxy Upcycling programme allows Galaxy phone owners to convert their old Samsung phones into smart home devices using the Smart Things app. This lets you breathe new life into your phone as a baby monitor, light sensor, or smart switch. This video explains more about it:

If you'd rather earn a bit of cash, consider selling your old gadgets to services like MusicMagpie (or Declutter in the US) and the iOutlet. MusicMagpie even accepts CDs and DVDs if you really want to spring clean.

Then again, if your device is simply dead and there's no hope of a second life, you can get it responsibly recycled at large retailers like Currys PC World. Don't forget to also check if your local authority accepts kerbside e-waste recycling.

2. Buy refurbished tech

Many tech brands are making a big push towards expanding their refurbished and renewed offerings. 

eBay launched a Certified Refurbished program  in March 2021, which saves shoppers up to 30% on top brands like Dyson and Go Pro and also includes a 12-month guarantee. Here are some refurbished products you can buy from ebay.

Similarly, Amazon Renewed is another destination for refurbished devices that look and work just like new. It's all backed by Amazon's standard return policy and Amazon's Renewed Guarantee. The latter promises customers a full refund or replacement within a year of receiving the product if it doesn't work as expected. 

You can also go directly to the manufacturer for refurbished devices. Anything you buy from the Apple Refurbished Store or Samsung's Certified Refurbished Store has to pass rigorous quality standards directly from the manufacturer. Any parts that aren't up to scratch are fully replaced, making the devices indistinguishable from new – just cheaper (though not necessarily as cheap as from ebay or Amazon).

See our detailed guides on buying refurbished tech to learn more:

3. Watch less Netflix

This might be a hard pill to swallow – especially through a pandemic – but cutting down on streaming may well help the environment.

The internet has a carbon footprint and a pretty big one. Not only does it takes energy to run our devices and access wireless networks, but massive data centres and server farms that support the internet need a serious amount of energy to keep running. All of the world's data centres combined can produce nearly as much carbon dioxide as the airline industry.

How to be an eco-friendly tech consumer this Earth Day

An hour of Netflix generates 100g of CO2e, which is equivalent to a petrol car driving 400 meters. While that's not much on its own, it does pile up when multiplied by Netflix's 203.6 million subscribers. Netflix isn't the only culprit, of course, as any streaming service is bound to produce carbon emissions.

So the best thing you can do this Earth Day is pick up a book instead! 

4. Say no to next-day delivery

How to be an eco-friendly tech consumer
Image via Amazon Logistics UK

Everyone loves next-day (or even same-day) delivery, and even more so if it's free with services like Amazon Prime. While it's undoubtedly convenient, it's terrible for the environment.

Having items delivered to your home can be more eco-friendly if the alternative is you having to drive to a store and back just for a single item – delivery trucks, instead, consolidate many orders in one trip. 

However, the problem with next-day shipping is just that: deliveries are no longer consolidated. Warehouses don't get a chance to optimise deliveries as they must send items off as soon as it arrives.

So the next time you're ordering off Amazon or any online retailer, opt for 'no rush' delivery. The earth will thank you for it.

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