Eco PC

Lead, beryllium, mercury, cadmium, brominated flame retardants... the toxic chemicals in your PC and CRT monitor pose both occupational and environmental threats, particularly in low-income communities and developing countries. (Compare maps of Santa Clara’s toxic sites with a county map of child-poverty levels.)

The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition writes:

“Electronic waste from obsolete computers, televisions and other devices is one of the fastest growing and most toxic sources of waste. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, in 2000 more than 4.6 million tons of e-waste ended up in US landfills and the amount is projected to grow fourfold in the next few years.”

A series on computer disposal notes, “All parties involved in the recycling debate agree there is only one way to achieve environmental safety in computer disposal: Redesign the hardware from scratch.”

Japanese computer maker NEC has risen to the challenge. The PowerMate Eco is billed as the world’s first “environmentally-friendly” PC. The device features a 900MHz Transmeta Crusoe processor, 256 MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive, and a built in LCD display. Environmentally-friendly qualities include:

  • A lead-free motherboard
  • A low-heat design that doesn’t require a noisy fan
  • An energy efficient LCD display that doesn’t contain the hazardous materials found in conventional CRT monitors
  • A case that’s made from 100% recyclable plastic that doesn’t require the toxic brominated fire-retardant coating of traditional plastic cases

Between the energy efficient processor and LCD display, NEC estimates the device uses one-third the power of other PCs.

For more information, see the PowerMate product page or press release.

>  15 October 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Blue Screen of Death

Where do old PC’s go to die? In February 2002, the Basel Action Network the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition released the report “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia” which reveals that “huge quantities of hazardous electronic wastes are being exported to to China, Pakistan and India where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment.”

Four villages in Guiyu, Guangdong province (about 4 hours drive from Hong Kong) have been turned into toxic waste dumps.

“About 100,000 poor migrant workers are employed breaking apart and processing obsolete computers imported primarily from North America.... The operations involve men, women and children toiling under primitive conditions, often unaware of the health and environmental hazards involved in operations which include open burning of plastics and wires, riverbank acid works to extract gold, melting and burning of toxic soldered circuit boards and the cracking and dumping of toxic lead laden cathode ray tubes. The investigative team witnessed many tons of the E-waste simply being dumped along rivers, in open fields and irrigation canals in the rice growing area. Already the pollution in Guiyu has become so devastating that well water is no longer drinkable and thus water has to be trucked in from 30 kilometers away for the entire population.”

The United States is the only developed country in the world that has not ratified the Basel Convention, a UN treaty which bans the export of hazardous wastes from the worlds most developed countries to developing countries.

The report features stunning photographs from Jeroen Bouman. You can find some of his photos and audio commentary as part of the BBC’s Disposable Planet? site.

Found via Slashdot

>  23 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , ,

Paper without Wood

“There does not exist enough wood fiber to supply the ever growing appetite of the global pulp and paper industry. The industry itself no longer debates this issue with environmentalists; even they accept that we all face a looming wood fiber shortage. Pulp and paper is a 107 billion dollar industry, which accounts for about 85% of nationwide revenues for wood products, making it one of the nations top income generating industries. This ostensibly indestructible industry cannot be ignored; our global economy revolves around it and is reliant upon it.”

The crisis thus made plain, the ReThink Paper Web site presents strategies for paper reduction, a ranked list and searchable database of papers that contain no virgin wood, a host of non-wood alternatives for paper (such as kenaf, hemp, and agricultural residues,) a directory of non-wood paper friendly printers and designers, even a cooperative buying guide. The site is a project of the Earth Island Institute. (Free registration required.)

>  18 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Sydney’s Green(ish) Games

The 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney were to be the first “Green Games” because of the comprehensive environmental plan included in the city’s successful bid to the International Olympic Committee. The city’s guidelines

“recognise the major environmental issues of global warming, loss of biodiversity, ozone depletion and air and water pollution. They contain commitments in five main areas: energy conservation; pollution avoidance; water conservation; protection of the natural environment, and waste minimisation and management.”

Green Games Watch 2000 has a detailed account of the successes and failures of the event.

“The main green wins include public transport access, solar power applications, good building material selection, recycling of construction waste, progressive tendering policies, energy and water conservation and wetland restoration. The main green losses include the failure of most sponsors to go green, poor quality Olympic merchandising, environmentally destructive refrigerant selection, loss of biodiversity in some projects, failure to clean up contaminated Homebush Bay sediments in time for the Games and the lack of transparency and effective public consultation by the Olympic Coordination Authority and Sydney Organising Committee for the Olympic Games.”

See also two critical articles published in Harper’s and Current Affairs.

>  27 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

House of Straw

“Straw is a viable building alternative, plentiful and inexpensive. Straw-bale buildings boast superinsulated walls, simple construction, low costs, and the conversion of an agricultural byproduct into a valued building material. Properly constructed and maintained, the straw-bale walls, stucco exterior and plaster interior remain water proof, fire resistant, and pest free. Because only limited skill is required, a community house-raising effort can build most of a straw-bale house in a single day. This effort yields a low-cost, elegant, and energy-efficient living space for the owners, a graceful addition to the community, and a desirable boost to local farm income. This booklet offers an in-depth look at one such community house-raising, in addition to a general overview of straw-bale construction.”

Published by the U.S. Department of Energy Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Check this site for lots of straw building resources.

>  25 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

Road House

Pilot projects in Fife, Scotland and on the South Downs outside Brighton, UK are building low-cost housing from old tires. 40 million tires are discarded each year in Britain alone “enough free building material to construct 20,000 low-cost homes a year.” Known as “earthships” The new houses are “capable of functioning entirely independent of mains services such as electricity, water and sewage.” Read more from the Low Carbon Network and the Craigencalt Farm Ecology Centre, the organizations working the projects.

Found via Also Not Found in Nature.

>  21 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Do You Want Fries With That?

The Greasecar runs on on 100% used vegetable oil. “Where do you get your vegetable oil? We get our oil from local restaurants; we recommend that you establish a relationship with a restaurant in your area.” For $795 you can order a kit to convert your existing diesel car into a greasecar.

>  21 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,


“The Alameda County Computer Recycling Center is a 501c3 nonprofit computer recycling organization that provides computers to those on the Earth who would not otherwise have access to them. We help disadvantaged, undereducated, and disabled humans gain access to technology, computers, and the Internet. We teach... unskilled workers how to build and maintain computers. We give computers to underprivileged peoples, including citizens and governments..... We give computers to physically disadvantaged individuals. We donated over 5000 computers last year, all at no cost to the recipients. We are a 100% Microsoft Free organization. Every computer we donate runs a full and legitimate copy of SuSe Linux. The computers that we place with our recipients are refurbished through our Computer Repair Internship Program. In the process, we ensure that obsolete, non-working, or no longer usable electronic equipment does not end up in landfills.”

>  14 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Computing with Chicken

“In late June, a chemical engineer from the University of Delaware filed a patent that described a new generation of microchips. The patent proposes to replace silicon — which has long served as the basis for microchips — with another material. And what might this mystery component be? Chicken feathers. Richard Wool understands that nonspecialists will find this strange. But he’s used to it. Wool and his colleagues at the university’s ACRES project (Affordable Composites from Renewable Sources) have been developing new uses for plant fibers, oils and resins. Using such raw materials as the humble soybean, Wool and his colleagues are designing prototypes for everything from simple adhesives to hurricane-proof roofs.”

From the Washington Post.

Found via Slashdot.

>  9 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Greener by Design

Edwin Datschefski specialises in the development and promotion of sustainable product design concept.” His site Greener by Design has a couple of interesting lists of environmentally friendly products. My favorite: the ice cream cone as an example of edible packaging.

>  17 June 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

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