I recently became concerned with my technology carbon footprint. Fortunately,I’ve realized that I already use the most ecologically sound computing device available: the desktop tower PC.
It’s already been acknowledged by the industry that the upgrade cycle for the PC is very long and getting longer. My mother-in-law, for example, replaced her Dell tower desktop after nearly nine years of service. Nine years. In that time, I added a second hard drive and a bit of RAM but it was essentially unchanged from its original Pentium 4 state. We could have upgraded its internals but she instead decided to replace it with a brushed-aluminum all-in-one.
Now, I like all-in-ones but they are at a key disadvantage when it comes to carbon footprint. You can’t upgrade them and usually when they go bust, the entire thing goes into landfill. The same can be said of the new generation of ultrathin notebooks. Often, the SSDs and RAM in these highly portable devices are soldered to the motherboard and the whole thing is then glued shut, so the only thing you can do when a part goes bad is landfi ll the entire unit. But I suppose they are still a far greener proposition than the tablet and smartphone movement.
Tablets have even worse serviceability than an ultrathin laptop, and they fall off the performance curve before you can unbox them. First-generation tablets from just two years ago are all but useless. If you don’t replace your smartphone every 12 months, you’re a loser or worse—not cool, the commercials say. It’s easy too, with your carrier “subsidizing” a new phone for you every year. Even if you don’t upgrade, the phone can’t take the latest OS, which means it’s riddled with security holes and won’t even install the latest apps. Let’s not forget the carbon footprint from sleeping in front of a store for five days to get the new thing.
And don’t fool yourself into thinking that putting your old smartphone into the eWaste bin at Best Buy is helping— it’s estimated that only 12.5 percent of eWaste is actually reclaimed.
Now, my desktop PC, I’m certain, will run the latest OS and it gets regular security updates. Even if I didn’t upgrade my tower PC, I’m certain I could run it for the next nine years without issue. When I do get the itch for a new component— say, a future AMD or Intel 13- watt processor that’s twice the speed of today’s fastest CPU—I can replace that one specific component (with motherboard, of course) and reuse the rest of the parts for years on end.
Sure, analysts and the mainstream tech media might say that long upgrade cycle is bad, but that’s because they want people to buy a new product every 12 months and throw away the old one. But I don’t care; I’m trying to save the world with my desktop tower PC.