Last week for some of my “pleasure” reading, I read “Plastic: A Toxic Love Story”, by Susan Freinkel. It was a pretty enlightening read and you might be wondering how this topic applies to you as an IT Professional. I know we spend a lot of time dealing with intangible things in IT. Virtual machines, the “Cloud”, bits and bytes and software and the physical things always seemed very metal-centric – we even talk about installing things from “bare metal”.
But if you stop and look around for just a moment – it’s probably more plastic than anything else. Where are you reading this post from? Your desk? Your keyboard and monitor are plastic, your desk is probably even mostly plastic. Your laptop is mostly plastic, or if you are using an e-reader it’s plastic too. Just about any mobile device is in a plastic case these days. You might be surrounding by CDs/DVDs and their cases – plastic. Network cables – coated in plastic. Those swag items you have from that last conference – probably 99% plastic.
As IT Professionals, we rule a world of plastic. And we need to be better stewards of the plastic that is in our control. It’s so easy to see many of those plastic items as “throw away” – they’ve been designed that way. Cheap swag pens, demo CDs, mobile devices replaced annually with the newest model, the list is pretty endless once you start looking around. But really, plastic is for all practical purposes, forever.
So where to being? First, take advantage of e-waste recycling programs that are in your area. Make sure that the electronic items that are no longer in use in your office have the best opportunity to be repurposed. Second, consider your inventories of tech related “consumables” – make sure you are only buying what you need, so that items that have a shorter shelf-life don’t go into the trash unused. Printer cartridges and smaller capacity storage media are things that come to mind.
Third, think about what you are buying for yourself and your family when it comes to popular consumer items. I’m not saying you should deny yourself a new iPod or a better smart phone. But think about options for your older devices before they languish in the back of your closet – many organizations take working cell phones to be given to abuse victims, and while you might not want last year’s iPod, someone shopping at Goodwill or some other thrift store might.
As I finished up my reading on my first generation Kindle, I realized that even though some of the newer models are sleeker and faster, what I have is probably good for now.