Want to reduce your waste? These are unique semi-green gadgets

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Want to reduce your waste?  These are unique semi-green gadgets

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Earth Day is April 22, and its usual message – take care of our planet – has been given added urgency due to the challenges highlighted in the latest IPCC report. This year, Ars takes a look at the technologies we normally cover, from cars to chip manufacturing, and finds out how we can boost their sustainability and minimize their impact on the climate.

The best gadgets are those that find a way to enhance your world of work, play, or even just the daily grind. But there is also another feature that can make a great piece of technology even better: durability.

Continuously buying the latest and greatest technology or gadget obviously creates a lot of waste. But thinking critically about the gadgets you buy can play a small role in reversing this trend.

Below, we look at some of the unique technologies we’ve found that offer a greener approach to rivals or suggest a positive impact on the planet.

A laptop or smartphone for the ages

The Framework is a lightweight laptop meant for upgrading, repairing and customizing.
Enlarge / The Framework is a lightweight laptop meant for upgrading, repairing and customizing.

Jim Salter

While the laptop frame Still running on a latest-gen Intel processor at the time of this writing, it proved to be a good tool for productivity and even light gaming when we tested it last year. But the relevant thing here is that the laptop was built to last a long time. You can upgrade its components, like RAM and storage, more easily than on other laptops. It’s also easier to fix, as it pops open with just a screwdriver, and Framework shares repair guides online. You could even buy framework laptop motherboard all alone.

On the phone side, Fairphone may be a more durable choice, as it offers products that can last for years and include extensive software support. Take the Fairphone 2. It came out in 2010 and can run android 10 of 2019.

Meanwhile, the Fairphone 3 and 3+, released in 2019, are testing Android 11 in beta.

All this makes Android 11 based on Fairphone 4, which already has a five-year warranty, looks quite promising in terms of longevity.

USB lighter

That cheap old thing still works.
Enlarge / That cheap old thing still works.

Charon Harding

If we feel sorry for the wasteful burning of resources, turn to our lighters. Disposable lighters are cheap and easy to find at a glance, but are not recyclable, nor are refillable lighters.

Battery-powered options operate using “high-voltage electrical current [that] passes between two nodes to create a highly charged plasma arc”, for Popular mechanics. They are refillable, so you won’t have to buy new lighters. And, since they don’t use fire, electronic lighters are generally safer and more wind resistant.

To go further, as electronic lighter manufacturer Power Practical explained in a blog post, “due to ionization, electrons in the air begin to move along the nucleus and create a current in the form of an arc.” This is why these chargers are also called plasma or arc lighters. Instead of a dancing flame, you’ll see a purple lightning-like zigzag.

A blog post from an e-lighter manufacturer cited by Popular Mechanics suggests that their products work the same way:

“Lightning occurs when a buildup of electrical charge in clouds reaches the point where the ability of that charge to move through the air is reached and the charged particles jump either between the clouds or toward the ground , causing a huge arc of plasma, light, heat and sound,” the Flux Lighters blog reportedly said.

Refillable lighters can be just as expensive or almost as cheap like traditional ones. A $13 unnamed version from Amazon (see image above) has found its way into my house, and although it sometimes needs to be cleaned or bent back and forth to get its bow to work, it’s been serviceable since 2019 .

There are also nicer options. For example, The USB Lighter Company has options that last for “up to 1,000 lights per charge” and prismatic soft top options.

A downside to USB lighters is that you have to keep the arc tips clean, which may require bringing along a tissue or rag that you’ll have to throw away or wash, creating a bit of waste. Most of us need a lighter, and with a USB you can still start a fire without burning a bunch of plastic, metal, and gas.

Net-positive monitor arm

Humanscale claims that the production of its monitor arms has a positive impact on the environment.
Enlarge / Humanscale claims that the production of its monitor arms has a positive impact on the environment.

Prioritizing durability with your monitor arms might seem like a reach at first, but we’ve found offerings from Humanscale that are actually certified climate, water, and energy positive.

Certification comes from International Institute of the Living Futurewho requires that the products to be “healthy and free of toxins”, “net positive and beneficial to both people and the environment”. Companies that meet their certification requirements must also be socially responsible, including to their employees. The certification includes seven performance areas in total: place, water, energy, health and happiness, materials, equity and beauty.

Humanscale is the first to sell monitor arms with this certification and has options for Single, double, and tri-monitor setups and beyond.

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