James, Shawn and I spent the morning transferring approximately 4000 pounds of obsolete and dead computer equipment from a storage area under the high school gym into a large box truck provided by EZ PC Recycling. As you might have thought, the process wasn’t much fun. We had to lift all sorts of heavy PC gear up a flight of steps, unit-by-unit, and then hoist it into the back of a truck. The whole process took several hours and was rather exhausting. While we were marching up and down the steps, loading up the recycle truck and receiving our tech workout, several ideas about technology footprints came to mind.
First, it occurred to me just how much technology form-factors have changed in the past 1o years. Many of the computers we disposed of were G3 All-in-one units (AIO). You may remember them as the very tall, heavy, grey Mac units purchased around 1998 for a number of elementary and middle school classrooms. The G3 AIO units were pretty awesome in their time – fast, powerful and loaded with the new version of Mac OS 8! Thousands of our students and teachers used these machines for multimedia learning, web-browser and a whole host of other instructional technology projects. Fast forward to Summer 2007- No computer manufacturer would ever dream of producing such a heavy unit. The G3 AIO weighs close to 60 pounds. Besides the costs associated with metal inside the computer, imagine in today’s dollars, the cost of shipping such a massive computer to schools, businesses and homes.
The form factor and weight issue sparked a bit of a discussion- maybe it is time to only purchase laptops when we next replace desktop units as part of the equipment refresh cycle. Besides the obvious weight advantage when hauling them away for recycling 🙂 , laptops have the advantages of portability, small physical footprints and greater flexibility. For example, a “lab” could be quickly rolled back to a classroom should the need arise (something that is hard to do with thirty, 60 pound computers/monitors). With the Classrooms for the Future project at the High School, we are already heading down this path for one building. Perhaps we should apply the same strategy to the other district buildings?
There is a green ending to this musing: All of this dead gear will be shipped elsewhere and processed or recycled so that virtually nothing will end up in landfills. I wonder what the recycled metal and plastic will end being used for… perhaps to make new iPods or laptops? 😉