How to fix e-waste: a repair manual?

What happens to your old electronics once you’re finished with them? Most of us don’t really like to think about it.

We know it’s not pretty. We know ‘recycling’ is probably not exactly what happens.

If you watch the news, you may have heard of Agbogbloshie, or any of the many other e-waste dumps around the world.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy solution, because this is what ‘recycling’ really means:

Even when a phone is recycled through more ‘official’ means, up to 40% of the metals are lost during the smelting process. So recycling is hardly the solution.

So what is the solution? Well, there are so many problems on so many levels of the entire international electronics industry it’s overwhelming. But the most practical initiative I’ve found so far is iFixit.

iFixit’s purpose is to help people repair their electronics, rather than throwing them away. If you visit their website, you’ll find that they have lots of facts on figures about e-waste, but also lots of manuals on how to repair various electronic devices yourself. They believe that repairing and reusing/passing on electronics is not only sustainable, it’s cheaper and creates jobs. They believe recycling should be a ‘last resort’.

And when you think about it, this actually makes a lot of sense. Planned obsolescence¬†is a problem not just with electronics, but a problem with lots of consumer products. So if we know how to repair/make our products last longer, isn’t this a good thing?

I would say ‘yes’.

Unfortunately, companies like Apple (surprise, surprise) disagree.

Take this example: iFixit publishes many manuals detailing how to repair various Apple products. However, in 2011, Apple began releasing products with brand new ‘pentalobe’ screws, which, naturally, could not be unscrewed using traditional screwdrivers.

In effect, they were purposefully making it difficult for people to repair their products, encouraging them to instead buy a brand new product when their original one could just have needed a part swap. Some companies have even gone so far as to sue and shutdown small businesses and individuals that offer repair manuals

Typical.

Lots of companies believe that repair information is ‘proprietry’ and therefore owned by the company.

This type of mindset is just unsustainable. It should not be more expensive for me to buy new ink than replace the printer altogether!

This is not ok!

Ultimately, if a company sets up an affordable, convenient parts replacement and repair system, doesn’t it mean increased chance of loyalty to the brand over a longer period of time? Companies like Dell and Lenovo are already on board.

But in the end, it’s really up to us.¬†

So next time your laptop starts to run a little slow, maybe take it to a repair shop, or have a look online for repair tips. It’s cheaper for you, and better for the environment.

It’s only baby steps, but it’s a start.

What Makes a Good Princess

Recently, I’ve become interested in the debate surrounding whether Disney is seriously impacting the self-esteem and self-image of young girls. (The Trouble with Disney’s Teeny Tiny Princesses, Merida from ‘Brave’ Gets an Unnecessary Makeover).

When I was little, all I ever wanted in life was to become a princess. I wanted to be beautiful and have beautiful dresses and live in an enormous castle and have everything I ever wanted.

Was this dream heavily inspired by Disney princesses?

Yes.

Did I grow up into a perfectly normal human being with reasonable levels of self-esteem.

Also yes.

Now there’s nothing wrong with a little imagination, but is it ok to be telling millions of little girls around the world that they should want to be princesses?

Well I don’t think it’s fair to dump Disney with the sole perpetuation of gender stereotypes, particularly with their most recent releases of Frozen¬†and Princess and the Frog, which both put a different twist on what it means to be a ‘princess’.

But even in the earlier, perhaps more ‘sexist’ Disney princess films, I would argue that many, whilst restricted to the gender norms of the times, promote bravery, courage and initiative as ‘princess’ qualities to aspire to.

But let’s take a look at some other strong female characters inspiring children these days.

Astrid (How to Train Your Dragon– aka my favourite movie ever)

Astrid is the ultimate viking: strong, brave and tiny bit bloodthirsty. She wears skulls on her belt and wields an axe which is easily heavier than anything I could lift. She’s also smart, regularly outwitting the boys. A role model? I think so.

Merida (Brave)

She’s Scottish, rides a horse, is awesome with a bow and arrow and refuses to marry any of the hopeless fellows offered to her, instead ‘claiming her own hand in marriage’.

Rapunzel (Tangled)

Not only does she chop off her traditional, princessy ‘long blonde hair’ at the end of the movie, she also proposes to her man, rather than the other way round. Gender stereotypes mashed up? I think so.

Now, I want to make it clear that I don’t think all the Disney films are perfect. There’s definitely still a loooonnnnggg way to go. The fact of the matter is, all the characters are still very disproportionate, with large eyes and tiny waists (see ‘if Disney Princesses had realistic waistlines).

But I don’t think anyone can reasonably blame Disney alone for poisoning young girls’ perceptions of what it means to be female. Disney, as we have seen, is trying very hard to keep up with the times by trying to empower young girls whilst still maintaining that ‘princess mystique’ that’s been capturing audiences for decades.

Let’s not forget that gender stereotypes come from all sorts of places.

There’s still plenty wrong with how media portrays women, but I think we have definitely come a long way from Snow White cleaning up after seven dwarves with the help of magical woodland creatures.