Exploring the Ecological Footprint of Computers

Most businesses, tech users, and modern consumers know that they need to do more to understand the ecological impact that their daily routine has.

Technology is recognised as a convenient and efficient part of business operations and modern lifestyles, and is readily accessible to many of us through both work and our personal lives. However, there remain a number of downsides when it comes to the environment and practising sustainability. These include the carbon footprint of the production process, and the debilitating impact of electronics which are discarded as waste and sent to landfill. 

Here at Computer Aid, we strive to balance these negatives with a series of social and environmental benefits – donating previously used devices and computers to those in need, and pairing funding with those communities in need of technology investment. A big part of our work to improve the sustainability of the technology industry and balance the digital divide lies in helping people understand the carbon footprint and ecological impact of their computers - as explored below. 

The carbon footprint of a computer

When we talk about the carbon footprint of a computer or device, we are considering the CO2 emissions associated with that device – from production and manufacturing through to use.

A single computer or laptop produces an approximate total carbon output of 422.5 kgs – with around 80% of that output being produced during the manufacturing process. This means that the vast majority of a computer’s carbon output is produced and released into the atmosphere before it is even received by its end user.

The creation of and the demand for new technology feeds a growing issue which will only be reversed by taking steps to recycle and reuse as much as possible.

Massive amounts of water are also used to manufacture devices, with thousands of kilograms of earth needing to be dug and mined to source the materials needed.

That’s all before the device is created and shipped, then sold and finally used by the end consumer – producing more carbon emissions via internet access, storage, and more.

The ecological footprint of a discarded computer

The variety of devices and new models available across the technology market means that waste and discarded tech is at an all time high. When a consumer discards a computer for an updated model, that device can often end up in landfill if it is not donated for proper recycling.

Once in landfill, these devices break down and leak harmful chemicals and waste products into the surrounding environment, waterways, and ecosystems. These kinds of harmful and toxic substances can be extremely damaging to natural habitats. 

However, a large percentage of those devices can be recycled, reused, or at the very least disposed of efficiently and sustainably - provided private and corporate consumers know who to contact and where to send them.

What can businesses do to minimise their carbon footprint?

A big part of our work with businesses revolves around changing attitudes to unwanted technology - seeing its potential for recycling and reusing, rather than as pure waste. With Computer Aid, it’s easy to donate technology that you are no longer using - not only giving corporations and businesses a different path for unwanted tech, but also offering them a way to elevate their internal ESG goals.

Donating computers to Computer Aid helps your business to meet its environmental and CSR responsibilities while actively supporting communities, both in the UK and overseas. Not only will your equipment stay out of landfills, but all devices that pass through Computer Aid are wiped effectively and reset. This means that all governance requirements are met by protecting any and all data which is stored on the device. 

Tech which is donated to Computer Aid has one other major impact - and that lies in the individuals and communities that receive the recycled tech. This part of our mission is what helps us to proactively balance the digital divide, while also helping to minimise the rising problem of technology harming our environment.

To find out more about donating your devices to Computer Aid, get in touch with us directly.