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Sustainability Pathway 2024: Further Reading on Recycling and Reuse

Learn a repair/upcycling skill

Previous generations will remember the “make do and mend” campaign when materials were hard to obtain during and after the Second World War. After several rather profligate decades, we’re once again valuing materials in a similar way, but this time due to our understanding of sustainability rather than scarcity. We could write an entire series on repair and upcycling skills, so instead here are a few thoughts to start your further research:

·         Some upcycling can be very simple, such as cutting the front off Christmas cards so that they can be attached to a new back and reused.

·         Sewing is a skillset that can be used in several different ways:

◦         minor repairs (sewing holes in socks, patching trouser pockets, putting buttons back on etc) to keep clothes functioning as intended

◦         altering clothes can enable us to keep our existing clothes as we gradually change size, or to adjust second-hand purchases to fit us perfectly.

◦         upcycling – drastically changing the look of an item (maybe from a second-hand shop) to make fashion faux-pas into fashion forward!

·         Take a look at Bedford Repair Cafe (https://www.facebook.com/bedfordrepaircafe) – not only do they do repairs on items that would otherwise be disposed of, they show you how they do it to help you build your own repair skills.

·         There are some fantastic online guides to repairing electronic devices at https://www.ifixit.com/Guide.

 

Logistics impact

Much of what we’ve written about this month is focussed on the material within our goods and our waste. We also need to consider the impact on the environment of the logistics (vehicle movements etc) for bringing goods to shops and then to our homes, and taking away our waste and processing that waste.

When making decisions about how to reduce, reuse and recycle our products, we should consider the impact of these logistics issues and minimise then wherever possible. It’s probably not beneficial to drive a very small load of items across town so they can be reused rater than recycled.  The simplest guidance here is that if you’re on foot or a bike, this is never a concern as you’re not impacting the environment! If you do need to use a car, then try to make sure you’ve got a load that makes the trip worthwhile and to combine it with other trips.


 

Keeping digital devices going for longer

I'm very grumpy with some of the companies that dominate technology:

·      Apple has been caught (and fined!) for artificially slowing down older devices – one might assume that this was to incentivise users to upgrade to newer devices.

·      Microsoft is pushing users towards newer versions of their operating systems that don't really do that much more than the older ones but require significantly upgraded hardware (the upgrade to Windows 11 is a stunning example!) hence incentivising new laptop/PC sales.

This leads to an unsustainable demand for new technology and creates a mountain of electronic waste (as well as emptying our pockets to enrich the IT industry!)

It's important to keep the operating system and applications we run on our devices in-date, as this ensures that you are protected against security vulnerabilities – so sticking with out-of-support operating systems and software isn't an option either.

There is another solution to prolonging the secure life of a device – “open source” software. This is developed and supported by a community in return for donations to cover their costs rather than developed by a profit-centred company. While this might sound decidedly amateur, the results are exceptional in terms of stability, security, efficiency and functionality, and the views of the experts who run serious computing facilities are clear – a recent survey showed that 96.3% of the top one million web servers run Linux, a popular Open Source operating system (see https://truelist.co/blog/linux-statistics/).

Two free products worthy of investigation are:

·         Ubuntu (https://ubuntu.com/desktop) is a popular (and user-friendly!) version of the Linux operating system that can easily be installed on PCs and laptops. Thanks to its efficiency, I've kept laptops that were written off as "too old" going for almost an extra decade by removing Windows and installing Ubuntu.

·         Lineage OS (https://lineageos.org/) is an open source operating system for Android phones. While you can still run all the normal Android software packages, you benefit from:

◦         code that is more efficient than the manufacturer’s “stock” operating system and “bloatware”, making the phone more responsive and stable.

◦         support (including security updates) for older phones for years after manufacturer's have stopped supporting them. This makes it more viable to buy phones second-hand, hence reducing electronic waste and slashing the cost of a decent phone – everyone wins!

◦         security and stability updates that are available far sooner (typically weekly) through the in-built updater than through the phone manufacturer’s own arrangements – so devices running Lineage are more secure.

◦         avoiding the tracking and data-sharing software that some manufacturer’s use to monetize you to data brokers – so your privacy is maintained. You can choose the blend of privacy and ease-of-use that suits your needs.

If you'd like to know more about open source software, approach the Creation Care team for further details.

Further Reading:

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