Sustainable Buyers' Values
The product should offer exceptional value for your specific situation. Not financially - more that it fills a need, brings joy; it has a real purpose in your life that will justify the physical cost of producing it. Coming to a conclusion about this might require reading of product information or watching videos about it online. We recommend you also read or watch independent user reviews to find out if other people enjoy using it.
If you don’t imagine yourself finding it useful in a couple of years' time, consider whether that equates to a lasting value for you.
If excitement is high, it may also help to drop the idea for a day or two. You might find after sitting tight for a short period, buying it is not actually as urgent as you felt it was and you can take more time to look around at alternatives and reconsider - also avoiding buyer’s remorse in the process.
Congratulations, you just value tested a product! Hopefully this guide helped you make a more informed decision. Feel free to save the cheat sheet below for future reference, and good luck out there.
The product should be made in a way that aligns with your values. Not to force our ideals on you, but we think that manufacturers who care about their workers and the environment are the ones people should be buying from.
It can be tough to get an unbiased account of how ethical and sustainable a product is - especially since most manufacturers like to claim they are saving the world through their environmental initiatives, and human rights issues are often covered up. We suggest doing web searches on the manufacturer paired with keywords such as ‘ethics’ and ‘sustainability’. Seek unsponsored accounts from journalists or other independent sources in order to figure out if the brand deserves your business.
Unfortunately it seems that supply chains in the tech industry are rarely squeaky clean, so it will likely be an exercise of weighing up the pros and cons of each manufacturer’s practices. Again, consider whether the purchase on the whole is worth its potential downsides.
The product should be one that will last a long time compared to its competitors. That means it was built with care using good components and excellent quality control - ensuring that very little could go wrong. Seek out manufacturers that have a known reputation for reliability, or do a web search for the model of product with the keyword ‘reliability’ to learn more. Consuming opinions that are independent of the manufacturer is always recommended.
The longer it lasts, the less often you’ll have to buy it over the course of a lifetime - which translates to a lower consumption, and lessens your impact. It also probably saves you money.
Again, user reviews are a good reference to find out if people are having issues with the reliability of a product - and if they are, reviews will also tell you whether the manufacturer is taking ownership of a product's flaws and working to rectify this. Manufacturers who have high confidence in the reliability of their products will usually offer competitive warranties.
There should be repair options for the product. If it’s still under warranty, the manufacturer should manage this process - but warranty service varies between brands, with some making questionable moves in the name of efficiency and customer satisfaction (like replacing the product instead of repairing it, so the customer gets it back as quickly as possible). We advise you do a web search on the manufacturer, including the keywords ‘warranty repair’ to find out how responsibly they are conducting this service.
The manufacturer should be committed to providing you repair options even once the warranty has ended. Often, manufacturers at this point will make it difficult and expensive to have repairs done through their networks, in order to convince you that buying a new product from them is a better idea. Don’t be convinced.
Some products are specifically designed to be unrepairable - we suggest searching the model name on www.ifixit.com to obtain a repairability score, or into a search engine with the keyword ‘repairability’.
Third-party repairers are often more trustworthy and cheaper to work with outside of warranty. Do a web search on the item’s name or product category plus your approximate location and keyword ‘repair’ to find options near you. Make sure you look at reviews for any repairer before engaging with them - some have been known to take advantage of people who aren’t tech-savvy.
The product should be constructed in a way that means it can be dismantled efficiently and safely by recyclers at the end of its life. E-waste facilities employ staff who manually dismantle products - this means that if an item is time-consuming to dismantle or requires special skills, that costs recyclers more money, and so that item is more likely to end up in a landfill, on average. The blame for this falls squarely on manufacturers, so it’s up to us to pick products that are more easily dismantled.
Any hazardous components (such as batteries) should be methodically removable in a way that protects the safety of recyclers. What this means is that the device is able to be pried apart by removing screws, clips or a small amount of glue. Usually, a product’s repairability score goes hand in hand with recyclability - if you can open it, you can access individual components.
For certain products, you might be able to get an idea for general recyclability based on its construction - for example a washing machine with a steel body is likely going to have a higher value (and thus a higher incentive) for recyclers than one clad in plastic. Inspecting a demo model in person before deciding to buy can be helpful.
Again - some manufacturers knowingly make their products in a way that means they’re inherently difficult - sometimes even dangerous - to take apart, which makes them far less recyclable. If you’re not sure, try inspecting photos of the product to see how it’s constructed, or again look up the model on www.ifixit.com.
Looking to buy electronics? Try using this set of values to make a more informed choice.
If your device or appliance has truly caked it and it's not fit to sell for parts, there are many facilities around New Zealand that will take it, either for free or for a small fee, and recycle its most valuable components.
It's important to note that many of its parts will still end up in a landfill, so e-waste recycling isn't the be-all and end-all solution to the problem - however it is the best option we have currently for when devices and appliances reach end-of-life.
Check out the map below to find a collection point near you. Be sure to check the collector's website or give them a call to find out what types of e-waste they accept, their opening hours, and if they charge a fee for their service.
As always, if you have information to contribute to this resource, we'd love to hear from you.
E-waste (electronic waste) is a significant and ever-growing problem. Thanks to rates of innovation and accelerating business-driven consumerism, our personal electronics and appliances have lifespans that are shorter than ever before. The good news is that buyers can influence tech manufacturers by making more informed choices, and avoiding buying from companies whose priorities are out of alignment with the issues of today.
True sustainability in modern electronics means some wide-ranging criteria has been met. The process of consuming tech sustainably today can be confusing, so we've created this kit to help you make sense of it.
Click a button below to access each pillar of the guide - and if you have a suggestion, please get in touch.