I currently use an iPhone that is *gasp* four years old. That’s at least a year past the supposed deadline for when the greater part of our country trades up for a new cellular device. And, while I am passionate about sustainability and extending the life of my devices, the real reason I haven’t jumped ship to the newest round of models is because, well, they’re just too big! But there’s something remarkable that happened when I made this decision. I acted sustainably, and now that shift frames all my tech purchases.
The pain of upgrading
All those marketing gurus who make technology ads would lead me to believe that getting a new phone is as simple as dropping a wad of cash and moving on with my life. But past experience has proven that this is not the case at all. With any upgrade, whether a smartphone, tablet, or computer, there is a latency that needs to be considered. It takes time to configure an upgrade, and time to learn the ins-and-outs of your new device.
The same goes for business IT equipment as well. In fact, even more so, since you’re dealing with dozens of employees from all walks of life and technology comfort levels. In the industry this is considered the conversion cost, and it’s more-often-than-not glossed over by marketing speak with deceptive phrases like “plug-and-play” or “seamless integration.”
The fact is, upgrades are inconvenient. Take the phones I have to choose from: to say nothing of the conversion cost, the newest line of iPhones won’t fit comfortably in my front pocket (where I like to stow my phone) or be inconspicuous when I sneak a peek at the email notification while talking with my children about their day at school. These preferences are why I hold on to my devices—and they’re not necessarily sustainable reasons.
Going green by accident
We talk a lot about being sustainable with your IT assets, or making the sustainable choice with your personal devices, but there is another angle to this statement. Often times the sustainable choice is just the better one. Not because of the benefits to the earth or because sustainability makes you more efficient, but because of how simply effective it can be.
The sustainable choice, for instance, is often also the most economical choice. So, if cutting costs or saving money is your goal, doing the sustainable thing might be in your best interest. People typically buy technology to solve a problem in their work or life—to get a job done. And having a corporate lifecycle management perspective often means overlooking the expensive prejudice of designed obsolescence to use a device for longer. Not to be sustainable, per se, but because it’s a perfectly suitable solution.
This brings in another point that when we are healthiest, we use technology to get work done, not to medicate pain areas in our lives. When I say medicate, I mean purchasing technology as a status symbol, getting lost in features and apps to avoid IRL situations, or accumulating things out of greed.
Technology, especially when it’s disruptive, goes gang-busters if it helps people perform a task that suffers without that technology. If you make that the only baseline to determine why you consume technology, then you could land in a more sustainable position by default. Sometimes the sustainable choice has nothing to do with the environment.
Choosing green has its own rewards
While many of our purchasing (or not purchasing) decisions might inadvertently land us in an eco-friendly place, being sustainable in earnest creates a better lens through which to view how we consume. And this is critical to our futures as consumption has become a huge part of our daily work and family lives.
For instance, now knowing that I am being sustainable by delaying any future tech purchases, when I eventually need to upgrade, the decision will be couched in a sustainable mindset. I might look at something more green like the FairPhone, or buy a used upgrade instead of new. Similarly, I will look to donate or responsibly handle the phone I'm moving away from. And some of those decisions also just make sense, whether they were sustainable or not. But in knowing I'm being sustainable, I can make those decisions confidently.
Now knowing that good decisions could land you in a sustainable position anyway, why not jump into sustainability all the way? With complete buy-in, personally and professionally, real change will happen in your business and your home life. And, as evidenced by the $1,000 I didn’t spend to update my perfectly usable phone, it’s a change that could benefit your budget as well.