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Sustainability

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Problem

We are now living beyond our means.

If I was spending more every month than the pay check coming in, you would agree with me that I was living beyond my means. Advice you may give to me would be to stop borrowing money and to get my spending under control. You would tell me to live more realistically and to have a rethink about what is really "essential spending" in my life.

This advice I would not disagree with.

So why, fellow humans, are we all living beyond our means? Our plant's resources are rapidly being consumed - it's impossible for our grand children to live how we do now, yet they'll have the expectation to do so unless we begin to change now.

What Can I Do?

This breaks up into several parts, all of which are achievable depending on your personal lives.

Commuters

You guys can do the following:

  • Get some exercise if you live close, get a bike if it's inconvenient or get public transport.

If you absolutely have to drive:

  • Stop travelling alone if you can, get other people in your car. Get yourself onto a car sharing site, give somebody else a lift, save money and congest the planet less.
  • Get a motorbike if you travel alone, you won't get stuck in traffic as much and you don't expend fuel dragging the entire mass of a car around.
  • If you have to use a car, get a car with a smaller engine for city travel and larger engine for long haul travel. Smaller engines are better for stop/start travel and larger engines are better for long travel.
  • Plan your journeys to be outside high congestion. The worst type of pollution is pointless pollution. Stop and start journeys are the worst in every possible sense.

Purchases

For most of the electronics you buy, the question should really be "can I get on of these second hand". Most people prefer something new, granted, but just think about the better deal you can get from your budget! Raptor mouse, mechanical keyboard, Boss speaker - you could kit out your office with much better equipment than your budget would allow. Treat yourself.

Other things that are good second-hand:

  • Clothes, get a well-kitted, varied wardrobe. When washed, who can really tell? Remember that some of those items used to be animals or animal fur...
  • Games, if you want a game for your console, what difference does it make as long as it plays?
  • Cookware, when it's cooking at over 200 degrees - germs aren't your problem. Get yourself some nice non-stick, copper, glass, Pyrex, etc.

The list goes on, simply look around you.

Shopping

When you next go shopping, by yourself one of those fabric shopping bags and stop getting the disposable ones. Make a habit of leaving it in the place where you go just before shopping (work, home, etc).

Mobile Phones

For the love of God, stop buying a new mobile phone every time a new model comes out. My HTC Wildfire from 2010 still makes calls, texts, browses the internet and has good battery life.

If you do need a new phone, look at getting an unloved present or second hand generation behind.

Think about the old people in your life and give your old phone to them! These new UIs are usually confusing to them anyway. If not, why not a younger family member? Why not recycle the phone into something else, by either sending it to a company or downloading an app for it.

Potentially phone recycling options:

  • Alarm clock
  • Desk clock
  • Entertainment when cooking or to follow recipes
  • Use it for browsing news article for your longer toilet visits (we all do it and it's disgusting)
  • Google cardboard VR (if it's new enough)
  • Your office hours status

Family Computers

Does your gran really need a computer with an i3 or i5 in? This Celeron, 512MB RAM computer still browses YouTube perfectly fine with the move from XP to Debian. The battery you ask? My newly acquired Dell Inspiron 1150 still has an hour's battery life, having been in heavy use since 2006 (as of writing, that's 11 years).

Other questions you should ask yourself:

  • Do your kids really need an i7 for doing word processing?
  • Is a gaming console really different from a gaming rig and should you own two very powerful devices because you use them slightly differently?
  • Do you really need a tablet and a phone?

Website Developers

If you happen to be a web developer, have I got a bone to pick with you! How much power you think is used a year processing the pointless parts of your site? Some other notes on the subject:

  • Javascript is not needed to serve static content. This website for example uses markdown, compiled server side, to static HTML pages.
  • Your website advertising might not be needed if you made your site lighter, therefore able to run on a $1 hosting service. Recovering costs through advertising is overall extremely inefficient, why not just ask people to volunteer money if your service is that valuable?
  • Reduce your site size, you're the reason why browsers are consuming more and more RAM. If your image really needs to be that high a resolution, just use an SVG and be done with it. Stop sending JPEG/PNG's that are in the MBs.
  • Stop using bloated JS APIs to deliver pages - just send what you want and keep it light. If the information on the site isn't more important than the style of the site, shutdown the site.

Other Ideas

Startups

The following are startups to try and save this world:

  • Mass recycling of older electronic hardware into new devices.
  • Mass recycling of old fabrics (a.k.a clothes) into fabric sheets (curtains, covers, mats, etc).
  • Old laptops into new thin clients.
  • Old mobiles into new, smart clocks.

Our waste should slowly be reduced to zero. We can't afford to have as much waste as we currently have, we are literally throwing away resources we can't get back.

Electronics

We need to concentrate on more sustainable electronics. Time and time again, I am surprised that more effort is not directed here. I think we need the following:

  • A future-proof standardization of communication ports and their protocols. There's no reason why devices couldn't communicate in a slow, standard method, agree a protocol and then step-up to a faster method of communication. I think 9600 baud serial is a perfect candidate as a timeless, simple communications protocol. Both devices could then agree upon either sticking to their current method, or stepping up to faster, standardized methods.
  • The ability to quickly test whether a large group of hardware parts are broken or not. Parts should be both able to self-test and also be easily tested to see of they still work. 1GB RAM sticks are still as relevant today as the day they were made.
  • Batteries - I think we need a battery technology really badly that can survive more than 10 years. Capacitors are the initial obvious choice and from there, we should be able to come up with better methods. Carbon looks like a potentially promising place to look. We should also consider other methods, such as gas canisters, using compressed air to store and later generate electricity. I think such a method could be very interesting for laptops, where you get cooling for free - something which we already expend energy on. Equally, charging your laptop could be done with the simple use of a hand/foot powered pump.
  • Lower power consuming devices are also part of the future, most if which are already here. Displays are one of the more power consuming devices, with there being good progress towards multi-colour eink displays, which for most uses would be a lot more efficient with it's partial update system.

Conclusion

Let's not hold out breath, there is still much to be done.