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Old Gadgets Can be Useful, Too

'Tis the season to be gushing about the new electronic gadgets you've received for the holidays, and figure out what to do with your old ones. Sure, you could keep them in your closet or attic, waiting for the day VHS tapes are all the rage again, or when radio-sized phones are back in style. Maybe that old TV can be used as a giant paperweight. But there are plenty of better alternatives to put your unwanted electronics to use.

I’ve had this laptop since college and believe it or not, it still works. Well, besides the fact that the touchpad and keyboard aren’t working; and I have to keep it plugged in because the battery is pretty much dead. If, like me, you don’t want to part with your old computer just yet, see if you can upgrade the hardware or software to put it on par with your new gadgets. In my case, I would replace the battery and the keyboard, and plug in a new wireless mouse. Or, after clearing out your personal data (PDF), you can donate working electronics to those who need them.

The next best thing is to recycle your old gadgets, but before you start carting loads of electronics to your nearest electronics collection program or drop-off point, check if they’re working with a third-party certified recycler. You’re probably thinking, third-party what? Well, companies that recycle electronics can be certified by outside organizations (like R2 Solutions and eStewards) and regularly audited to make sure that your electronics will be managed safely. That way, you can rest assured that your old gadget is being recycled in a way that is protective of our health and the environment. Check out R2 Solutions and e-Stewards for a list of certified recyclers.

So, why shouldn’t you just let your electronics sit at home and collect dust, or worse, get thrown away in the garbage?

Electronics are made of precious metals and materials, like gold, copper, and glass. If they’re thrown away, all that precious material that required a lot of energy to mine and manufacture will go to waste. When you recycle your electronics, those precious materials can be used in other products, such as electric cars or watches. You’ll also be preventing the pollution that would have been caused by having to mine and manufacture raw materials. In fact, recycling one million laptops saves enough energy to power over 3,000 US homes for a year.

So while you’re having a blast trying out all the new features on your shiny new gadgets, just remember to put your old ones to good use. I, for one, will be looking forward to the new battery and keyboard to keep my beloved laptop working for as long as I can.

Find out more about what you can do to green your holiday season

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