Why green IT is the only choice The most environmentally friendly product is the one which was never manufactured
Circular economy means keeping resources in useful circulation over the longest possible period. This leads to numerous ecological advantages: less waste, extraction of fossil resources is minimised and fewer new devices need to be manufactured. With IT remarketing, we contribute to the circular economy in the IT sector.
The problem with IT equipment
Manufacturing products constantly eats up resources. But, due to extensive and complex supply chains and supply routes, the global impact of IT hardware is much higher than for other product categories.
Conflict raw materials
Raw materials for IT equipment are frequently acquired in conflict zones. Trading in minerals exacerbates the situation in the country and also helps finance armed groups – for example, in the Congo, where raw materials such as tin are mined.
There are frequent reports that workers’ rights are not respected in IT manufacturing. Some of the main issues are payment below the living wage and working hours of more than 60 hours a week. For example, Foxconn, the Chinese supplier which assembles the iPhone for Apple, is a frequent subject of criticism.
A mobile phone weighing just 80 g will consume 75 kg of natural resources over its entire lifetime. This quantity of resources is known as the ecological rucksack. The manufacture of a smartphone consumes approximately 8 kg, and its use more than 31 kg. 35 kg is consumed in the acquisition of the metal raw materials, for example, the copper in cables and circuit boards.
The water footprint shows how much water is used or polluted for an IT device – including both direct and indirect water use. Manufacturing a PC requires 20,000 litres of water, of which around 4,000 litres are due to the circuit board. A smartphone consumes around 900 litres. Most of this water is needed for mining and processing metals such as copper and lithium.
Distant production locations
Most resources are consumed during production and transport of the hardware. Many devices face a journey halfway round the world from their factory in Asia. For an average business router or switch, 60-65 % of the water used and carbon dioxide emitted is needed just for its manufacture and shipping to Europe or the USA.
is not enough
Every year, huge quantities of electronic waste lands in rubbish tips. In 2019, it was more than 50 million tonnes. Out of the 20 kg of electronic waste generated by each person in Germany every year, only close to half of it is disposed of properly. But even if the equipment is recycled, this is not entirely without its problems:
Often, after recycling, materials such as aluminium no longer have their original quality and purity – this is known as downcycling. But recovering these inferior materials still needs a lot of energy and additional resources, so that – economically and environmentally – recycling is almost not worth it.
Recycling metals and rare earths back into pure products is a lot of work, and is sometimes not even possible. This is because the recycling process for these materials is neither efficient nor mature.
A toxic process
To access the treasure within, the plastic housings of the circuit boards and cables have to be melted. This releases toxic and carcinogenic gases, which are extremely harmful for people and the environment.
In our digital future, we will need to rely on high-performance IT hardware. By using the hardware for as long as possible, the environmental impact of production, transport and disposal can be minimised: because, over the whole lifetime of the hardware, these consume the largest proportion of resources.
The Green IT
It’s impossible to make every impact of IT hardware on the environment visible. But our Green IT Calculator can offer an estimate of the potential CO₂ and water savings if refurbished hardware is used. Simply add your desired products to the request in our shop and select “used”. The calculator will then show you your individual savings.
501 CO₂ saving
26.603 water extraction
We used the Cisco Catalyst 9200-24P-E as an example for the calculation.
The Green IT Calculator compares the ecological impacts of new and refurbished business hardware. The data for the new equipment comes from the EIO-LCA model, which was created by the Green Design Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. The CO₂ values for refurbished equipment are based on assumptions about our average shipping routes as well as the emissions due to our refurbishing process.
The EIO-LCA (Economic Input-Output Life Cycle Assessment) method doesn’t just take the ecological impacts of the product at the final manufacturing step into account, but includes all products and activities required to make the product. This includes the extraction and manufacturing of materials, their transport, product design, testing and much more. You can take a look at the defined assumptions used for creating the calculation model on the eiolca.net website. The website also provides information about existing uncertainties regarding the data which the model is based on, and their aggregation.
Despite all our care, the results from our Calculator can only be regarded as an approximation. A crucial factor here is that, by using the EIO-LCA-Tool, we selected the Purchaser Price Model USA with sector #33411A (Computer terminals and other computer peripheral equipment). There is no special sector for network technology – sector #33411A comes the closest. What’s more, the Purchaser Price Model refers to manufacturing in the USA – but most of the equipment we offer comes from China. The exact emissions of individual devices depend on numerous factors and will vary according to the design, the materials and the processes used.
Gregor Hintler – our expert behind the Green IT Calculator
Gregor Hintler lives in Silicon Valley and is an expert in renewable energy innovation. He is currently USA Managing Director for The Mobility House. Before that, he was Senior Analyst for NRG Energy in the strategy sector and, at the Meister Consultants Group (MCG), supported governments, international organisations and companies in identifying market trends and implementing tools for promoting the growth of clean technologies.
He also came up with technical and economic models for analysing different renewable energy and energy storage technologies for customers in the private and public sector, as well as carrying out greenhouse gas analyses.
Before his time at MCG, Gregor completed a Masters in Environmental Management at Yale University, where he conducted research into energy policy and technologies for decentralised energy generation. Gregor has presented his work at dozens of international conferences and is the author of many book chapters and specialist articles published by, for example, Brockhaus and in NATURE.
Any questions? Then contact Gregor Hintler at email@example.com.
Dare to go greener
We can help you make your IT more environmentally friendly. We’d be delighted to advise you on the use of refurbished hardware or the secure sale of your used equipment.