Upgradeability Is Sustainability: Pass It On

Upgradeability Is Sustainability: Pass It On

Keeping your stuff working for longer is the best way to decrease the carbon footprint of your personal technology. Mining and manufacturing have more carbon emissions than the use of your stuff, by far—more than 80% of a laptop’s carbon footprint comes from its creation. 

But keeping stuff working longer doesn’t always mean resigning yourself to slow memory and full drives. You can get more out of your stuff by upgrading your storage and memory—for only a tiny fraction of the environmental impact of buying new. To help you make that happen, we’re teaming up with Micron-Crucial to make it affordable and easy to upgrade your laptop.

Fixing That “Running Slow” Feeling

Upgrading is a great way to get more useful years of life out of your machine. 

There’s a feeling of impending doom when your computer starts running slow—waiting long minutes for a program to open, worrying about a crash when your application hangs right as you go to save. 

Story time: I started to get that feeling when I was finishing up my grad school coursework, at a time when my workhorse was a 2011 MacBook Pro—the last in the line of unfused LCDs and without soldered-down RAM. I loved that machine. That MacBook Pro and a cup of coffee were my best friends through long nights of reading and writing. But when I started to ask more of it, it balked: I was invited to work on a research project that involved doing a bunch of video editing, and suddenly my blazing fast machine felt glacial. 

So I ordered some new RAM: two new 8 GB sticks to replace my 4 GB sticks. It worked! Video editing was a breeze. And I wasn’t the only one who benefitted. I passed on my 4 GB sticks to Simon, who’d only had 2 GB. Then Simon’s RAM helped Steph upgrade from her 1 GB sticks. And those sticks went to Brit, who moved up from her turtle-pace 512 MB sticks (which finally I couldn’t pass on). That one RAM upgrade extended the life of my machine and helped me help four friends extend theirs, too. Together, that upgrade probably added 15 years to the collective lives of our laptops.

Upgrading = Sustainable: Pass it on

Maxed out on RAM? If your computer still has a hard disk, upgrading to a solid state drive (SSD) is one of the best performance upgrades out there. Even if you’re on an SSD already, you’ll eventually need to replace your disk. SSD sectors have a maximum read-write lifespan. So the fuller your disk gets, the more it’s overwriting the unfilled sectors—losing efficiency and advancing its death date.

Getting more years of life means lower carbon emissions. The Restart Project estimates that extending a laptop’s life to six years instead of the four years manufacturers predict can reduce an individual’s carbon emissions significantly, down to about 700 kg of CO2e in ten years, from nearly 1000 kg of a “standard” replacement cycle.

When you replace a part, you may be able to get even more use out of it by passing it on to a friend or family member, like I did with my grad school RAM. Or you can send it to an e-waste recycling facility—lots of big box stores and convenience stores do e-waste collection throughout the world. 

Don’t let that “running slow” feeling lead you to scrap your whole machine prematurely. Put some new pep in your laptop’s step by upgrading its parts, maybe starting with a Micron-Crucial SSD.