Tag: sustainability

For social service organizations, digital access is increasingly critical to the success of their clients, constituents, and patrons. The people they serve need it to apply for jobs, complete schoolwork, search for a home, or apply for benefits.

At the same time, the speed at which technology is changing means we throw out an estimated 10 million metric tons of electronic waste each year, just in the United States.

But there is a way to connect clients to the digital tools they need without spending thousands of dollars on new technology. Tech refurbishers—often nonprofits themselves—are repurposing unwanted electronics for digital inclusion programs, aiming to lower the cost to clients and curb the environmental impact of e-waste.

Digital inclusion, according to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance, is the triad of broadband internet, a digital device like a laptop or desktop, and the skills to use that device. But data from both local and national sources is clear: There are numerous barriers to digital adoption, from affordability to lack of access.

Reuse is a tool for digital equity

It’s clear that digital resources are in excess to some, but remain much-needed by others. The refurbishment stream presents an alternative: the redistribution of our technology resources. Participating in the cycle of reuse means that technology sourced from government, businesses, community organizations can be further used by community members rather than going straight into the recycle.

Refurbisher Free Geek, based in Portland, processed over 1 million pounds of e-waste in 2016, and in the same year, returned  about 3,500 refurbished devices to the community. Repairing and repackaging an item requires fewer resources overall than manufacturing something brand new.

For Kyle Wiens, CEO of repair site iFixit, this means shaking off the dominant “culture of new.” “People have this fixation with new, and I don’t understand it,” Wiens said in 2016. “It’s a good buy. It’s better for everybody.”

Product quality and cost matter, too

For some, “refurbished” implies poor quality. Brian Chen wrote in April 2016 for the New York Times, “People may lack trust in a pre-owned product because it has been used by someone other than themselves.” But in reality, it doesn’t equate to broken or bad. Every day, Americans make major financial decisions to purchase cars and houses that were previously owned. Chen continues: “My takeaway is that you can buy pre-owned products from reputable brands with as much confidence as you might buy a used car from a certified dealer.” Last December, Consumer Reports wrote that only about 5 percent of electronics sold by refurbishers are found to be defective. And some so-called refurbished items are entirely unused—“they might have been returned because a delivery guy nicked the box during shipping.”

All of this translates to overall cost savings. While the cost of technology is perceived as high, it doesn’t have to be that way.

A transparent process

The refurbishment process pulls back the cover on supply and demand. Different products received are sorted and triaged once in the door. At Free Geek, anything with data goes straight into a secure data area, where data-bearing objects (think hard drives, SD cards) are “wiped”—written over multiple times—or destroyed, if necessary. From there, the hardware is tested. Computers are further evaluated and then re-built to an exact specification, quality-checked, and reviewed once more by staff.

What can I expect from my refurbished electronics?

Are there shortcomings to some types of refurbished electronics? Sure; battery lifetime, for example, won’t be out-of-the-box status. And if for some reason the hardware fails, a replacement may not be an identical model. But it will will meet the same need. This makes it important to review the warranty. All technology has issues—even brand new. Expect that an issue or two will come up over the life of any device. Many refurbishers also offer tech support for their devices, and some offer warranties.

Price is based on the age, brand, and hardware specifications, and in some cases, the buyer’s eligibility. At Free Geek, desktop units range from free to about $100 and laptops run between $150-$300 each.

 

Want more? Look for the nonprofit refurbisher in your area. AFTRR, an alliance of nonprofit technology refurbishers and recyclers, provides a handy map of its members.

NTEN loves bringing the nonprofit technology Community together and always looks forward to the NTC as one of the highlights of our year. However, all the travel and festivities around a large event like this take a toll on the environment. While we do our best to cut down on the amount of paper and signage used and the amount of food wasted, there are lots of things beyond our control.

That’s why we are really excited to share that the 15NTC this March in Austin, Texas, NTEN had its first ever Carbon Emission Offsets Sponsor—Intacct! Through their generous sponsorship, we were able to offset 971 metric tonnes of CO2. That’s a huge number! What does it mean?

Just to give you an idea, 971 metric tonnes of CO2 is equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from:

  • 204 passenger vehicles
  • 348 tons of waste sent to the landfill
  • 49.8 garbage trucks of waste recycled instead of landfilled

That many tonnes is also equivalent to the CO2 emissions from:

  • 1,042,965 pounds of coal burned
  • 12.9 tanker trucks’ worth of gasoline
  • 5.2 railcars worth of coal burned
  • 25,399 incandescent lamps switched to CFLs
  • 88.6 homes’ energy use for one year
  • 109,261 gallons of gasoline consumed

These numbers are scary, but thanks to Intacct, we’ve been able to partner with Carbonfund.org to help mitigate the effects of our event. Carbonfund.org is a nonprofit organization that works to educate the public about the dangers of climate change and helps individuals, businesses, and organizations reduce their climate impact. When someone makes a donation, Carbonfund.org purchases and retires offsets on their behalf from one of the various projects they support around the world, from renewable energy and energy efficiency to reforestation. The CO2 emitted from the 15NTC through attendee and staff travel, hotel nights, and meals will be offset through the purchase of carbon credits that support forestry preservation and replanting projects in Texas and other parts of the Southern United States.

We hope you’ll join us in thanking Intacct for their help in making the 15NTC our greenest event ever.

NTEN loves bringing the nonprofit technology community together, but we realize that our flagship event generates a tremendous amount of waste and CO2. As we’re all working to strengthen the nonprofit sector, it’s critical for us to be conscious of our social and environmental impact.

This year – we need your help! While NTEN is taking steps to ensure that the conference experience within the Austin Convention Center is socially and environmentally conscious, there’s a lot more we can be doing to ensure that participants are informed of all green options within and outside of the Convention Center.

We are looking for new Sustainability Committee members, preferably those that are either based in Austin or are familiar with the Austin area, to help share their local knowledge to steward a green experience.

Sound intriguing? Here’s what’s involved with being a committee member:

  • Ability to participate in a monthly phone call to identify new goals and to review progress made toward goals
  • Willingness to do occasional ‘homework’, such as research or reaching out to potential partners, vendors, etc (no more than 1-2 hours per month)
  • Respond to occasional emails
  • Write blog posts for NTEN about social and environmental options in Austin
  • Help your peers in the NTEN Community move toward a commitment to sustainability and stewardship by promoting the Committee’s work on social media channels and sharing blog posts.

We are determined to make this the greenest NTC ever, and this year we have a huge advantage: the Austin Convention Center is LEED Gold Certified, so we can be sure they have our interests at heart.

Here’s a glimpse into what we are working on so far for 2015:

  • Travel offset program
  • Ride-share program
  • Composting of food and utensil waste at hotel
  • Ethically-sourced and reusable tote bags, registration materials, and tchotchkes
  • Reduction of paper-waste by offering digital collateral option for vendors
  • Banning plastics and Styrofoam
  • Digital program guide
  • Plant-based ink printing
  • Reusable and/or recyclable signage
  • Local food sourcing–organic and seasonal when possible

Let us know by October 30 if you’re interested in joining the committee. If you have any questions or ideas, please contact NTEN’s Development Manager, Eileigh Doineau at eileigh@nten.org.

Change, June 2014The 14th issue of the NTEN: Change journal is out, and this quarter is all about fundraising.

From Bitcoin, to crowdfunding, to the tricky discussion about overhead – articles cover some of the latest topics in digital fundraising, and opportunities for nonprofits.

This issue is packed with actionable ideas, inspiring interviews, and tips that your organization can use to get ready for the end of the year, if not sooner!

>>Read the June 2014 issue! (online or mobile device)

Here’s a run down of our feature articles:

We also go behind the scenes with KivaGlobalGiving, Urban Ministries of Durham, and FundsforNGOs, and the Surfrider Foundation reveals the key ingredient that’s needed to complement digital tools for effective advocacy and engagement.

Plus, learn how to fundraise year-round with holidays, and the NTEN Voices section: community tweets, examples of good donor stewardship, and we ask Food & Water Watch: How do you practice what you preach?

>>Enjoy, and subscribe! Get this journal free every quarter in your inbox by subscribing today.

NTEN has worked hard over the years to reduce the carbon footprint of our annual conference. This year, we’re formalizing our efforts and rolling out a new sustainability plan to help us be even more effective in ‘greening’ the NTC.  And we need YOU, our wonderful community, to help! We’re looking for some creative, environmentally minded nptechies to gather their ideas and experiences and join our Sustainability Committee. Let us know by September 9 if you’d like to participate–we’d love your input.

Here’s a glimpse into what we are working on so far for 2014 and beyond:

  • Travel offset program in partnership with TerraPass
  • Ride-share program
  • Composting of food and utensil waste at hotel
  • Ethically-sourced and reusable tote bags, registration materials, and tchotchkes
  • Reduction of paper-waste by offering digital collateral option for vendors
  • Banning plastics and Styrofoam
  • Digital program guide
  • Green printing and signage
  • Local food sourcing–organic and seasonal when possible

Sound intriguing? Here’s what’s involved with being a committee member:

  • Ability to participate in a monthly phone call to identify new goals and to review progress made toward goals
  • Willingness to do occasional ‘homework’, such as research or reaching out to potential partners, vendors, etc (no more than 1-2 hours per month)
  • Respond to occasional emails with random requests and questions
  • Help your friends and associates in the NTEN community move toward a commitment to sustainability and stewardship

If you aren’t able to commit to being a committee member but would still like to be involved, here are some ways you can help:

  • Offset your travel to NTC when you register (more about this to come) and encourage your colleagues to do the same
  • Use a reusable container while at the conference to cut down on plastic waste
  • Opt for the digital versions of the program guide and vendor resources
  • Reuse your hotel towel
  • Use public transportation or ride-shares while in Washington, DC (details to come)
  • Stay tuned for more things you can do!

Interested or have questions? Email eileigh@nten.org or call 503.272.8744.