So, it’s the holiday season. That means there’s plenty of panic and freaking out regarding all sorts of electronic gizmos and doodads and whatnots. For decades now people have rushed to big-box retailers, standing in frigid lines awaiting their opportunity to pay hard-earned money for a bunch of plastic, wires, and batteries… well, not always batteries. We’ve all been exposed to the dreaded “batteries not included” monster. This year, I’m wondering if you might not be into doing things just a little bit different.
Refurbished electronics help the environment and help humanity.
If I lost you after that refurbished statement, please stay with me. For some reason refurbished electronics get a bad rap. Many people think that they’re buying someone else’s garbage, or that just because items are refurbished they’re somehow inferior; they are not. Generally speaking, factory refurbished items are just as good for a far better price.
So maybe you’re wondering why the heck I’m talking about refurbished electronics when our goal and work has to do with human trafficking? Well, I hate to break it to you, but there’s human trafficking and economic exploitation in almost every piece of electronics manufactured today. Now sure, you naturally going to nod your head because you heard of stories of Foxconn and other manufacturers that use child labor and questionable labor practices in the assembly of their phones. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Inside of electronics are metals, precious metals. Oftentimes there is gold, silver, platinum, palladium, rhodium, copper, and a variety of other metallic elements. These metals often originate in countries and areas that are known to use exorbitant amounts of child and forced labor. In short, kids and forced labor victims often mine and process the metals that are inside electronics. These metals are then fabricated into parts that are then often assembled into working pieces by child and forced labor. And unfortunately, by purchasing electronics made through exploitative practices we are economically validating those practices, which in turn encourages more exploitation. So how do we stop it?
By refurbishing and reusing the existing supply of electronics, you are discouraging exploitation and creating a demand for more ethically made and ecological products. How does this work you ask? It’s simple supply and demand. People are exploited because there is demand for brand spanking new items that contain all the metals we just talked about; brand-new items require the mining and manufacturing of brand-new metals and parts. So how do we reduce demand? Refurbished electronics.
The refurbishing process takes factory seconds, items with blemishes, broken screens, bad batteries, or even something that was sent back because it was a display model. These items are then dissembled cleaned polished completely repaired and often given a warranty similar or even exceeding the original warranty that came with the new product. By the time the factory is done refurbishing the product is just as good as the original, but you pay significantly less for it because it is a refurbished product. The refurbishing process reuses the existing supply, which discourages future exploitation in the product lines. It’s not a perfect thing, because quite often the existing supply do have elements of exploitation in them, but remember you are discouraging future exploitation and generating demand for more ethical alternatives in the long run.
If 20% of the American population begin regularly purchasing refurbished electronics and stating that they do so because they know that there is elements of forced and child labor in their products, manufacturers will change their policy or they will fail economically; both options are acceptable. The number 20% is not some obscure number its based on research that comes out of Malcolm Gladwell’s “tipping point”. The tipping point is where a behavior spreads exponentially (virally) and is then accepted as the norm.
This holiday season make your purchase count, make a statement with your money. Buy refurbished electronics. It’s not fair that the presents we give our loved ones may come at the expense of other people’s loved ones. It’s not fair.
Refurbished electronics are good for the environment and good for humanity.
Your dollar is your voice, spend wisely.
p.s. If you’re wondering where I buy my refurbished electronics from, I log on daily to a website called woot.com, not all their items are refurbished but a great deal of them are.