Why Limiting Screen Time Will Save You Thousands of Dollars & Help the Planet

by , 08/20/13

computer addiction, get outside, green kids, e-waste, e-recycling, green parenting, health hazards of screens, nature kids, screen addiction, screen dangers, screen free, screen time, too much screen time, tv dangers
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

E-waste is a significant problem

E-waste is technology waste created by cell phones, laptops, monitors, iPhones, e-readers and other electronic devices. E-waste is considered to be one of the fastest growing waste issues facing the United States and other countries today. Consider the following facts based on the most current e-waste research:

  • The EPA says national recycling rates for electronics are at less than 35%, though officially, other research shows that this estimate may be high. For example, in 2009, just 25% of electronics were collected for recycling.
  • According to ewasteguide about 20 to 50 million metric tons of e-waste is tossed into landfills each year.

If you think the USA or even the planet as a whole can sustain the sort of e-waste we create annually, you’re sadly mistaken. E-waste includes plastics (and PVCs), chromium, lead, mercury, and other materials that are very dangerous for people and the earth. As chemicals and toxic substances are tossed into landfills they seep into the soil and air creating pollution and affecting the water and food supply. Plus, when these chemicals leech out of electronics, human exposure can cause lung cancer, brain swelling, muscle weakness, damage to the heart, liver and spleen, severe hormonal disorders and many more issues. Earth 911 notes that  e-waste can cause DNA damage, cardiovascular disease and cancer too. The health aspects of e-waste are especially problematic for the 30,000+ full-time workers in the U.S. alone working in the electronic recycling industry.

+ Find out where to recycle your electronics at Greener Gadgets, the EPA or Earth911

+ How kids can help solve the e-waste problem

computer addiction, get outside, green kids, green parenting, health hazards of screens, nature kids, screen addiction, e-waste, e-recycling, screen dangers, screen free, screen time, too much screen time, tv dangers
Image: Migrant child from Hunan province sits atop one of countless piles of unrecyclable computer waste imported from around the world. Guiyu, China. December 2001. ©2006 Basel Action Network (BAN)

Your e-waste is insanely unethical (if you live in the USA)

The United States participates in some extremely appalling practices, but few are as unethical as how we deal with our technology trash. Because most people in the United States refuse to recycle their e-waste, we’re running out of landfill space. To deal with this growing problem, the United States ships our e-waste away to other countries and they’ve been doing so for years. Out of sight out of mind right? The Basel Action Network (BAN) has a treasure trove of information on the subject of toxic trade. BAN doesn’t believe that it’s fine and dandy to pass our trash on to others, and you shouldn’t either. BAN estimates that as much as 80% of U.S e-waste ends up on foreign shores of China, Nigeria, India, Vietnam, Pakistan and other places. This rocks for USA residents. OUR kids aren’t breathing in brominated flame retardants,  PVC (polyvinyl chloride) and other toxic chemicals. Our kids are better protected. Our wasteful habits only harm adults and children in other countries, so we’re good right? Wrong. The next time you think you really need an upgrade and recycling will take too much time, tell yourself that your waste is going to be shipped off to poison children in other countries and consider if that upgrade sans recycling is worth it.

computer addiction, get outside, green kids, e-waste, e-recycling, green parenting, health hazards of screens, nature kids, screen addiction, screen dangers, screen free, screen time, too much screen time, tv dangers
Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Frequent upgrades encourage a disposable attitude in our kids

The e-waste problem wouldn’t be so significant if people weren’t continually upgrading their gadgets. Research notes that the average television has a 10-year lifespan, yet the Telecommunications Industry Association says that people use their brand new televisions for less than two years on average and computers for less than three. I think we all know how often people are upgrading their cells, smartphones and tablets (A LOT). Because people think of technology as utterly disposable, and because there’s a lot of attention placed on having the best, brightest and newest tech on hand, people simple aren’t using their gadgets as long as they should. Folks upgrade before their old items even break down. In fact Clean Air Council states that of all the electronics disposed of in the USA, over two-thirds of them still worked. Not only is upgrading before it’s necessary extremely non-eco-friendly, it sets a very bad example for your kids. I can’t count how many kids I know who consider technology entirely disposable. I know kids who barely flinch when they drop a cell phone, break a laptop or pour water on a tablet because their parents will upgrade them right away. This is in bad form parents. It’s teaching kids that taking care of their stuff is optional, not a requirement and makes kids think that it’s ok when technology is 100% disposable.

+ Visit Last Year’s Model and pledge to NOT upgrade

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