Instead of buying a brand new computer, cell phone, digital camera or other gizmo, you can save lots of money buying last years hotness for a fraction of the price of a new model. For example the differences between a Nikon D3200 and D3300 or D5200 and D5300 are minor, but the price for the older model is a couple hundred dollars less. The trick is how do you avoid buying clunkers.
Online auction markets like eBay, or online classifieds like Craigslist, are one way to buy older models. Simply search for phrases like “used” or “refurbished”. While most are good quality items, some are scams.
There’s a pull to buy the latest and greatest. Manufacturer marketing departments do their best to convince us that life is fulfilled only by owning the latest gizmo. As a result many people eagerly scramble for the latest cell phone or car or whatever, and the planet is suffering as a result. How? The constant churn of consumer goods means manufacturers are constantly mining new raw materials at the input side of the gizmo sales chain, and consumers are constantly shelving or throwing away old models.
Part of the solution is to create a second market for used or refurbished gizmos. While the two-year-old cell phone doesn’t have the latest whizbang features, it is still perfectly good for many purposes. A gizmo that’s used for 10 years is much more environmentally sound than one that’s used for 1 year then thrown away because it’s deemed “too old” by someone fixated on the latest and greatest.
The market for used previously owned electronics is quite large, and that may be good for consumers in some aspects, as there is a lot of choice. But it can be difficult to navigate the market because of the big difference between used items, refurbished items, and the quality of different refurbishing efforts.
It’s all well and good to try and be a good environmental steward by buying older gizmos with the purpose of extending their useful life. But, if you end up being scammed with a broken gizmo you’ll have wasted your time and money.
One method to avoid the bogus refurbished gizmos is to look for refurbishers certified by the Sustainable Electronics R2 Standard. The standard aims to not only certify the item was refurbished to good quality, but that in the process recycling facilities implemented “environmental, health, and safety procedures that directly benefit their workers, the communities in which they operate, and the environment.”
To find a refurbisher that meets the R2 standards, and that sells direct to consumers, a list of companies selling R2 refurbished desktops and laptops is available on the SERI site, as well as a listing of R2 recyclers that can responsibly recycle your old electronics.
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