Oklahoma, Meet Santa Barbara

The September issue of Scientific American magazine is about “Better, Greener, Smarter Cities”, written by David Biello. In it, he tells us about the planned city of Dongtan, on China’s Chongming Island. Although construction plans were abandoned because of lack of funds, the city was originally slated to be a state-of-the-art, eco friendly, and energy efficient Utopia that permitted only battery or hydrogen powered cars and would be surrounded by organic farms for food supply.

The author states that a key priority for cities adapting to a world transformed by global warming is increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to stave off even more of a catastrophic climate change. He suggests green initiatives that could realistically be taken on by US cities that would have a big impact on the environment, such as black tar roofs being replaces with white tar, mandatory cleaner burning fuels, a water-efficiency program, and rebates for installing rainwater harvesting systems.

Because there was no mention of electronic re-use, I did my own research.

Kudos to The City of Santa Barbara, which currently offers a service that will pickup and reuse or recycle computers, computer monitors, printers, fax machines, scanners, paper shredders, copy machines, televisions, radios, microwave ovens, stereo system components, compact disc/DVD players, speakers, camcorders, cameras, telephones (including cell phones), toasters, hair dryers, electric typewriters, and vacuums for a fee, as well as professionally delete all information from computer hard drives. No lifting or moving required from customer.

The city of Alexandria, VA reminds website visitors that “it’s reduce, reuse, and then recycle”. They advocate reuse of all electronic equipment and offer a reuse network directory and a list of green online resources for retired PCs.

The hall of shame award goes to Oklahoma City. In 2009, Oklahoma City recycled only 3% of its waste. Households have to pay a steep price to recycle, resulting in the worst recycling rate in the land. As of today, the cities electronics recycling page does not list any services for reuse, although I did download a pdf factsheet from the state of Oklahoma. It suggests that to combat Oklahoma’s mounting e-waste problem, residents voluntarily refurbish, fix, or upgrade their own equipment and continue using it or delete any sensitive data themselves and give it away. As an alternative, it’s suggested that people donate their old electronics to a local charity.

Oklahoma. Where the wind comes sweeping down the plains and people hold onto their computers longer because the government suggest it, and where charities are happy to take old electronics that aren’t thoroughly cleaned of their data. I wonder if Oklahoma has any idea just how much of an environmental impact they could have by advocating a computer re-use program. On top of that, they could offer affordable, refurbished equipment to their residents, and use the profits to fund other green initiatives.

Go for it, Oklahoma.

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