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Green challenges

Thinking global and acting local, Julie Grundy takes on any challenge we throw at her.

Getting double-duty from our gadgets

Remote and tv

Credit: iStockphoto

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Continuing our look around for potential multi-purpose objects in our homes, today I’m paying attention to my electronics. They’re the kind of thing that you buy once then forget about, as they blend into your everyday life.

Quite a few years ago now, my husband and I only had a TV and a games console for our entertainment needs. The console was what we used to play DVDs and CDs as well as games, so we didn’t need separate devices for those. Nowadays we’ve got a bit more complex, and apart from not quite being sure we need all that stuff, it’s annoying to have to dust them all the time!

I’d like to eventually switch to all-digital music and movie collections, so that I can use my computer to store these things instead of a series of discs (plus, it means less dusting again - I’m really not fond of cleaning!). Then we wouldn’t need separate devices just to get a little music happening. I already store all my data backups on an external drive which can be updated regularly, instead of burning CDs which can only be used once.

One device that has replaced a few others for me has been my smartphone. I used to carry around all these things in my handbag: a diary, a small camera (for taking photos for my blog), a phone, an MP3 player and a general notebook for any ideas I had while on the run.

Now my ‘phone’ is more like a small computer, and I can not only make calls, I can check my calendar and to-do list, take notes, take pictures and listen to music. It’s also got a small first-aid book in it, as well as fiction e-books for me to read on the train, maps, a calculator, a public-transport guide, and my favourite recipes with ingredient lists so I can make sure I buy the right ingredients for my vegetarian curry while I’m out shopping.

As a multi-use device, it’s not only made my life a little easier, it’s lightened my handbag and prevented me from buying and replacing a series of small products every six months. The only problem is the e-waste involved in it’s production and disposal.

I’ll definitely make sure it’s recycled at the end of it’s useful life, and am involved in anti-e-waste campaigns to make their production better. I’m a participant in Last Year’s Model, too, which is a website for people who are proud to be owners of older models of technology instead of upgrading every time a shiny new version comes out.

What other ways can I get double duty out of my electronic products? I’m open to suggestions for ways to have fewer objects that are still very useful.