When it sucks to be eco-friendly (and why we choose it anyway)

In the sustainability movement, we are a dedicated bunch who choose to complicate our lives out of the conviction that it is necessary to make the world a better place. Then, we try to make the non-believers join us by convincing them that it’s fun and easy, and you save money too! Right?! It is an appealing narrative and there is definitely truth to it, but we who try to break new ground also get exhausted from walking through a jungle of resistance.

My old laptop was giving up on me. I had bought it in 2013, and have carried it across continents, literally. It had worked in the heat in southern Africa, in the hights of the Andean mountains and in the dampness of Brussels. I had already replaced the screen (I bought a replacement on Amazon and had my friend perform surgery on it for hours) and exchanged the battery once, but I could no longer resuscitate it.

I was offered to buy a Macbook second hand from a friend, some nine months ago. And he had told me there was some issue with the keyboard but he also gave me a discount to account for that. So I paid 2500 sek (approx 250 usd) for the computer, knowing that a repair could add another 2000 sek (200 usd). I was happy to have found a second hand computer, knowing that the production and mining for minerals is a dirty business that I don’t want to support if I can avoid it. Sure, the computer was old, but in good condition and given that I am not a heavy user, I thought I’d be fine.

Working on the train and using the accessibility keyboard to compensate for the broken buttons

When I started working for GoClimateNeutral a few months later, they asked me if I needed a computer. But as I had just gotten the Macbook, what was the point of buying another one? That would totally defy my purpose of trying to save resources.

I was fine, for a little while. Then, the number buttons stopped working. Given that a lot of my work is done in Excel, this became a big hindrance. I prayed that it would go away, but of course it didn’t and I had to hand it in for service. It took them some 10 days, but they exchanged some parts and charged me 2280 sek (230 usd) and I thought, ok, now I’m fine. Except the problem came back the following week and now I’m being charged another 2200 sek (220 usd) to replace another part. Adding it up, it’s costing almost as much as a new Macbook, and I am now on my third week of working on a borrowed laptop that is… far from ideal.

About a year ago, I broke my beloved Kindle reading tablet. Living abroad, I used it a lot to read books I couldn’t get hold of in store. I still spent 6 months trying to figure out if I could fix it (warranty expired), if it was worth ordering a new screen from Hong Kong, if I could buy a second hand one (the guy in the sales group ghosted me when I asked too many questions so I’m guessing it might have been stolen)… In then end, I found that Amazon actually sells refurbished items. I ordered one from there but since they don’t ship to Sweden, I had it sent to a friend in the UK. Once I could pick it up, turns out the model I had ordered (the only one available) is older than the one I was used to and it has no back light, which seriously reduces the usability for me… so I actually read less now than I did before.

When I used to go to cafés to read on my kindle and drink matcha latte

All of this leaves me with frustration and a bitter taste. I wish I did not have to deal with this, but electronics have become a necessity in society. My argument to keep pushing for this is that I genuinely believe that to make the world a better place, it is my duty to act in accordance with my values especially when it is uncomfortable. Change is not just gonna happen, someone has to do it. Someone has to create a demand for those second hand products, for the replacement parts, for the service centers. I’m that someone.

So now that my phone is becoming too tired to handle new apps, and I have spent the winter in Stockholm freezing my fingers off waiting for the maps to load, I’m searching for a second hand one. I’m hopeful about the Swedish company Inrego who sells second hand, refurbished electronics, and I’m consulting my tech-savvy colleague. Because that is who I am – the hippie eco-warrior who choose discomfort to live in harmony with my values and the hope to make the world a better place. Please join me.

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