Friday, November 11, 2011

Why I Don’t (and Won’t) Own an iPad

A small sampling of my electronic trash

Everyone assumes I have an iPad. It’s a fair assumption: I’ve been a Mac guy for 10 years and an early adoptor of most Apple products. So they’re surprised when I tell them I don’t own an iPad. Surprise turns to shock when I add that I have no intention of buying one.

I don’t have a particular problem with the iPad itself. It’s a typically gorgeous Apple product. I’ve used it and I know I’d love it, although I’d also spend time on it that could be better spent on something else. And if I hadn’t bought a MacBook Air just last year (which gives me more computing power and convenience in something barely larger than an iPad), I may very well have bought an iPad by now.

But here’s the thing: I’m drowning in electronic junk. And I’m haunted by the image of piles of discarded electronica in various stages of processing in Hamburg harbor before heading to China.

I’ve come to accept a certain accumulation of cables, keyboards, mice, and earphones (although I wish Apple offered the option of getting their devices without earbuds – between iPods, iPhones and Macs, I’ve had at least 10 and I rarely use them, preferring full headphones instead). It’s one of the prices of a digital world built on rapid innovation. The advances are breathtaking but they sometimes come at the cost of standards that might allow more duality between products.

It’s the bigger ticket items with their shoddy craftmanship and built-in obsolescence that get me. We’ve got two old digital cameras (an “ancient” 4 megapixel Olympus from 2004 and a 10 MP Nikon from 2008 – we gave a third away to my wife’s parents). We could have used the cameras for much longer as they took perfectly adequate photos, but in both cases, the battery compartments came apart within two or three years and they became useless. (There’s also a gorgeous Nikon N70 film SLR and two good lenses sitting in a box. I don’t know WHAT to do with that.)

Then there is my first iPod, my first iPod shuffle (broke and tossed into the electronic recycling at Best Buy), and two previous iPhones (one of which broke and was replaced, the other sitting at home as a backup in case my iPhone 4 goes south). My 2003 PowerBook died last year and Ulla’s MacBook is on its last legs.

Cutting edge just a few years ago and now trash. And Ulla and I are, relatively speaking, long-term users! Our HDTV is four and a half years old (and replaced a TV that was well over 10 years old) and we won’t be upgrading it anytime soon. The average American family buys a new TV every 2.5 years!

In the U.S., according to the EPA, we only recycle 15-20% of electronic trash. The rest (including many hazardous and/or valuable materials) goes into landfills or incinerators. Even the stuff we do recycle often goes overseas to take advantage of less stringent regulations.

If I can help my reduce my footprint very slightly by not buying an iPad, then I’m not going to buy an iPad. Of course, I’m a hypocrite with my two computers, my two iPods, my iPhone, and my digital camera – and my hypocrisy just became worse with the purchase of an e-reader (although my hope is that the paper saved from no longer buying hard-copy books will offset the cost of making this device). But I had to draw a line somewhere. I wish it weren't such a cool product!

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