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The Green Case for Celebrating Screen-Free Week

May 09 2018 | 03:11:14
This week, from April 30 to May 6, communities around the world are celebrating Screen-Free Week. Screen-Free Week is an annual event in which "children, families, entire schools and communities will rediscover the joys of life beyond the screen," according to the website. The week encourages participants to step away from digital sources of entertainment like video games, TVs, smartphones, tablets and computers and focus on other activities like reading, playing and enjoying meals with family and friends.The goal of the week is to encourage people to reconsider their dependence on screens for entertainment and discover other things they can do to stimulate their minds and connect with the world around them.But there are also plenty of environmental reasons to examine our dependence on digital devices.E-WasteA December 2017 United Nations report found that electronic waste, including laptops and smartphones, was the world's fastest growing waste problem. The study revealed that only 20 percent of that waste is properly recycled, meaning that a full $64.61 billion worth of precious metals like gold and platinum were tossed out in 2016. The informal recycling of e-waste is also a growing public health concern in developing countries, where backyard operations burn or strip discarded devices to recover precious metals, simultaneously exposing their communities to other chemicals contained in electronics like lead and mercury, according to EHS Journal.Climate ChangeA March study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production found that the contribution of information and computer technologies to the global carbon footprint is growing and expected to continue doing so. In 2007, these technologies accounted for one percent of global emissions, but that number is expected to climb to 3.5 percent in 2020 and 14 percent in 2040. Smartphones are especially carbon-greedy compared to other digital technologies, mostly due to the energy required for manufacturing them and mining the rare-earth metals required to make them work.