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  Tech Too Old to Donate  
Posted 2005-06-29 by Tony Walsh
Got an old computer you aren't using? Before dropping it off at the local Goodwill, Value Village, or Salvation Army, make sure it can actually be re-used. I recently visited Toronto's reBOOT computer refurbishers to donate a classic Apple Macintosh. It turns out the ancient Mac was too old to be put to use, and I ended up paying them to safely recycle the built-in monitor. During the visit I was told that not only are some computers too old for reBOOT, but that local Goodwill outlets often don't have a use for them either. reBOOT stopped accepting Goodwill's unusable machines because of the recycling costs involved. So, if you're planning on donating aged technology, make sure it won't end up in landfill before leaving it on someone's doorstep.
  Polluting Mindspace  
Posted 2005-06-23 by Tony Walsh
At first glance, Beach 'n Billboard's idea of advertising on beaches by using sand itself, and combining commercial messaging with public service messaging ("Please don't litter") seems pretty keen. Certainly beach pollution of a material nature is a bad thing, and measures should be taken to prevent it. But advertising pollution is a bad thing too. A beach covered with ads no longer functions as a placid, relaxing haven. It becomes a mess. Beach 'n Billboard, please don't litter.
  Toronto’s Drinks Go Guilt-Free  
Posted 2005-06-22 by Tony Walsh
Torontonians are now able to purchase beverages in biodegradable cups at a number of locations thanks to ecopreneur Jennifer Wright of Green Shift. The cups, made from sugarcane, corn or natural paper fibres with special certified, biodegradable coatings, biodegrade in under 50 days if composted, and take "a little longer" in conventional landfill. If you're in Toronto and are looking to guzzle guilt-free, check out any of the following venues: Merchants of Green Coffee, Dark City, Cherry Bomb Café, Upper Canada College, Fressen, and Ra Ra Raw. [headsup:jos]
  Apple Recycles the iPod  
Posted 2005-06-06 by Tony Walsh
 reports that Apple's US retail stores will recycle old iPods and give consumers who bring in their discarded units a 10% discount on the purchase of a new one. Apple reportedly promised to process the old iPods in the USA (saving the parts a trip overseas). While it's fantastic to see high-profile companies adopt as many environmentally-friendly policies as possible, Apple could cut down on iPod obsolescence through better industrial design. A user-replaceable battery would be a great first step. Swappable shells and a removable hard drive would be another. Of course such flexibility increases the unit cost, but can we afford to keep manufacturing landfill?

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  Reclaiming the Xbox  
Posted 2005-05-17 by Tony Walsh
Now that the Xbox 360 is coming, and Microsoft seems keen on ceasing Xbox production, the first-generation Xbox is destined for the trash heap. Or is it? Here's what I'm hoping for: A free, easy kit [update: like this] that allows hobbyists to turn the Xbox back into what it always was--a PC masquerading as games console. There is no good reason for the Xbox to end up as landfill while it is still a viable, network-friendly computer.

Ideally, Microsoft would take some social responsibility and not only allow consumers to convert their Xboxen, but actually support the transformation. Microsoft could even sell more copies of Windows and related software by supporting Xbox reclamation. Once the Xbox 360 comes out, there is no reason for anyone to buy an "old" Xbox, unless it can easily and cheaply be turned into a functional PC. There's an opportunity here that can be cashed in on, the question is who's going to do it.
  Exploding Toads  
Posted 2005-04-29 by Tony Walsh
"The animals, they came out of the water on to the land and in the time of 10 minutes, they increased to nearly four times their normal size and then exploded. I have seen the toad intestines flying 1 meter." - Wildlife expert Werner Smolnik, quoted at

Earthfiles' Linda Moulton Howe reports that over 1,000 cane toads have exploded to death in Germany and Denmark within a 5-day span, while AP via Yahoo! News identifies clever crows as the likely culprits. A German scientist believes that the hungry birds have learned how to expertly peck out a cane toad's liver: "...the toad puffs itself up as a natural defense mechanism... But, because the liver is missing and there's a hole in the toad's body, the blood vessels and lungs burst and the other organs ooze out..." While unexploded cane toads are normally regarded as a nuisance, I can only imagine how bothersome exploding ones would be.
  Ozone Layer Broken  
Posted 2005-04-27 by Tony Walsh
The Arctic ozone layer is in its weakest state in recorded history, reports The Guardian. At high altitudes, 50% of the ozone layer was found to be destroyed, contradicting ideas that the ozone layer (which protects earth from excess UV radiation) had been repairing itself. The Guardian tells us "The UN environment programme estimates that for every 1% thinning of the ozone layer there is a 2% to 3% rise in skin cancer." A European research team found that 30% of the lower-level ozone layer had been destroyed, which seems to indicate a 60% to 90% increase in cancer in store for us this year.
  Rice Made of People  
Posted 2005-04-25 by Tony Walsh
Forget soy sauce: Nothing goes better with plain old rice than human liver genes. According to The Independent, Japanese scientists have inserted the gene into rice in order to enable the grain to digest pesticides and other chemicals. Great! Maybe we can fit each kernel of rice with a tiny anus so it has something to poop out of. Or maybe we'll have to de-vein our rice like shrimp to get rid of the toxins.

The Independent reports that "Supporting scientists say that the gene could also help to beat pollution." Sure, the gene could help beat pollution... if it wasn't a form of pollution itself.
  We Owe Nature  
Posted 2005-03-31 by Tony Walsh
Thirteen-hundred researchers from 95 nations tell us our excesses today endanger the future of humanity on this planet, reports the Beeb. We are operating in a way that is not ecologically-sustainable in the long term. This won't come as a surprise to anyone with even a casual interest in environmentalism, but maybe the naysayers will listen this time around. Because now it's nearly too late. We're already beyond repair in the climate change department, according to some studies. Congratulations, industrialized nations, on screwing your grandchildren out of a decent life.
  Fixation With Gloss  
Posted 2005-03-23 by Tony Walsh
I recently brought a 2-week old iBook in for service at Toronto's CPUsed, where the LCD screen was replaced under the AppleCare Warranty. However, my previously-pristine iBook came back with many scratches on the outside top cover. After assuring CPUsed that this would not stand, they begrudgingly agreed to replace the top shell of the iBook. I left CPUsed a little disgruntled, but for the wrong reasons.

Why is it so important to me to have a "perfect" piece of computing hardware? Certainly I have a right as a consumer to expect my iBook to come back from service unscathed, but what I've really done is have CPUsed put my old iBook shell on their scrap heap and order a brand new part from Apple [update: I've been told CPUsed refurbished the part they replaced for use in other repairs]. My consumer needs have been (begrudgingly) served, but I am in effect demanding materials be unecessarily wasted in order to maintain the original high-gloss finish of my virgin iBook.

Continue reading: Fixation With Gloss
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