Can consuming more help cut costs – and emissions?

We’re often told to combat our disposable culture by buying less, buying only what we need and then using our possessions until they’re fully worn and torn. Though sound advice in principle, when it comes to IT equipment, the key to sustainable consumption lies in finding the optimal – not maximum – age for your device.

Take laptops as an example – most of a laptop’s carbon footprint comes from manufacturing it, whereas the use phase only accounts for 10-30% of the total CO2 emissions involved. As a result, to make cuts in CO2 emissions, we need to extend the useful life of the laptop – that is, make sure that we get the most out of our equipment for the longest time possible.


For most companies, it makes sense to replace old computers every two or three years to keep the hardware up-to-date and functional for office use, and in doing so, optimise costs. After this, instead of leaving the devices to gather dust, these computers should be recycled and passed on to less heavy users such as schools or universities. The better shape your device is in, the more likely it is to be able to prolong its life and find a new home through refurbishing and recycling.

Not only is a device that’s in good shape more likely to find a new user, it’s also more likely to find one closer by. This is particularly true in Nordic countries where laptops older than three years simply don’t sell. Increased near-market sales for used laptops help reduce CO2 emissions caused by transportation, again, minimising the device’s carbon footprint.

So the next time your company is thinking about whether or not to trade in for a newer model, remember the principles of circular IT – it’s not a race to fully exhausting your resources, but rather a question of using them more wisely.

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