It’s Time To Start Teaching About Sustainable Technology

Having a “greener” lifestyle is becoming more and more mainstream these days.  Recycling, minimizing things like single use plastics, and simply using less are on many more people’s radar than they used to be. Not too long ago, we shared some ideas on how to have a greener classroom (inspired by our friend Jon over at Green Lifestyle Changes).

There’s also lots of green technology out there. That is, technology devoted to alternative resource use, or items being designed to use as little energy and physical pieces as possible. But what about the materials that go into our beloved technology? And what about recycling them? Technology changes so rapidly these days. Our need and desire for the latest model sometimes cause us to quickly discard our once trusted devices for the next best thing or the newer model, leaving outdated gadgets with a shelf life in some cases of a matter of months.

The handy infographic below takes a look at how our love of technology is affecting our environment and why is it important we alter our recycling habits.

Sustainable Technology

Rare Earth Elements

  • Rare earth elements are key to maintaining our current lifestyle and technology
  • There are 17 rare earth elements
  • While more abundant than other minerals, they are not concentrated enough to make them easily exploitable economically
  • The US was once self-reliant on REEs, but now imports 100%, mostly from China – due to labor cost issues
  • China is facing a number of issues with its supply of REEs. 2/3 have been mined already, and the remaining are of lower quality that will be more expensive to extract

How Do We Use Rare Earth Elements?

So why do REEs matter? They are used for so many pieces of technology, such as:

  • Vibration functions in mobile devices
  • Amplification
  • GPS
  • Color display
  • Rechargeable batteries
  • Making items smaller and lighter
  • NFC
  • Hard drives
  • Camera lenses
  • Spindle motors
  • Cinematic projections
  • Magneto-optic recording
  • Hybrid cars
  • Hydro energy
  • Water treatment
  • Fuel cells
  • CFL bulbs
  • Catalytic converters
  • Solar energy
  • Wind turbines
  • Fuel cells
  • A huge host of military defense technologies
  • Satellite communications
  • Fiber optic cables
  • MRI
  • XRay
  • Lasers
  • Neutron radiotherapy
  • Drug therapies


Companies in Japan are leading the way with REE recycling programs – Honda and Hitachi are just two

  • Recycling REEs poses several problems:
  • It is expensive
  • Very little REEs are harvested from each product
  • It is difficult to retrieve the REEs from products

Despite these issues it is still hugely important to recycle your electronics, due to the very low volume of new REEs around the globe.

Sustainable Technology