The Sustainable Consumer’s Guide to Smart Devices

Little devices can make a big difference in reducing your carbon footprint. Here’s a quick overview.

It’s time take connectedness seriously as a tool for personal environmental responsibility.

Devices connected via the so-called “Internet of Things” (IoT) have always had an uneasy relationship with the quest for a more sustainable environment. While they are often indispensable for managing systems, tech devices always have their own carbon footprint. They are filled with all sorts of difficult-to-recycle materials, and are built to be continually replaced with newer models. Not the most sustainable relationship.

But, the relationship is getting cozier. In a recent LinkedIn post, Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Technology Association,  pointed out that there is a “nexus between smart home-enabled automation and sustainability. From automated lawn irrigation and treatment systems to smart faucets to sustainable solar panels, innovators are showcasing products that help consumers save money amid sky-high inflation AND protect the environment.”

Shapiro’s comment got me thinking. And I did some research.

Devices are only as good as the people who use them. You can buy an Alexa or Google Assistant for every room in your home, but if they’re not monitoring lightbulbs or motion detectors in such a way as to reduce energy usage, they’re not saving you anything, partly because they use energy themselves. And your personal decisions are often more determinative than what your device controls. You may wash your clothes with an energy-efficient machine, but you’ll save a lot more money if you program it to wash after hours, at lower prices. Not to mention, hang up your clothes rather than using the dryer–that’s a huge energy-saving step. Our behavior changes are more critical than our devices.

You need to know your carbon footprint. The Environmental Protection Agency has a very useful household carbon calculator that can help you estimate how much carbon your home and your personal activities generate every year, depending on your area.

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