For those willing to give their time revamping computers at the Portland location, the participants soon become eligible (after a set number of volunteer hours) for a reused computer of their own. Up until late 2009, the group had been quite successful at returning working, older computers to the community that needed them.
It was great for the environment, awesome for those who needed access to a computer and ¬¬ -- best of all -- only broken computers were recycled.
Today we see FreeGeek practically starving for donations in the hardware department simply because new recycle outlets are now available to the populous. So the end result is more recycling of working computers and less reuse through efforts of groups like FreeGeek.
This is bad on a multitude of fronts, including low income folks not getting access to technology, and unnecessary recycling of working computers. Giving people access to computers even if theyre unable to afford them new is good for all of us and to a larger degree, good for the economy.
Environmental and economic stimulus with Linux
The ability to connect over a cheap $10 per month dial-up ISP to look for a job, the ability to print out a resume, access to email for future freelancers, even starting an online business: This is how reusing Linux PCs can help people from suffering any further economic despair.
Back on the eco-friendly side of things, we see less recycling of perfectly good computers and more reuse instead. This is fantastic for the environment, and provides a solid example for schools and local governments (among other groups) who are crowing about how they need to "do the right thing" to tackle environmental issues.
After all, it's clear by now that schools here in the States are in dire need of more positive ways to spend their tech budgets and it's up to us to lead the way forward. We need to exclaim loudly "sustainable technology please, not more Windows boxes with expiration dates attached."
At the end of the day, I think the secret to striking harmony between being environmentally friendly while keeping the economy strong in the realm of technology is by not being wasteful. Thanks to efforts behind FOSS and Linux on the desktop, we no longer have to buy new computers to have access to up to date technology.
So how about if all of us make a more active effort to think about ways we can reuse our old computers, before we automatically haul them down for recycling.