Reduce, Reuse, Recycle + One More

Repair icon by John Reid

You know the old adage: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle? I’m adding another “R” word to the mix:

Reduce
Repair
Reuse
Recycle

Reduce, reuse and recycle is a bit short-sighted. It’s a good start but certainly by no means complete. Adding repair to this green slogan occurred to me recently when visiting a local Hackerspace, where the type of people who can fix things congregate. Perhaps reuse implies repair, but we live in a throw-away world, so let’s be specific.

Now, I’m not known as Ms. Fix-it. Not even close. Unless paying someone to fix-it counts. I don’t even sew on buttons. I take the garment and button straight to the dry cleaners. Typically when something goes wrong with a “thing”, I weigh my options: repair or replace. Money and time are key deciding factors. As I learn to live more sustainably, both time and money take a back seat to the most sustainable option. Sometimes a repair is almost as expensive as a replacement. Sometimes repair is hands-down the best option.

Making  a case for repair

My iPod is five years old. It suits me fine not to have the latest generation except the battery was dying a slow death. (By the way, to live sustainably, you need to accept using older models of “things”, because to replace on a whim or to keep up with the Jones’ is not sustainable.) When fully charged, my iPod runs for about an hour, if I’m lucky. I could send the unit to Apple for a replacement. The cost to replace my 4th generation iPod battery is about $70 (battery + tax + shipping). A new iPod Classic is $249. From a cost standpoint, it makes sense to replace the battery.

If you look closely at an iPod, it isn’t obvious how to open up the case to access the battery.  Apple is sneaky — it makes the typical user think the only way to replace the battery is through Apple itself. Not so.

It's open!

Enter my boyfriend and definitely a Mr. Fix-it. (And, he WILL sew on buttons.) I told him about my iPod battery and the cost to replace it. Immediately he reminded me of a website he once showed me — ifixit.com. Of course I forgot all about this site because, like I said, I don’t fix things. Once I did fix a blender and it was quite satisfying.

The original purpose behind ifixit.com was to empower people to install new batteries in iPods and other Apple products. It has since expanded beyond Apple products and provides free manuals to fix a variety of products including electronics, vehicles, cameras, and phones. The site makes its money by selling the parts and tools needed to fix things. Very smart.

Since the installation instructions are available for free online, I just needed to buy the battery and a couple of tools. I checked out the site, found the battery and tools, asked my boyfriend if he was up to the task, he said kompreneble*, so I ordered the goods. In all honesty, I was skeptical but willing to give it a go. I mentally prepared for failure and the possibility of buying a new iPod.

Disconnecting the original battery proved tricky. On-screen guide explained each step clearly.

The new battery and tools arrived within a few days. Bill installed the new battery in less than 15 minutes. It was fun to watch him work. He didn’t make a peep. He was in the zone. I, on the other hand, would have lost my patience and flipped out the moment I had trouble detaching the old battery from the unit. He did not. Some people are better equipped to operate on electronics than others. But, we all know someone with the fix-it gift who would be delighted to help us less-gifted souls.

On the other hand, after reading the ifixit website’s Self-Repair Manifesto, you may be inspired to try this on your own. It was at the Hackerspace that I first saw this self-repair poster. After watching Bill complete the repair, I’m certain I would be capable of replacing the battery myself. What I’m not certain of is if I have the patience for the job.

Saving money the sustainable way

So now I can listen to my iPod like it was new — all for a mere $21.51 (after I used a $5 off coupon I found online). By practicing self-repair, I saved $50. Bonus: The new battery lasts 20% longer than the original.

For those of you who have old iPods lying around, why not give this a try. ifixit.com provides instructions and supplies for repairing other iPod issues as well. So if your iPod displays the unhappy face, you might find what you need here. Even if you have already replaced your old iPod with a new generation, you could probably sell your old iPod with a newly replaced battery on Craigslist for a few extra bucks. In fact, I know someone who would love to have a working iPod. If you have one, email me.

P.S. Be sure to dispose of your batteries properly. You can search for the nearest location for battery recycling/disposal at Call2Recycle.

*Bill speaks Esperanto. One day I will too. More on that another time.

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