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A Greener Black Friday

Even though there are serious environmental and social impacts of our appetite for electronics, it is hard to resist the lure of the latest and greatest devices. This season—with sales and wish lists and new model releases—is by far the hardest. So what can someone who cares about their impact do in the face of a culture of shop, shop, shop?

The most obvious choice is looking for alternatives to electronics. Research suggests that experiences make us happier than objects and our attachment to personal electronics has reached the level of addiction.

But there is a gift option which combines gadgetry with experience: give your kids a broken phone.

Hear me out. As planned obsolescence fuels device manufacturers’ profits, our first reaction to a cracked screen or a battery that won’t hold its charge is to get a new phone or tablet. Insurance may even cover the cost. How many broken-yet-not-so-old phones and tablets do you have lying around? Surely at least one.

Many manufacturers have made it increasingly hard to do something so seemingly simple as changing a battery, but both batteries and screens can be fixed! By you and your offspring! This can be a fun and educational activity that results in a useable device. The key is wrapping your electronic hand-me-down together with a repair kit from iFixit. This site sells not just the replacement parts but also the proprietary tools needed to open your gadgets. It also provides community-sourced written and video instructions to guide you along the adventure.

And I can tell you from personal experience, an adventure it is. I managed to replace a battery on my 4th generation MP3 player. My wife and I also managed to replace the battery on her smartphone. The adhesive used to keep us from replacing these batteries is no joke, but it can be conquered. These repairs aren’t fool-proof but each one is a unique learning opportunity. A sense of humor helps, but you will genuinely enjoy the next level of ownership you feel after having invested sweat and tears into your devices. It’s like making your own pie crust instead of buying one – sure, you could grab one from the freezer, but where’s the fun in that?

So this holiday season, when considering what to get your budding engineers and designers, don’t overlook your discarded electronic drawer: the source of the perfect gift.