It’s Certified Pre-Owned: No, Not the Car, the iPad

What if we embraced sharing electronics the same way we did sharing cars?
What if we embraced sharing electronics the same way we did sharing cars?

By Wendy Gordon

Millennials, according to Goldman Sachs, are driving the “sharing economy.” If they’re into driving cars, they share rather than own. The must-haves for previous generations aren’t as important for millennials. They’re putting off major purchases, or avoiding them entirely.

So, what about other must-haves: Will they purchase used phones with the same verve as they share cars?

Cars cost a lot — to buy, to maintain, even to house — which may explain the growing popularity of car sharing. It’s certainly not the environmental benefits, I’m afraid, significant as they may be. According to transportation research, car sharing has taken between 90,000 and 130,000 vehicles off the road — and avoided as much as 750,000 metric tons of carbon emissions.

If we get into certified pre-owned gadgets like we’re getting into car sharing, what could the impact be?

An estimated 140 million cell phones end up in landfills each year. With those cell phones go 4.7 tons of gold (worth $56 million) and 49 tons of silver (worth $8.4 million). And don’t forget the 80,000 pounds of lead, a known neurotoxin, that leach from landfilled electronics into drinking water each year. What’s the price of brain damage?

But electronics recyclers are reclaiming some of those tossed electronics for reuse. Gazelle has recycled over a million devices so far, saving enough energy to power almost 2,000 homes for a year. If we recycled all 140 million cell phones going to landfills each year, we’d save enough energy to power almost three-quarters of a million homes.

I just bought a certified pre-owned iPad from Gazelle through PIPsRewards. It’s as good as new, and a whole lot better, at least in my eyes. It cost much less than a new one, and I earned a bunch of Positive Impact Points for choosing the pre-owned model.

What’s more, I earned more PIPs and got paid $75 for turning in my old iPad to Gazelle. I didn’t get as much for it as I might have, because the glass had broken. But all told, I got the “new to me” certified pre-owned for almost half the price of a new one.

Cell phones and other gadgets cost a lot less than cars. And shiny new features make upgrading nearly irresistible. We trade in phones on average about once every 18 months, faster than it might take to finish a jar of peanut butter.

My certified pre-owned iPad is shiny and works like new. It cost less and I got it within a few days rather than the week it can take to order a souped up new one. And I got reward points with it. Funny, the points make me feel just a little righteous about my choice — that my pre-owned is not just good as new, it’s better. There is something to that, right? I guess it’s what they call loyalty. So thanks Gazelle, I’ll be back. And I’m telling my friends.

Image credit: Flickr/Sebastien Wiertz

Experienced entrepreneur and pioneer in the conscious consumer movement, Wendy is founder and CEO of ‘Positive Impact Points’ or PIPs Rewards. An award-winning platform created by 3P Partners, a Certified B Corporation, PIPs leverages the power of points, smart tools and games to record and reward daily life choices that deliver personal and planetary benefit. Wendy also co-founded Mothers & Others with Meryl Streep in 1989 and originated the Green Guide, which was acquired by National Geographic in 2007. She serves on multiple boards including Rainforest Alliance, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Green Sports Alliance and the New School/Lang College Board of Governors.

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