As the years go by, the lifespan of newer electronic gadgets seems to be getting shorter and shorter. But most gadgets (especially smartphones and laptops) seem to turn obsolete long before they actually stop working. Newer, upgraded versions flood the market and most people get rid of the old models to make room for the new.
In fact, most people today are used to buying a new laptop every 4-5 years; even when their old laptop is working perfectly. Of course there are some cases where the old laptop can be giving a bit of trouble and getting yourself a new one seems like the best option.
Now, if you’re planning on upgrading to a new laptop, doing away with the old one can be quite a dilemma. Selling the old piece usually isn’t an option because in most cases it would be treated like scrap material and fetch you an extremely poor price.
If you’re stuck with the problem of how to dispose of an old laptop, consider donating to a non-profit organization that accepts old electronics. Some of these organizations work with partners and associates across the world to repurpose old laptops.
These laptops, once fixed up, are usually provided to institutions, like schools and colleges, in developing countries where most children don’t have the privilege of owning their own laptop device.
By making second-hand laptops widely available, these non-profit organizations give children the opportunity to use different software and learn basic computer skills.
Here are a few organizations that will take an old laptop off your hands and put it to good use.
World Computer Exchange is a charitable organization whose mission is “to reduce the digital divide for youth in developing countries, to use our global network of partnerships to enhance communities in these countries, and to promote the reuse of electronic equipment and its ultimate disposal in an environmentally responsible manner”.
According to UNESCO, World Computer Exchange is North America’s largest non-profit supplier of tested, used computers to schools and community organizations in developing countries.
Each ‘chapter’ (headquarter) of the WCE collects donated computers, refurbishes them so they can be properly used, and ships them out to different parts of the world. To install the software and provide the initial tech support, WCE recruits volunteers with the necessary tech skills to travel to partner sites and set up these computers.
This volunteer program is known as the eCorps and anyone above 21 years of age with the necessary tech skills is eligible to join the program. The eCorps travellers of the WCE have already visited and installed software on behalf of WCE in over 41 developing countries, including India, Ghana, Palestine, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, and Sierra Leone.
Aside from fixing old computers and providing tech support, the WCE also helps to assist teaching programs at partner sites where they provide computers. They deliver and install educational content on agriculture, health, entrepreneurship, water, and energy, among other topics. Besides providing top-quality content, the WCE also offers teacher and staff training programs to help the educational institutions teach the children more effectively.
In doing so, the WCE has enabled teachers in even the most remote areas of the world to interact with their students in completely new and innovative ways. This gives the students a chance to learn comfortably and openly from people whom they trust.
To Get Started
On the main menu of their website, worldcomputerexchange.org, you’ll find the heading ‘Get Involved’. Under this heading you’ll see ‘Give Computers’ which will take you to their donation page with detailed instructions on how you can contribute. If there is a WCE chapter near you, you can contact them directly and drop off your donation. Some chapters even have volunteers who will come home and pick up the laptops.
The Turing Trust is a charitable British Organization that supports education in sub-saharan Africa. They do so by providing repurposed computers and offering teacher training programs to make the most of this upcycled technology in schools and communities across Africa.
The trust was set up by the family of none other than computer pioneer Alan Turing. His great-nephew James Turing founded the trust, which currently has its headquarters in Loanhead, Midlothian, south of Edinburgh.
As of now, the Turing Trust has collected, repurposed, and reused over 5,700 computers. Their efforts have enabled more than 55,000 students from low-income groups to enjoy the benefits of a digital education.
Besides improving the quality of life for low-income communities, the Turing Trust is also motivated by the environmental benefits of reusing old computers.
Before a computer is switched on for the first time, 50% of the fossil fuels that form a part of its life cycle are used up during the manufacturing process. By reusing old computers and laptops, the Turing Trust drastically helps to reduce the carbon emissions that are a by-product of the manufacturing process.
And if you’re worried about the information on your personal computer falling into the wrong hands, you can rest easy because the Turing Trust ensures that all computers are wiped in accordance with the laws of the UK. Using accredited software, the Turing Trust guarantees to irreversibly destroy all on-disk data in compliance with government and military standards.
This enables them to fix any other issues that your computer may have and present it as a brand new device to someone in need.
To Get Started
Once you click on the ‘Give Computer’ heading at the turingtrust.co.uk, you’ll be taken to a page showing you the kinds of devices that will be accepted as a donation. Scroll to the bottom of the page where you can read the instructions on how to make individual IT donations. They offer a contact form where you fill in details of your donation so that the Turing Trust can figure out the best way to get your device to them.
Computers With Causes believes that ‘you create your opportunities by asking for them’, and they apply this perspective when dealing with old, reusable devices. They are a part of the ‘Giving Center’ program which is a much broader organization that deals with charitable giving.
The charitable program created by Computers With Causes, in tandem with ‘Giving Center’, has had a substantial impact on the quality of life of those involved. And by donating your old laptop to this cause, you have the opportunity to help fill the technological needs of someone less fortunate than you.
However, Computers With Causes differs subtly from the previous organizations mentioned on this list. While the others have a designated target or geographical location where their efforts are directed, this institution is open to technological requests from any organization across the world.
Organizations must submit their requests and explain their need for technological support. These requests are then validated by the charity after which they decide the number of computers to be donated. Besides providing laptops to community centers in desperate need, Computers With Causes also helps construct computer labs in educational spaces where they are required.
But their support extends beyond low-income communities, and the organization aims to help youth centres construct labs and to teach military veterans how to adapt to new technologies. As such they cater to a diverse, yet important audience.
To Get Started
Scroll to the bottom of their website, where you’ll find the heading ‘Donate Today!’ under which there is a separate subheading titled ‘Laptop Donation’. Clicking on this link will guide you to a contact form you’ll have to fill up along with the most appropriate time for them to contact you. Once you’ve filled out the form, computerswithcauses.org will directly get in touch with you.
Camara is an international non-profit organization who aims to use technology to improve educational practices in communities of low income. Camara is a registered charity in the UK, US, and Ireland and has set up five educational hubs in Africa, in Ethiopia, Kenya, Zambia, Lesotho, and Tanzania. The ‘education hubs’ are centres where upcycled computers are set up and used to teach basic computer skills to a wide variety of individuals. The education hubs also train teachers and school leaders in order to help improve their digital literacy. These lessons are then passed on in local schools, helping to improve the understanding of computer technology across entire communities.
Camara also designs educational software packages which they offer in their education hubs and to local community schools. These programs provide a platform for students learning to use computers and help them to learn more effectively.
But unlike the other organizations on this list Camara takes a slightly different approach when it comes to upcycling computers. A few computers are repurposed in order to be used in their education hubs. But the majority of the donated computers received by Camara Education are wiped clean, repurposed, and then remarketed wherever possible.
The proceeds from their remarketing efforts are directed towards building computer labs and introducing new technologies to low-income communities. In this way they are able to strike a balance between old technological equipment and newer models.
Companies like Dell and PwC rely on Camara Education to take their old devices and upcycle them so they can continue to be useful. Most of these technological giants are unaware of what to do with used laptops, and Camara offers them an environmentally-sustainable and ethical solution. So instead of having to reach out directly to Camara, you can donate your old laptop to one of these larger companies when they perform their annual cleanups.
To Get Started
At the bottom of their website, you’ll find ‘Give Computers’ after which you’ll be guided to a page with the option to give computers in the UK, USA, and Ireland. After choosing one you’ll be provided with a contact form to fill up asking you about the devices you plan to donate. They even have a Carbon Calculator which lets you see how your donation will impact the environment.
The National Cristina Foundation pioneered the concept of reusing technology when it completed its normal lifespan. They began the movement back in 1984 in the US and have been at it ever since.
The organization managed to identify certain groups within societies who didn’t have easy access to technology. These individuals include military veterans, the disabled, and the economically disadvantaged. Many of them have never had the opportunity to own or even use a computer and the NCF has been working hard to close this digital divide.
The National Cristina Foundation does not directly accept computer donations from organizations or individuals. Instead, they play the role of the middleman.
The Foundation curates a list of nonprofits, community centres, and educational institutions which desperately require technological support. When listing the individual recipients they also identify the kind of device these organizations are looking for and add it to their description. As a donor, you can simply scroll through the list and find an organization or institution that fits the bill.
On their website, all you have to do is enter your current location, and you will be provided with a list of nearby organizations in need of technology. Once you’ve found one that you would like to support, the National Cristina Foundation will guide you through the donation process, ensuring that your old device is put to good use.
To Get Started
You’ll find the heading ‘Donate Equipment’ with a dropdown box on the main page of their website. Click on the dropdown heading ‘Technology Donation Platform’. Here you’ll be required to enter your zip code and search in the area for organizations looking for donations. Once you find an organization you would like to donate to, enter your contact information and submit your donation request. A representative from the organization will get in touch with you to figure out how to get your donation across in the best possible way.
The organizations on this list are dedicated to finding groups and communities in need of computers, offering them repurposed ones, and ensuring that they are provided with the necessary technological support to set them up. This way, those without their own personal systems can slowly learn to use computers and have at least a basic education in digital literacy. This rise in digital literacy is essential for individuals in low-income and minority groups to work towards equal footing with the rest of the world.
The Freecycle Network, however, is different from the others on this list. For starters, it is not an organization in the strict sense of the word, but rather a website to foster interactions between donors and recipients. This free internet service gives everyone an opportunity to put up their old computers for donation, and anyone who may require one can put in a request. This way it’s not limited to certain sections of society or private organizations and can be reused by anyone who needs technological support.
The website comprises more than 9 million members from around the world and is more focused on keeping usable equipment within a circular economy. Most old devices are dumped in landfills; in some cases they’re trashed simply because they are outdated and the owner has invested in a new device. By finding someone who will reuse your computer, you can help reduce the overall carbon footprint on the Earth and its resources.
To Get Started
On freecycle.org all you have to do is sign up on the website after which you’ll be able to post your donation for other users to view.
7. Donate a PC
Donate a PC is a UK-based website for individuals and organizations looking to give away their old computers to help a cause. This could be providing tech support to communities who need it or helping to equip schools with computers so children can learn the much-needed skills in this age of digitisation.
All you have to do is upload your donation and all the details about your device on the website. These details are curated into a list, based on the specifics, which is then referenced by organizations and institutions who lack technological equipment. Once a recipient has decided on a particular device, they will be able to contact the donor directly and request for the donation.
The method of collection and the logistics involved in the donation are discussed between and handled by the donor and the recipient. Once the donation is complete, all you have to do is simply remove your device from the list on the website.
To Get Started
On their homepage you’ll find a link with the heading ‘Add donation to list’ which will take you to contact form asking for information about your donation. You’ll need to provide your mother’s maiden name in the contact form which acts as the password for when you’re taking your donation off the website.
Educational Assistance Ltd. or EALgreen was founded back in 1982 by Verlyn Roskam who started the initiative as a way to ‘pay forward’ the benefit of a scholarship given to him by a couple who had lost their son.
Verlyn and his partner had read a newspaper article about how companies had too much inventory that was not being used and was instead being dumped. They felt this was a waste and thought of how this excess inventory could be used by colleges. This was the basis on which EALgreen was founded.
The college would, in turn, agree to provide scholarships to financially-disadvantaged students equal to the value of the goods received by them. EALgreen would take a small administrative fee to help fund their operations, but apart from this, donors would receive tax benefits, students would receive scholarships, and colleges would have new equipment. Seems like a win-win for everyone involved!
Now, almost 40 years later, EALgreen has helped transform the lives of over 16,600 students in need of financial assistance and is in partnership with more than 50 colleges across the country.
Unlike simple recycling or reselling, EALgreen has helped to completely transform the way old technology is used and has generated numerous spin-off benefits in the process. By donating to EALgreen (or a corporation who donates to them) you help to address issues of equity and fund programs for economically-disadvantaged students. Indirectly, this helps to give more people an opportunity to pursue a higher education, helping to reduce the digital and social divide.
To Get Started
On ealgreen.org, you will find the dropdown heading titled ‘Partner’ under which you must click on ‘Become A Donor’. Like the other websites on this list, you’ll be provided with a contact form where you’ll have to enter information about your location and the kind of IT equipment you’re planning to donate.
Old laptops and computers can seem notoriously difficult to get rid of. Most people in your immediate circle wouldn’t want a second hand device, and leaving it lying around the house seems like a waste.
Luckily, the national and international organizations on this list give everyone an opportunity to put their old devices to good use. By repurposing used computers they are able to drastically reduce the amount of e-waste generated by the computer industry. This cause in itself is reason enough to donate your old device.
But knowing that your old device is going to be repurposed and used by someone who may never have the opportunity to use a laptop, is a joy in itself. It may not seem like much, but simply giving one individual the opportunity to become technologically literate can change the fate of large sections of society for generations to come.
So donate your old laptop today and know that by doing so you are helping to create a more digitally literate world.