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For Earth Day, a laptop computer showing a reduce, reuse, recycle symbol floats on stylized green leaves

As we approach Earth Day, you might be thinking about ways to be a little greener. Don’t forget about technology! The tech we use impacts the environment through its entire lifecycle, but you can do a few things to make that footprint smaller. The familiar phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle” applies to technology too — and your first step should be to reduce how much you buy.


To buy less, try to keep your devices running longer. Keeping your devices longer not only saves you money, it helps save the planet. Fewer devices manufactured means fewer resources, like energy and materials, used to make and ship those new devices.

ITS can help keep student laptops working with on-campus tech support. The ITS Service Desk can assist with virus and spyware removal, reimage laptops and diagnose other issues. And, did you know ITS has on-campus authorized repair center for Apple, Dell and Lenovo computers? The ITS Computer Repair Center (CRC) can replace batteries, screens, broken keyboards and more — all without you having to leave campus.

The CRC primarily works on under-warranty computers purchased through the Carolina Computing Initiative (CCI) program, but the CRC can also repair non-CCI machines. And having the CRC repair a computer that isn’t under warranty can make financial, and environmental, sense too. To get started on a repair, stop by the ITS Service Desk in the basement of R.B. House Undergraduate Library.

The CRC also keeps employees’ University-owned machines running longer. The CRC partners with local tech support across campus to repair and refurbish laptops and desktops.

Optimize battery life

A top reason people replace devices is because of a bad battery, so keeping yours healthy may mean you keep the device a little longer. Most come with settings to optimize your battery life by limiting fast charging, letting your battery deplete or shortening the time your battery spends fully charged.

On iPhones and Apple laptops, use optimized battery charging. For Android devices, choose adaptive charging, and on Lenovo laptops, use conservation mode.

And if employees want to access on-campus repairs from the CRC for their personal laptops, they can purchase CCI machines through the UNC Tech Shop at Student Stores and enjoy the same benefits.

The CRC currently completes around 6,000 computer repairs a year. This includes their repair work for CCI computers for students and employees, but also support for K-12 groups like Orange County Schools. Pre-pandemic, the CRC completed up to 9,000 repairs per year. With demand for repairs on the rise, they expect to match that previous level soon.


A three photo collage of items for sale in the University Surplus retail store, including working computers, a stack of projectors and dozens of computer monitors
University Surplus resells tons of used tech (Photo courtesy of UNC Facilities)

When it’s time to replace your device, the most sustainable choice is to find a new life for your old one. Just because the device isn’t serving you anymore doesn’t mean it won’t work for someone else, so first try selling, donating or trading in your old personal technology.

There are tons of resale opportunities for personal devices and many nonprofits accept working electronics. One easy way to donate is to drop off your old working devices an Orange County Solid Waste salvage shed.

If the unwanted equipment owned by the University, UNC-Chapel Hill policy states that its disposal must be managed by University Surplus. This policy applies to both working and non-working computers, peripherals and cell phones. You can work with your local IT support to surplus unwanted technology.

University Surplus gives working tech new life by offering it for sale at its retail store. Potential buyers include other University units, students and even the general public. Non-working technology and computer equipment is either recycled or repaired for use in North Carolina schools.

Reuse means both giving your old device a new life and considering a previously-used device when you’re shopping. Not only are used or refurbished devices available on various marketplaces, you can also visit the University Surplus retail store to find some new-to-you tech.


If your device can’t be reused, recycle it! Our gadgets pose an environmental risk if we don’t properly dispose of them. So, don’t trash that old tech.

A tall cabinet has three vertical compartments, one labeled e-waste, another for plastic film and a third for batteries
E-waste and battery recycling in the Student Union (photo courtesy of UNC Facilities)

In fact, North Carolina bans electronic waste, or e-waste, from landfills. Recycling does more than just keep heavy metals and corrosives out of our soil and water. It also puts sought-after materials, like gold and platinum, back into the manufacturing stream. And e-waste is more than computers and smartphones. You should also recycle things like batteries, old headphones, charging cables and gaming consoles.

UNC Facilities and the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling support a few ways to recycle your old tech on campus.

First, students can recycle e-waste in the Student Union and in the area offices of on-campus housing communities. Bins have a dedicated compartment for batteries and another for general e-waste, like computers, smartphones and cables.

For employees, remember to send all University-owned non-working equipment to University Surplus. Surplus will then either handle the e-waste recycling or repair the equipment for use in North Carolina schools. The Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling accepts personal cell phones sent via campus mail to CB #1805.

And if on-campus recycling isn’t convenient, Orange County offers battery and e-waste recycling at many of its waste and recycling centers.

Stay Secure

And whether you’re donating, selling or recycling, it’s essential you take a few steps to protect your data. For your personal devices, you can find a factory reset or erase data option in your settings.

For University-owned devices and media, disposal must adhere to the Surplus Computers or Electronic Media Storage Devices Policy to make sure University data doesn’t fall into the wrong hands.

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