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Hand Me Down: redistributing second-hand electronics

Screened applicants adopt second-hand electronics from donors through a placement service that leverages social media in order to create and mobilize a network of e-waste educated consumers.

Photo of A.m. Harman
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Electronics donors and adopters interact through a website platform while learning about and drawing attention to e-waste issues. Products donated to the program are inspected and certified and come to the adopter with a warranty plan to maximize their lifespan.

Donors pay a small price to enroll a product (focus on educational electronics: laptops, tablets, iPods, printers etc.). This concept is pitched as a service to maximize the impact of an old electronic device in a new owner's life. Donors feel happier helping another human, and receive validation in terms of participating in a more sustainable lifestyle. The fee covers finding the best new owner possible, but more importantly, it incentivizes a stronger investment in the program.

For a small additional payment, you can hand pick your device's new home based on optional site user profiles (increased interaction). Donors can also opt for facebook integration with the website. Placing your device with a facebook friend is free (increase social media integration).

Adopters apply to the program by writing a short essay requiring some research and thought devoted to e-waste, and fill out a preliminary survey about the types of electronics they would be interested in. They receive a congratulatory email when they are accepted to the program, and are periodically invited to return to the website to update their electronics preferences, or receive tips about improving their user profiles to increase being matched with their "perfect-fit" donated device. If matched with a device, they receive it for a small fraction (think 5%) of its present value in return for posting their photo with their device on the website (small additional payment if they would rather decline a photo).

The platform for interaction would be a creative website featuring educational materials. In addition to donor and adopter recruiting pages and a collection of user profiles, this could include:

- A gallery of adopted electronics

- A HandMeDown electronics adopter spotlight

- A gallery of electronics available for adoption

- A contest event (eg. create an informative video about e-waste)

- Featured electronics with quirky "life-history" stories.

Site content will focus on people-centered language, with content focused on themes of education and connectedness. As much as possible, electronics will be personified, and their relationships with their former and future users as well as their "life experience" and "personality quirks" will be played up. You wouldn't stop thinking about your dog after you put him up for adoption-- is it possible to extend some of that feeling to a laptop? If so, can we use it to encourage greater consideration for later steps in the electronics lifecycle?

How does your concept safeguard human health and protect our environment?

- Harnessing social media tools, we can educate about e-waste, demystify the topic, and motivate changes in behavior (a growing mailing list and site user accounts/profiles foster sense of community required for social change). - Reusing and repairing objects keeps them out of landfills longer. - Creating a relationship-based "life-story" of an electronic device encourages consumers to mentally "track" products after they have finished using them, countering the "trash and forget" mindset. - Ultimately, this type of multi-step recycling and reuse service suggests a shift towards extending the lifetime of electronics by increased the social value of a used item.

Where does your concept fit into the lifecycle of electronic devices?

Product use, maintenance, disposal, reuse, and ultimately consumer purchasing decisions

What steps could be taken today to start implementing your concept?

Focus on local community with an implementation plan for 1 pilot in San Francisco, 1 pilot in Rio de Janeiro. Why two different locations? - the regional tech communities are already somewhat connected. - both represent growing entrepreneurial communities interested in creative initiatives. - both areas have been spotlighted recently for attempts to increase local sustainability practices. - multi-cultural implementation would increase the diversity of insights to be gained re: expanding into other sustainability-seeking environments. - this approach encourages a general mindset of multi-national connectedness, which is required for addressing all environmental issues (increase social value by emphasizing this theme of connection). Securing funding: Both pilots should be funded by local partners, most likely corporations interested in increasing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) ratings with regard to sustainability e.g. Starbucks, Google, TVGlobo (Brazil). These partnerships could also extend to symbiotic marketing campaigns. e.g. for one event, visitors to HandMeDown website might create an account which adds their names to a mailing list (for educational materials and increased interaction with HandMeDown offers) in order to gain access to a printable coupon for a free theme drink or new flavor of coffee.

What kinds of resources will be needed to fully implement and scale your concept?

Resources required-- Web development: The site platform is essential to program's operation. It needs to be integrated with social media (target facebook and twitter) and would require ongoing development. Resources required-- Additional Additional resources would be required for the creation of e-waste educational materials, social campaign direction/recruitment, shipping services (electronics only be make relatively local journeys), potential inspection and/or certification or warranty from local electronics repair partners (some support partnership could perhaps be leveraged in return for advertisement), program management and business or funding model development.

My Virtual Team

Aaron Scheinberg and Lisa Harman contributed to concepting. I'd love some team members to work on ironing out this idea if you're up for collaboration. UPDATE: Sana Altaf is joining the team! Check out another concept by her here: hoping to work some similar themes into this project I'm thinking about how to improve the incentive schemes for recruiting donors and applicants, how to prevent against reselling adopted devices etc. Is a focus on human relationships/connection enough? Also, I really like the 2 country approach. Any thoughts on how this could actually work? The donor/adopter recruiting plans might end up being location specific-- for example, in Brazil, where electronics prices are extremely high due to import taxes, these devices represent more of an investment. Donors might be better attracted by a free warranty on their new purchases, and adopters might be more likely not to resell their products if they have to pay a higher percentage of their present value (30-60% range?). Feedback, new ideas, random thoughts are all greatly appreciated.

Evaluation results

7 evaluations so far

1. How much of a social or environmental impact will this concept have on discarded electronics or e-waste?

This concept could have significant social or environmental impact. - 42.9%

It's unclear how much social or environmental impact this concept will have. - 57.1%

This concept would have little social or environmental impact. - 0%

2. How well does this concept help you or others understand how electronic items are designed, built, reused, recycled or thrown away?

Very well: it makes the entire electronics life cycle easier to understand. - 42.9%

Pretty well: it could help people better understand the electronics life cycle but it needs more detail or information. - 42.9%

Not so well: it does not significantly help people better understand the electronics life cycle. - 14.3%

3. How appealing do you believe this concept would be to investors (businesses, banks, lenders, venture capitalists and others)?

Very appealing: this is an idea that investors would get excited about. - 0%

Potentially appealing: more work is needed to flesh out how the concept works, what it would cost and who would fund it. - 100%

Not so appealing: this does not seem like a concept that would get investors excited. - 0%

4. How challenging would it be to implement and scale this concept across geographies, cultures and languages? (Hint: think about resources like money, time, partnerships, or other inputs needed for implementation and scaling)

Not very challenging. - 0%

Somewhat challenging. - 85.7%

Very challenging. - 14.3%

5. Overall, how do you feel about this concept?

It rocked my world. - 0%

I liked it but preferred others. - 100%

It didn't get me overly excited. - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Meena Kadri

Inspiring thoughts about both redistribution and raising awareness. Plus loving your dual pilot suggestion. Looking forward to input from others here and watching this idea grow!

Photo of A.m. Harman

thanks, Meena! I hope the dual pilot idea can be refined a little... one thing I'm thinking about now is how much interaction there should be between donors and adopters, and whether a relationship aspect could convince people to engage more with the educational campaign...

Photo of DeletedUser


The dual pilot is a very strong idea, especially the opportunity to compare the trials in San Francisco against those in Rio de Janeiro. Would you be looking to run identical pilots, or would they serve as platforms to trial opposing ideas against eachother?
The relationship between donors and adopters will likely be the primary driving force for people to engage with the educational campaign. In addition to the donor/adopter relationship identifying additional stakeholder relationships (ie. donors/schools, adoptors/social media, donors/retailers)could really help this reach a critical mass.

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