Earth day has been celebrated since 1970, following the Santa Barbara Oil Spill. This year is a little special as it will be celebrated at home for many of us. As activities have slowed down, Nancy and I took the opportunity to reflect on all the things we’ve been doing to improve the environment, and all the things we still need to implement.
Growing up in Belgium, we have been taught the dangers of global warming and the impact of human activities on the environment since a young age. This led us to develop a critical thinking towards our everyday actions.
So naturally, when we started LINE the question came: how can we improve the system? What can we do to limit the impact of consumer electronics on the environment?
The first answer was quality. In recent years, we as consumers, have been conditioned to buy dirt cheap electronic products that are made to sell, not to last. Use it for a week, a month... Then order a new one when it breaks. Those are disposable electronics.
Especially because they cannot be upgraded or repaired.
Throughout the entire development of the LINEDOCK, every technical decision had to go through SURU, our durability assistant standing for:
- Is it Stiff (S)?
- Can it be Updated(U)?
- Can it be Repaired(R)?
- Can it be Upgraded(U)?
Now here are some examples of SURU's impact on the actual product:
-An aluminum enclosure. We're talking about aircraft-grade aluminum here. This does not break. When disposed of, it is 99.7% recyclable, unlike plastic piling up in landfills. Our next goal: using recycled aluminum for the enclosure.
-Some good old Philip's head screws allowing for virtually anyone to open the device.
-A Standard M2 SSD used for the internal memory, as opposed to having it soldered on the board.
-All 0GB LINEDOCK models come with a screw and a nut for users to place their own SSD. No firmware update, just plug and play. Yes, we've been students too.
-The USB-C ports are not soldered directly on the board. If it breaks, a simple module can be replaced instead of the whole motherboard.
-The Firmware can be loaded and updated using a simple SD card. This required a fairly bit of engineering but allows anyone to keep their device up to date.
One LINEDOCK has less than 1% Plastic
From all the plastic in the oceans, 93% come from only 10 rivers. 8 of which are in Asia. Having lived in Asia for 2 years, we could clearly see the impact of (single use) plastic on the environment. On a personal level, we started dodging single-use plastic whenever we could. Then in the development of LINEDOCK, every plastic part was redesigned in at least one alternative.
Some alternatives worked:
-The fancy LED plastic button turned into a more sober aluminum button
-Plastic clips was traded for screws
-Plastic battery chassis was traded for double-sided tape
-Leather pads were not robust enough. We kept rubber pads instead.
-Glass light guide turned out to be over $100 a piece. We used acrylic LED indicators instead.
But all in all, plastic represents 0.32% plastic. We intend to push that number even lower thanks to bio rubber and smaller light guides on the Linedock 15" and 16".
The first LINEDOCK packaging was a nice soft-touch black box. It was magnificent. And it had a drawer made out of foam to store all USB-C adapters you wouldn't need anymore thanks to your LINEDOCK. We were really proud, it was both aesthetic and offbeat.
The Dongle Graveyard credit @mikeonsite
Then we saw what thousands of pieces of aesthetics and coolness looked like. That was a lot of foam, and a lot of soft-touch (plastic coating). But after it had been produced, it would've been even worse to toss it. We decided to use it and take the lesson: when building a product, every single decision can have a monumental impact. Including packaging.
For the second production batch, we’ve revamped the packaging and have taken a different approach aiming at the smallest environmental impact as possible. And we delivered. Our new packaging is now 100% biodegradable. Meaning it fully disintegrates after 3 months in your backyard.
The new LINEDOCK packaging made out of cardboard, kraft paper, water-based ink and paper seal.
We have now moved the manufacturing of LINEDOCK outside of Asia and back to Europe. Carbon footprint was one of the reasons as energy production in Asia tend to rely more on Charcoal than in Europe. For the remaining spare parts manufactured in Asia, the first pallets of spare parts were shipped by boat and some by air. We have even found a train coming from Asia straight to the middle of Europe allowing to ditch air shipping entirely for those spare parts. We’re also looking at three additional warehouses in the United States, allowing for ground shipping only across the US.
As the world is (too) slowly shifting to more reliable energy sources, electricity tends to replace oil in many sectors. This transition greatly lowers carbon footprints. But it will only be successful if a solution is found on battery recycling. We are actively looking for partnership with a European University to work on an industrial battery recycling process.
The state of emergency on our environment has been widely accepted. The question now is how to act on it?
We do not believe the matter can be solved by politicians alone. Surely greener policies must be enacted. Policies towards car manufacturers are also a step into the right direction. But what are they compared to a very stubborn boi determined to revolutionize the entire industry?
We do not believe that slowing down to "previous levels" is the best solution either. As 4 billion people have now entered the middle class, lowering the individual carbon footprint of every middle-class individual to its pre-2000 level would still be far from enough.
We do believe in technology and progress as a leverage to improve the environment. We believe that taking the matter in our own hands, by producing better products, in a better way, we are doing our part. We believe that, ultimately, it is in everyone's daily activities, from what we eat, to what we buy, that we can have the biggest impact on the planet.
Happy Earth Day.