The Five R’s – Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Repurpose, and THEN Recycle

I’m a fan of fans. My office area gets stuffy in the afternoon, and a cool electric breeze is nice.

I was in need of a new desk fan and happened to be on an empty floor of our building. We were told that anything there (tech manuals, power strips, office supplies) was up for grabs.

I saw a lonely desktop fan with TRASH written on it three times in permanent ink. Upon looking at it I didn’t see anything catastrophically wrong with it so I decided to take it with me and play with it.

After plugging it in, I immediately saw the issue–the fan would run great, but the switch to turn off automatic oscillation wasn’t being engaged by the plastic knob on the top of the fan. It’s kind of annoying to have it oscillating when you want a breeze blowing on your face, so the owner simply wrote trash on it and left it for the cleaning crew to dispose.

The fan didn’t have any obvious way to disassemble the body and I didn’t really care about oscillation on demand, so I simply enlarged the opening that held the plastic knob, removed the knob, and pulled up the switch with my pliers.

So with five minutes and the will to not abandon something potentially useful to the landfill, I am now enjoying the cool breeze of a free fan. My only other optimization was adding a NOT before TRASH already written on the fan so our cleaning crew knew I wanted the fan.

We’ve all heard of the three R’s — Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle — but really we should consider two other R’s before we get to recycle – Repair and Repurpose.

See iFixit’s blog post on electronics recycling to see that recycling electronics isn’t as green as you might think. It’s better to find another use or repair these items. By the way, iFixit is a great resource for learning to fix most electronics. They’ve sent me their tool kits for review so I’m not a completely neutral party, but I would still think they’re awesome nonetheless. I highly recommend checking out their free online repair manuals, blog, and you can get a lot of parts and tools in their store.