The Chromebook Churn Raises Questions About Its Sustainability

The Chromebook Churn Raises Questions About Its Sustainability
Written by Techbot

The Chromebook Churn Raises Questions About Its Sustainability

The latest report from the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund (PIRG) claims that Chromebooks’ durability and sustainability are questionable. Despite their cheaper pricing, Chromebooks are potentially turning out to be more expensive.

Doubling the lifespan of Chromebooks could result in $1.8 billion in savings for taxpayersPIRG

In the rise of the pandemic in 2020, most classrooms went online, encouraging school districts to purchase these budget-friendly laptops, which students could take home with them. However, just three years later, those Chromebooks started to break, and this churn points to their poor lifespan.

Moreover, it’s being said that they lack repairability which makes the devices less sustainable than their high-end competitors. The lack of repairability further creates room for generating massive e-waste.

What Obstructs The Sustainability Factor 

If compared with Windows laptops, Chromebooks are less adaptive to upgrades. Besides, the replacement parts are mostly unavailable. Given this, parts like hinges, keyboards, and screens that are drop, jolt, and spill sensitive can become permanently unusable.

PIRG found that approximately 50% of the replacement keyboards listed for Chromebooks were found to be out of stock online.

Due to this unavailability, some IT organizations had to buy additional batches of Chromebooks to always have the components ready. This eventually resulted in skyrocketed costs, making the schools reevaluate their decisions to include Chromebooks in their cost-saving strategy.

Another challenge with Chromebooks is their auto-update expiration date. The maker, Google, ensures eight years of auto-updates for these gizmos. However, the span begins when a Chromebook receives the certification from Google.

In most cases, a gap emerges between the date of certification and the day a school gets the Chromebook handed over. By the time an institution successfully deploys the devices, the expiration period narrows down to 4-5 years. When the software expires, institutes are usually left with churned Chromebooks, which forces them to buy new batches.

Besides leading to a waste of money, this unusability hits the sustainability factor hard by producing tons of e-waste.

Due to the short expiration period, schools cannot resell those devices. Besides, they tend to dodge the option of recycling as it turns out to be pretty expensive. Amplifying the lifespan of the Chromebook batches in 2020 (approximately 31 million) could reduce carbon emissions by 4.6 million tons. This is equivalent to taking around 900 thousand cars off the road for a year or two.

The Recommendations and The Response

PIRG has suggested Google remove the inconvenient automatic update expiration system. Besides, the institute recommends a better standardization of parts across Chromebook models.

Google is closely working with its device manufacturing partners to address the issues related to recyclability, repairability, and sustainability.

PIRG also says that Google should work on making the unenrolling process of Chromebooks a little easier. Besides, it should consider remote operating systems like Linux to turn the models more attractive and convenient. This move may help Google to extend the reuse and resale value of the devices.

In response to these suggestions, Google spokesperson, Peter Du, has stated that Google has done the due diligence to increase the years of guaranteed support received by Chromebooks.

Besides, the organization presently offers eight years of automatic updates, up from five years in 2016.

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