Skeleton Dance by jpmercury Creative Commons Licensed Music from CCmixter
After the workshop was over, my hosts took on a tour of Free Geek, a truly unique nonprofit organization in Portland. Free Geek looks at two problems: e-waste and access to technology and throws them at each other in a way that saves the earth and gets computers into the hands of people who would not otherwise have them I had a field day with my camera and made the above music video on the plane home. I suggest you take a few minutes and watch this video about their work on YouTube.
There was something very engaging and even artsy about this community of geeks volunteering their time, hanging out together, and shoulder-to-shoulder learning. There was warmth, kindness, and acceptance. The space reminded of the many artist-run spaces and community centers I've visited when I worked with the New York Foundation of the Arts. I've decided that I'll be wearing my FreeGeek t-shirt this month on my blog and Facebook profile.
The first problem this organization addresses is "e-waste." What happens to your computer and its monitor or your DVD player or cell phone after it becomes obsolete or dies? If you lived in Portland (or a growing number of other cities), you could take it to Free Geek where it would usable parts would be salvaged and recycled into a perfectly good computer for a person who couldn't afford to purchase a shiny new one.
I must confess something here. I wish there was a Free Geek in the Boston area because my home office has become a grave yard for old computers, modems, and other devices. I won't just throw them out if I don't know they will be responsibly recycled - I'd make jewelry out of the parts, but don't have time. These unused computers can't be recycled at our local dump. If Free Geek were in Boston, my office would be a lot less cluttered with the carcases of old computers that could probably be dissected, picked apart, and provide access to computing to someone else who wouldn't other afford it. I love that idea. Maybe Free Geek has a franchise plan?
On my tour with Marie "Deathstar" and the Reverend, I saw how anyone can volunteer and learn how to rebuild a computer from these recycled parts. I saw people of different ages, from kids to older adults. And, after they build 5 computers, they get to keep the 6th one. The volunteers are learning marketable skills. In addition, the parts or whole other machines that were truly unusable are sent to a responsible recycling process.
There was something oddly pleasurable and calming walking around the organized stacks of computer components and other electronics. I love the creativity and humor too. For example, there was Chinese New Year's Dragon made from the paper inside of printer drums. A Christmas tree of recycled items and decorated CD's.
If you ever get to Portland, you must visit. If you are lucky enough to live in the Portland area and need to responsibly recycle your computer and other electronics, this is the place to give your computer stuff.