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Although tech companies will often speak of sustainability, many lobby against repair legislation, fearful it will loosen their control and eat into their profits. This can lead to a sort of cognitive dissonance.

Apple’s annual environmental report, published this month, asserts a commitment to device longevity and sustainability. It also speaks of the Apple Pencil stylus as though it contains secrets lost in some fragment of the Rosetta Stone. The company is “designing, developing and testing additional disassembly tools — including new methods for recovering materials from Apple Pencil,” it says, as though the methods could only be reverse-engineered, rather than integrated from the very first stage of design.

There’s the issue in a nutshell: Sustainability matters, but marketable design appears to matter more to these companies. Consumers are urged to upgrade their devices annually. Well north of 1 billion smartphones were shipped in 2020 — and it was a sluggish year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Manufacturers must do better. Their devices must be repairable by all and kept compatible with software updates for as long as possible, not artificially obsoleted. Consumers should support right-to-repair legislation. Buy what you please, be it a fancy fridge or a smartphone — no one is changing the world by holding on to an iPhone 7 for an extra year — but know to ask three simple questions when you’re shopping: “How long will this last?,” “How will I get it fixed when it breaks?” and “How will I recycle this when I need a new device?” Follow through and get the thing fixed or take it to a trustworthy recycler when it’s time. (Apple’s store employees can help with this step, for instance.)

In this world, damage is a certainty. But we cannot leave things broken: A problem of our creation is a problem that can be fixed.

Damon Beres (@dlberes) is a journalist whose work focuses on the effects of technology on people and the planet. He co-founded the publication OneZero at Medium.

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