Gallery: Recompute: A Sustainable Desktop Computer


Computers are hard on the environment – from their materials and manufacture to their energy use and ultimate disposal. There are definitely some more energy efficient and eco-friendly models out there, but in order to make computers more sustainable, we need to completely rethink them. For this year’s Greener Gadget Design Competition, Brenden Macaluso decided to redesign the computer to make it’s whole lifecycle more sustainable. Featuring a slick cardboard case, his Recompute focuses on sustainability throughout the computer’s manufacturing, use and disposal, offering a fully functioning PC with off-the-shelf components.

The only materials required to manufacture Macaluso’s Recompute desktop computer are cardboard, non-toxic white glue and the computer components themselves. Standard computers on the other hand require numerous materials such as ABS plastic, aluminum, and steel, in addition to many energy-intensive manufacturing processes. This simple cardboard computer only requires die-cutting, printing, gluing and finally electronic assembly of three parts – the motherboard with processor and memory, a power supply, and a hard drive.

To use the computer, simply hook it up to your existing monitor, keyboard and mouse. You don’t need any special new hardware to run it, and for even more flexibility, there are 8 USB ports for external hardware customization. To dispose of the computer, you still need to send the electronic parts to be recycled properly as they contain heavy metals, but the cardboard is easy to remove and recycle. Recompute does not require any special tools to dismantle.

As for the specs of the computer, all of the components are off-the-shelf technology, including an Intel Core 2 Duo CPU, and 2GB of RAM. While there could be some concern about heat, air flow, and possible ignition due to it being made of cardboard, the designer has taken this into consideration. Plastics begin to melt at 120°, whereas cardboard won’t burn until 258°. The goal of this new computer design is to minimize the use of processed materials, reduce labor and parts to manufacture it, and finally be able to more completely recycle a computer at the end of its useful life.

If you’re a fan of Recompute be sure to vote for it today in this year’s Greener Gadgets Design Competition! We’ll be using your votes to decide the top ten gadgets that will proceed to an exciting round of live judging at the Greener Gadgets Conference for $5000 in prizes.


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  1. janetmerner June 2, 2009 at 11:22 am

    If people just recycled their Case this would not be a problem, I have recycled my case, DVD Drive and CD Burner three times. I just replace the things that need updating so I can run windows to support my customers. If you really want to be a good eco citizen run Ubuntu Linux (Free Download) on a 5 year old machine and it will be as speedy as a new windows Vista machine with just about everything you could need. If your computer is really Old run Xubuntu (Free Download) Linux on it.

  2. Helman700 February 16, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    It’s not that it could combust, but that the cardboard will trap the heat in and disrupt the operation of the computer. Remember when all computers had to be in an air conditioned room 10 years ago?

  3. ekse February 16, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    While I like the idea, the biggest problem with computers is with the component cards that contains numerous metals and dangerous chemicals (lead, mercury, silicia etc).

    However, people are changing their computers every 4-5 years for newer one and pretty much everything for the old ones is thrown out. Cardboard is much easier to recycle than a mixture of aluminium, steel and plastic.

  4. johnsoda February 16, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    As was pointed out in the comments on the competition webpage, while the design is innovative, the design requires a moderate redesign to be legally marketable. Aside from the flammability concern above, the lack of a metal enclosure makes it virtually impossible to meet FCC and EU radiated emissions requirements. The metal chassis serves as a shield and contains all of the radio frequency emissions coming off of noisy hardware such as the processor or an Ethernet card. Adding some shielding material, like metal foil, around the inside of the case would help, but it would need to be thoroughly implemented to meet the requirements.

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