Today our Executive Director Seth Hubbert testified before the California Air Resources Board regarding the draft Greenhouse Gas Investment Plan. Proceeds from the Cap & Trade Program produce an 8 billion dollar Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund that supports programs meant to lower greenhouse gases and deliver benefits to underserved community members.
Below is his statement.
Good afternoon Madam Chair and Members of the Board.
I’m Seth Hubbert, the Executive Director of Tech Exchange, a social impact organization dedicated to digital inclusion: we help disadvantaged community members sign up for affordable home Internet, provide digital literacy trainings, and refurbish donated computers to provide to our community.
We support our clients in communicating with their doctor through a health portal, performing online banking, accessing online educational opportunities and public services, and even setting up home businesses. All of these activities reduce trips, miles travelled, and are a direct strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Innovation and technology have a huge potential in reducing GHG emissions, however this will go unrealized if bold action isn’t taken to support the 31% of California residents that are un-connected and under-connected.
There is another area of our work that directly supports GHG goals: computer refurbishment. Because of cost, many low-income residents, and supporting agencies such as ours, choose refurbished hardware as a first household computer. Computers are nontrivial to manufacture and contain toxic elements. Over the lifespan of a computer’s life, 81% of the energy used comes from manufacturing, and eWaste is our fastest growing waste stream.
We are a still a growing operation: last year we refurbished 4000 computers to provide to the community. Utilizing EPA’s Electronics Environmental Benefits Calculator, by upcycling these 4000 computers:
• There was air emissions savings of 11,000 metric tons, the equivalent of removing 2300 cars from the road for a year.
• These 4000 computers provided a toxic material savings equivalent to doubling mercury levels in 9.7 million tuna.
• These 4000 computers provided an energy consumption savings equivalent to power 1300 homes for a year.
• Overall, every $1 invested in our organization yield a $1.32 environmental benefit, in addition to the social, economic, and educational benefit our services provide.
These numbers represent only our 4000 computers, which is a tiny share of the 150,000 computers that American’s discard daily.
We appreciate staff’s time in meeting with us, and as written in the draft plan, it is recommended to seek alignment with all agencies with existing funded programs. Internet access paints with a wide brush and we plan to follow this recommendation. Digital Inclusion has many touchpoints and agencies across the State are finding we can help them reach their goals.
However, I’m left with two questions:
1) Does this Board find a digitally connected California, especially our most vulnerable residents, foundational to meeting GHG reduction goals?
2) And what steps can this body take to ensure California's 12.3 million digitally excluded residents can participate in tech-enabled activities necessary to meeting our climate goals.
Thank you for your consideration and urge your leadership and ownership of this issue.