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Q. Dear Umbra,

This fall, I will be going to college. One of the biggest (and most expensive) items on the list is a laptop. My stepmom and I were debating whether it would be more eco-friendly to buy a refurbished laptop versus a new one. Will a refurbished laptop place less demand on rare earth metals and those other nasty resources needed to make electronics, or should I just invest in the newest computer? Please help me settle this debate! I want to be eco-friendly!

Kristen
Chapel Hill, N.C.

Are refurbished laptops the greener way to go? (Photo by Wayan Vota.)

A. Dearest Kristen,

Congratulations — what an exciting time! And my, how things change: In my day, “the list” included things like “towels and flip-flops for the shower.” Those were essentials.