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Lifecycle of a Computer at UNH

By Martin England, Computing and Information Systems
January 30, 2008

The old one’s-trash-is-another’s-treasure philosophy rings true, especially when it comes to computers and technology. While many members of the university community need the latest technologies in order to perform work at the highest level, it’s not always obvious what to do with old computers after moving over to the new.

Many closets and corridors remain stuffed with old computer systems and peripherals. This article will touch upon various options provided here at UNH with regards to proper computer disposal and surplus, as well as what to look for when purchasing a new computer to ensure your carbon footprint is kept to a minimum.

Purchasing New Computers:

The Supported Products Advisory Committee provides the university community with minimum hardware specifications for new computer purchases. This list is available by visiting cis.unh.edu and searching on ‘supported hardware.’ A list of purchasing tips can also be found on this webpage.

Surplus Equipment:

UNH/USNH purchasing sponsors a surplus property program which allows USNH departments to buy, sell, transfer or donate a vast array of items, including computers. Their website also sports a search feature, which allows you by category. Anyone may place a bid on the equipment, although personal surplus items are not accepted.

UNH/USNH purchasing also assists in the donation of computers to non-profit organizations, such as local organizations, school districts and elderly homes. Past recipients of these donations include the UNH Parents Association, Graduate Student Organization (GSO), United Campus Ministry, Newmarket School District, Governor Wentworth Regional School District, Farmington School District, MillPond Center for the Arts in Durham, NH Lyme.org, Keene Senior Center, Parsons Memorial Library (Alfred, ME), State of New Hampshire Department of Corrections, SUNY in NY State, and even an organization that delivers computers to Guinea to provide internet access to third world country residents.

Lisa Pollard from UNH/USNH purchasing has provided oversight for the surplus property program for more than three years and has played an active role since fall 2006. Pollard reports there’s been a definite increase in the program’s use.

“Just because an item is not the latest and greatest version or is no longer needed by a department, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value to someone else,” Pollard said. “The elderly, young children and others just starting out may be perfectly happy with last year’s model of computer. Before scrapping something that works, always ask, ‘Could someone else use this?”

For more information, visit the surplus property website at: www.unh.edu/purchasing/surplus/index.html.

When a hard drive changes hands – Sanitizing the hard drive:

Computer hard drives that either stay or leave the campus must be formatted or “zeroed” before they are passed along, as many contain institutional, personal, or private data. All existing files on the hard drive should be backed up prior to this process. CIS provides these services for a fee, or users can perform the operation themselves. For more information, please visit cis.unh.edu and choose the ‘surplus’ link, listed beneath equipment on the ‘services at a glance’ section of the webpage.


According to the surplus property homepage, this option exists solely for those computers that are “not worth selling (obsolete equipment may still have value). Use this feature only for items with no current value.”

The UNH Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) office manages the disposal of all scrap materials, including electronics. Scrap electronics includes CPUs, monitors, televisions, keyboards, mice, photocopiers, printers, various types of laboratory analytical devices, or any other electronic device that contains a circuit board. UNH/USNH purchasing must approve the scrapping of all electronics via a “request to scrap” form on the purchasing website prior to their disposal.

EHS’ Marty McCrone reports UNH recycled 78,374 pounds of electronic material in FY07, consisting mainly of personal computers and peripherals. In visual terms, this equals more than five tractor trailer loads of palletized, shrink-wrapped pallets.

“Due to the quantity and often cyclical nature of surplus generation, there is often a backlog of pickups,” McCrone said. “We ask people to be understanding about this. There is no charge for pick up and recycling, but we have limited staff and it’s a large task to manage this waste stream for the university community.”


Since 1997, UNH’s Office of Sustainability has taken on the mission of uniting faculty, staff, and students in facilitating the integration of sustainability across the UNH’s CORE through four initiatives that follow four foundational systems of sustainability – biodiversity and ecosystems; climate and energy; culture and sustainability; and food, agriculture, and nutrition.

Tom Kelly is the chief sustainability officer for UNH and believes the responsibility of sustainability starts with the university community.

“At UNH, sustainability guides everything we do,” Kelly said. “We encourage all faculty, staff, and students as part of our Sustainable Learning Community to purchase energy efficient and local items where they can, and to donate, resell, or dispose of old computers and other equipment in a safe and sustainable manner.”

For more information on sustainability visit (faculty & staff): www.sustainableunh.unh.edu/faculty_staff.html or (students) www.sustainableunh.unh.edu/students.html.

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