- If the lifespans of Google Chromebooks expanded twofold, U.S. schools could save $1.8 billion, according to an April report from U.S. Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, a public advocacy group.
- The laptops, which have grown popular for K-12 use, have come under fire for their average four-year lifespan, as they no longer receive updates and can’t use secure websites once they reach their built-in “death date” for support.
- A doubled lifespan could also significantly reduce the devices’ environmental impact. Longer lifespans for Chromebooks sold in 2020 alone would cut carbon emissions equivalent to taking 900,000 cars off the road for one year, according to PIRG Education Fund. Within the first year of the pandemic, the 31 million Chromebooks sold globally represent 8.9 million tons of carbon emissions.
The report’s concerns over Chromebooks’ environmental and financial sustainability follow a surge in K-12 ed tech investments during the pandemic, which required 1:1 programs for remote learning.
A 2022 Consortium for School Networking national survey of more than 1,500 K-12 IT leaders found 83% of high schools, 86% of middle schools and 80% of grades 3-5 have 1:1 device programs. That’s a noticeable uptick from 2020, when 1:1 device rates were 66% in high school, 69% in middle school and 43% in K-5.
Overall, CoSN is concerned about the sustainability of all school-issued devices from both a financial and environmental standpoint, said CEO Keith Krueger in an email.
“Certainly we want reasonable expiration dates, and we want all devices, not just Chromebooks, to be modular and have spare parts available,” Krueger said.
While Google has made an effort to lengthen expiration dates, the PIRG report said those efforts “still fall short of what is needed to reduce e-waste.”
“No school should have to stop using a laptop that still works, just because it’s reached its ‘death date,’” the report said.
Google has previously stated its devices are “designed with sustainability in mind” and consume 46% less energy than comparable devices.
To further address sustainability, Google also created a Chromebook repair program for schools in 2022. The program gives guidance for schools to quickly identify the device’s repairable parts in addition to explaining how to repair the technology and find tools to fix the problem.
Chromebooks were particularly impacted by a dip in computer sales in the education sector during Q2 2022, with annual growth dropping 57.4% year over year to 5.1 million units shipped, according to an analysis by Canalys, a global technology market analyst firm.