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GreenScreen is bigger than just a technology recycling program. It’s about people and helping build connections.
An initiative launched by Okanagan College’s Enactus team in 2019, the project works to repurpose technology such as phones, laptops and tablets, saving them from the landfill and connecting them with families in need.
The team consists of students Isaac Hossmann, Emily Pilon, Rachel Wehrmann and Maya Samaddar, and aided by College professor Devin Rubadeau. Working alongside Kelowna Cell Repair, Columbia Bottle Depot and Go ReCell, devices are collected at drop-off points then refurbished and recycled appropriately.
Additionally, the team works with students at Kelowna Christian School to teach them the business and marketing side of organizing the project in tandem with the environmentally sustainable elements of recycling technology.
While the ecological impacts of saving devices from sitting stagnant in the landfill are perhaps the most logical benefit of the program, seeing technology in the hands of people who need it showcases the relational side of GreenScreen.
“This is bigger than tech,” says project co-manager Pilon. In her fourth year of a BBA in marketing at the College’s Kelowna campus, she’s helped get the program off the ground this past year.
“Just because things go out of date quickly doesn’t mean those items are worthless. There’s potential there. Technology paired with a big gap of people who are at a disadvantage in education or work simply because they don’t have access to devices – we want all of these people, especially when they’re in our community, to have the same opportunities.”
Pilon references families who may be new to the country, or lacking finances to afford a new device. This is where GreenScreen fits into the puzzle. Since launching, the program has donated 14 pieces of technology to families who have immigrated to the area from Syria and Lebanon.
“Providing someone with a fifth-generation phone, they can now connect and plan. They can go on Facebook marketplace, they can use Google Maps to get around town.”
Project manager Isaac Hossmann adds, “the families we’ve connected with, they didn’t have the ability to access this kind of technology on their own. Two of the younger brothers in the family have been using their phones and laptops to complete schoolwork and find part-time jobs.”
To date, GreenScreen has hosted four collection dates and has received over 200 pieces of technology, all of which was sorted, re-purposed or recycled. The first drop-off location was set up at Mid-Town Station Kitchen in the Landmark District, although due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the team has put a pause on collection.
Dean of Okanagan College’s School of Business, Bill Gillett, adds, “Even with the difficulties of our current situation, our students press on, using their time and resources to innovate ways to bring people together.
These students have shown adaptability through change, and they are providing the benefit of connection to our community. What better time for all of us to think about the part we play in building those bridges.”
A third element comes into play as the Enactus team finds their time spent on the project is beneficial for themselves too.
“Our whole Enactus initiative is a group of students trying to become better leaders and help their community out,” adds Pilon. In addition to piloting and hosting the program, the current team also presented GreenScreen at the Enactus Canada Regionals hosted in Calgary at the end of February. Coached by College instructors Mark Ziebarth and Laura Hetherington, the team placed second in the TD Entrepreneurship Challenge.
With greater reason than ever before to connect people with each other, the GreenScreen team looks ahead with excitement to grow and expand the program. Despite the unknowns that come with COVID-19, the team is hopeful for September and a new school year to meet with more students and implement more drop-off dates.
“We plan on mapping out potential technology drives for the winter semester of 2020 in the event that schools have re-opened,” adds Hossmann. “We have usable technology that is re-furbished and ready to be donated, but we are still navigating how to safely donate it and practice the required social distancing.”
Pilon also has long-term goals in the back of her mind, hopeful to see GreenScreen evolve into a “sort of company that provides a service between consumers and current businesses that exist that refurbish and recycle tech.”
“We want people to think twice about where they dump their tech, and GreenScreen can be a brand that the whole community knows about. People know where to bring it, they know where our locations are, and they know exactly where it’s going and they want to donate it so it can benefit others.”
For the time being, the team invites community members to take stock of the devices they do have, perhaps lying unused in desk drawers or waiting to be taken to the recycling depot.
To learn more about GreenScreen, and stay notified of future drop-off dates, go here.