Have You Tried Throwing It Away?

September 28, 2023

Have You Tried Throwing It Away?

“Is the unit securely plugged into the wall outlet, sir? Do you see a light near the network cable? Have you tried throwing the unit into the garbage can?”

I made a big deal about our company getting SAVe certified. Sustainability in AV. If you read my stuff, you know it is truly a big deal to us. It is. We hate seeing products in the bin. We hate when certain low-ball “recyclers” just ship stuff to Ghana and have kids dig through piles of toxic mess to find something of value.    

When we went through this process of getting certified, Sean Murphy suggested we look at power consumption right at the design phase. Then again in the programming phase. We are starting to do that now. But then I started thinking about what I see in corporate America.

Here is an example of a typical building on a technology campus. A few fancy boardrooms with custom AV. There are some training room divisible spaces with some cool custom AV. There is an all-hands space. Custom. Then there are 100 or more spaces with a plastic all-in-one of some sort. Name your brand. I will use other names to protect their identities. For now, we will call them Mattel, Wham-O, and Lego.  

So, the tech company gets some awesome Crestron, Q-SYS or whatever for the big spaces. Super cool! Then they wake up one day and decide they need 1080p cameras now in all of their small spaces. All the Wham-O bars go straight to the garbage. Maybe they decide that they want an upgraded mic experience – all the Fisher Price L’il display sets with cam, speakers, mic and E-Z Bake Ovens – they go into a giant stack in some poor integrators warehouse. Good news, it kinda smells like chocolate chips in there now.

So maybe, instead of using all-in-one’s, maybe we don’t buy PONG, but we get an Atari. (I am that old).

There are parts of your AV stuff that are not going to be cool in a few years. There are other parts that have actual intrinsic value when purchased correctly. Let’s get separates. As much as this causes me to throw up in my mouth, “Total Cost of Ownership” will likely be lower (barf!). But it might be true. The total cost to the environment will be lower for certain.    

Let’s start with what DOESN’T change in a room
Speakers have intrinsic value. Yes, there will be incremental improvements, but if you get good speakers today, they will be good speakers in 10 to 20 years. Amplifiers are the same way. Either they sound RIGHT, or they don’t. Ask the SF GIANTS. Amps went into their stadium in 1999. Still there. Amps last. Intrinsic Value (QSC). High-quality analog mics last almost forever. Have you seen new mics in the House or Senate Lately? Ask Mitch McConnel. The Audio-Technica mics have been there as long as him. Well…maybe not, but close. Software-based control? It’s in the name. You CAN’T throw it away. Analog ins and outs? Little change over the years.

So, here are things that DO change in a room
Cameras, touch-panels and to a less rate, displays. And mostly, the service that was picked as their communications platform. Something new will come out. It always does. And when the next-gen conferencing comes from a player we didn’t expect, (e.g., Apple, Adobe, Wal-Mart), all of the little rooms go straight to the bin. Think about all the TY Beanie-Meetings and the Lego Spiderman super-cam video bars (which took a long time to put together) that will be piled up in the back of dump trucks across America, on their way to Africa, only to make some children sick and their overlords rich.

My TCO pitch is legit. If we spend just a few extra bucks today in our small-to-medium spaces, we can keep them fresh without filling dumpsters. Just the cardboard and Styrofoam savings will help the environment enough that you won’t feel as guilty filling up your F-350 diesel Super-Duty pickup next time. When someone comes out with a zero-bezel 3D touch panel with smellivision, we don’t pitch the whole system into the bin.   

Even if I was not the Q-SYS guy, this would be true. Let’s be good stewards of this planet, and at the same time, we provide a more exceptional AV experience.

Did you ever get one of those Wham-O red ring frisbee things? They were cool but the inside was sharp and ultimately hurt too much to use. That’s not some metaphor. Just sharing.    

Until next time, start thinking about some of this stuff in your next needs assessment meeting. Feel free to use my Beanie-Meeting metaphor when upselling. If it doesn’t work, you get a Farm hat.