Vancity enviroFund

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Grant Application


2008 Funding Guidelines

The enviroFund™ was conceived as a way to support community initiatives that address local environmental concerns in a positive, constructive and creative manner. The enviroFund grows through donations made by Vancity based on a minimum of 5% of Vancity enviro VISA* card profits. It also grows through individual donations. More than $2 million has been awarded to local groups since the enviroFund was established in 1990.

Each year, Vancity enviro VISA* cardholders vote on the issue areas enviroFund will support. enviroFund Project applications must address one of the chosen 2008 issue areas: Consumption & Waste Reduction Ecosystem Preservation & Restoration Sustainable Transportation

Project criteria

  • Local — projects must take place in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley or Greater Victoria and directly benefit local communities.
  • Measureable ecological impact — project should generate significant quantifiable environmental improvements.
  • Action oriented — the primary focus of the project should be on taking concrete action to help resolve local environmental problems and develop sustainable communities. Projects can include related research and education components.
  • Innovative — projects should present new and innovative ways to address local environmental issues.

Organizational criteria

  • Not for profit — the applicant organization must be a not-for-profit, charitable non-government organization or co-operative.

Project preferences

  • Ongoing — preference will be given to projects that continue beyond the one-year period for which funding is requested.
  • Community benefits — projects that provide social benefits (e.g. job creation for disadvantaged groups, community economic development or youth training opportunities) to the local community and incorporate community participation into project planning and organizing will be given preference.

Organization preferences

  • Previous Vancity grant recipient – preference will be given to organizations that have successfully completed previous projects funded by Vancity.
  • Credit union membership – preference will be given to organizations that are members of Vancity or another credit union.

Application process: All non-profit organizations who wish to apply for an enviroFund award must complete the following application form. Applications must be received by email at Vancity by 3:00pm on July 21, 2008. A staff selection committee reviews the applications and shortlists the top projects in each category. All short-listed applications will go forward to the enviroFund Selection Committee which meets in September to determine the 2008 recipients. Grants ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 are awarded in November.

  • VISA Int. /Vancity, Licensed User.

†enviroFund is a trademark of Vancity

How to apply for a Vancity enviroFund grant (A Paperless Application Process)

1.Please use the attached Word Document and Excel Spreadsheet Template/Form. Do not re-create or alter these forms. 2.Complete ALL fields in sections A, B & C of the Word document application form. 3.Complete ALL worksheets (sections D & E) of the Excel spreadsheet application form. 4.Attach ALL completed forms and additional information as required (see relevant sections) in electronic format to an e-mail. 5.E-mail your completed electronic application to:


Please DO NOT submit supplementary audio/visual or printed materials with your application.

NOTE: The following applications will not be considered: - Incomplete Applications - Applications not received by email in electronic format - Applicants that are not a registered not-for-profit society, charity or co-operative

Checklist of required information for submission:

Completed Vancity Application Form MS Word document (sections A, B, and C)

Completed Vancity Application Form MS Excel spreadsheet (sections D and E)

Three letters of support from other community organizations or community leaders (Letters should be current and relate specifically to the project or program for which you are applying for a grant. Directors or employees may not provide letters of support for their own organizations.)*

Copy of documentation showing certification of incorporation as a society or co-operative and/or charitable status (certificate of incorporation or Canada Revenue Agency letter)*

Organization’s most recent audited financial statements. If this is not available, include a copy of your most recent unaudited financial statements.*

  • Note: All supporting documents must also be provided in electronic format.

2008 Grant Application Form

Section A - Organization Information:

A1. The applicant must be a registered non-profit to be eligible.

Your organization is a:

Society		Provide registered provincial society number:	          
Cooperative	Provide registered co-operative number:		          
Charity		Provide registered charitable tax number (BN#):	          	
A2. State your organization’s mission (Max. 3 lines). What are the activities / major accomplishments carried out to achieve this mission?

Mission: Free Geek is a not for profit community organisation that recycles used technology to provide computers, education, Internet access and job skills training to those in need, in exchange for community service. In addition to providing access to technology, we strive to reduce the environmental impact of waste electronics through ethical reuse and recycling practices.

  1. Ethical reuse/recycling
  • Free Geek receives approximately 15 tonnes of unwanted computer donations each month, from individuals, schools and businesses.
  • Strict adherence to ethical recycling principles, in particular a strong emphasis on reuse as the highest form of recycling,
  • Diversion of approximately 25% of equipment away from the waste stream through volunteer-powered refurbishment and remanufacturing; this equipment is offered to the public for free or low-cost
  • Recycling stream is designed to reduce consumption of raw materials and environmental degradation, while recycling regionally, transparently and in the interests of community health. Approximately 100,000kg of ewaste have been recycled in this manner since January 1, 2008.
  • Full transparency in recycling: All downstream end-of-life recyclers are listed on Free Geek's website; mailing list archives and meetings are open to the public.
  • April 2008 - Became the first Canadian nonprofit to qualify as an "E-Steward," or responsible ewaste recycler, under a program designed by international environmental organisation the Basel Action Network to recognize compliance with the Basel Convention on Transnational Movement of Hazardous Wastes
  • June 2008 - Received an award from the Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) in recognition of recycling excellence and innovation in the nonprofit sector for the year 2007.
  • June 2008 - Established Electronic Stewardship Alliance for Ethical Reuse (ESAFER) in conjunction with Computers for Schools, to develop standards and auditing process for reuse organisations in British Columbia.
  • 2007 and 2008 - Featured speaker at the Recycling Council of British Columbia (RCBC) 34th and 35th Annual Zero Waste Conferences.

  1. Free and low-cost computers
  • Computer Adoption Program - Anyone who donates 24 hours of time to Free Geek receives a free refurbished computer, a class on how to use it, and free technical support. No computer experience is required to volunteer; volunteers spend their time testing, dismantling and refurbishing computer equipment.
  • Hardware Grant Foundation - Non-profits and organisations of social change receive grants of free refurbished computer equipment.
  • Computer Thrift Store - Consistent with our commitment to reuse, surplus equipment is sold through our thrift store at low cost. This enables the public to upgrade a computer with components, or buy an inexpensive refurbished one, rather than purchasing a new system at greater cost both to themselves and the environment.
  • Since 2007 - Over eighty hardware grants given to organisations throughout Metro Vancouver, Victoria and the Fraser Valley. Such grants enable these organisations to more effectively serve their clients and the community at large.
  • Adoption Program currently runs at full capacity, with approximately five to ten graduates per month.
  • March 2007 - Assisted Metro Vancouver retrieve urgently needed flood data from floppy disks dating back to the 1960s.

  1. Free software, workshops and classes
  • Free computer workshops and skill-sharing events: Staff and volunteers offer free classes on everything from basic computer usage to programming.
  • Community space: Free meeting and class space offered to other technology-oriented groups in the community.
  • Free computer lab available to the public and volunteers during operating hours.
  • Free and open source software distribution, installation and support. It offers affordability, flexibility, freedom from viruses and more sustainable software options to users. It also increases the longevity of computers.
  • Over 25 free classes at Free Geek in the last six months
  • Hosted film/discussion nights and speakers, including internationally-recognized toxics analyst Sarah Westerveldt and Basel Action Network founder Jim Puckett

  1. Volunteerism and community engagement
  • Volunteering: Anyone can volunteer at Free Geek, earning computers and knowledge, while making their communities better, healthier places. No experience is required and instruction is provided.
  • Community outreach:
  • Consensus based with monthly community consultation
  • Media:
  • June 2008 - Received an Employer Recognition Award from Gastown Vocational Services, a project of Vancouver Coastal Health, which assists individuals with mental illness to gain work experience and skills.
  • As of July 2008 - Over 500 registered volunteers, with a wide diversity of skills, backgrounds and perspectives.
  • National Media: Free Geek uses media opportunities to raise awareness has appeared on CBC TV's the National, the Canadian Press
  • Open meetings
A3. Basics

Staff #:5 Volunteers #: 502  Annual Budget:$ FORMTEXT 100,000 Year Founded: FORMTEXT 2006

A4. Preference is given to Vancity and other credit union members.

Is your organization a Vancity member? FORMCHECKBOX Yes FORMCHECKBOX No If yes, Branch #: FORMTEXT Account #: FORMTEXT Date joined (Month-DD-YYYY): FORMTEXT 01-19-2007 If no, is your organization a member of another credit union? FORMCHECKBOX Yes FORMCHECKBOX No If yes, which credit union? FORMTEXT      

A5. Vancity Relationships:

Have you applied for funding through a Vancity funding program before, or do you currently have another funding request pending with Vancity?  ? Yes

If yes, please list project name, funding program and grant reference numbers:

Project name: Build Funding Program: Vancity Project Fund Oct 2007 Grant Reference Numbers:   In addition to the funding relationships listed above, is your organization working with any other areas of Vancity? No

If yes, please describe (what support, from which area?): FORMTEXT      

Section B - Project Information:

B1. Name of project (Max. ½ line only):

FORMTEXT Community Build Program

B2. Project timeframe.

Start (Month-DD-YYYY): FORMTEXT 09-15-2008 End (Month-DD-YYYY): FORMTEXT Open =====B3. Amount requested (up to $50,000)===== $ FORMTEXT Total project budget: $ FORMTEXT       Funds secured to date: $ FORMTEXT      

B4. Project summary:
Briefly describe what you plan to do (Max. 3 ½ lines) FORMTEXT      

In the Community Build Program, volunteers learn to refurbish five computer systems, and keep the sixth computer for themselves. The other five are primarily redistributed to individuals, or non-profit organisations in the community. This program is designed to extend Free Geek's waste diversion, consumption reduction, and community economic development strategies.

B5. Full project description:
Describe the project vision and list the specific project goals & objectives.  ;Quantify the desired results (if possible). (Max. two 8 ½ x 11 pages typed in Arial 11 point font)

B4. Project summary:

The Community Build Program is designed to translate an individual's civic spirit and desire for self-improvement into material and environmental benefit for the community at large. It offers free in-depth technical education, while producing free refurbished equipment for individuals and organisations.

Goals of Community Build:

  1. Reduce computer waste by diverting systems from the waste stream, primarily through refurbishment and remanufacturing of unwanted equipment.
  2. Reduce consumption of virgin materials and energy expenditure, by providing refurbished computers to the public (free systems for nonprofits, Community Build graduates and other volunteers; stock for the thrift store for general purchase).
  3. Facilitate skill-sharing, collaboration, cooperation, interdependence, mutual assistance and other hallmarks of healthy communities between Community Build participants.
  4. Provide opportunities for personal development to Community Build volunteers, including free computers, job skills, technical education, Internet access, technological empowerment and economic advancement.
  5. Empower and galvanize the greater community by providing sustainable computer alternatives, fostering e-waste awareness, and offering a venue for active involvement in environmental solutions to local and global pollution, toxic e-waste and consumption issues.
  6. Provide sustainable, accessible, community-based software to the public.
  7. Utilize the power of social production and decentralized non-market cooperation to generate a more equitable distribution of technology and related skills.

The Community Build Program provides a more sophisticated technical education to volunteers than our other programs are calibrated to provide. In exchange, volunteers in the Build program agree to complete six computer systems. The sixth computer they build is theirs to keep, while the remaining five computers are made available to the community through other distribution channels, principly the Computer Adoption and Hardware Grants programs.

Through the Adoption Program, individuals receive a free system after volunteering 24 hours of their time; the Community Build program will supply the necessary finished systems that Adopters receive. We estimate that 150-200 refurbished computers will go directly from Build volunteers to Adopters. Our Hardware Grant Foundation disseminates free computer equipment to nonprofit organisations. Over the last year, Free Geek has fulfilled over 80 hardware grants of computer equipment in Vancouver, Victoria and the Fraser Valley. We estimate between 80-110 more Hardware Grant applications will be made to Free Geek over the year of enviroFund funding. Community Builders would also build these machines, in conjunction with the Hardware Grant/Education Coordinator.

Surplus built systems will be sold at low cost in our Computer Thrift Store, enabling citizens to decrease their consumption of new items by buying inexpensive used machines.

Notably, Individuals who wish to participate in Community Build do not require any previous computer experience; they are taught how to build computers exclusively with used parts. They undergo a standard safety orientation and an initial assessment which determines their level of familiarity with hardware; if they are just starting out, they will proceed through "Pre-Build," a set of hands-on workshops and activities that teach skills in blocks, while still participating directly in the building process. With sufficient experience they may be permitted to “test-out” of the PreBuild stage, proceeding directly to the second level, “Build.” In the Build stage, they are taught to test and refurbish entire systems, as well as to install software and troubleshoot.

Volunteers are encouraged to learn at their own pace, and not to be harried by productivity pressures. Since hardware is being reclaimed, inhibitions about breakage during the learning process are largely eliminated, leaving participants free to challenge themselves and try new things. This leads to a positive, supportive work environment, in which skill-sharing, exploration and mutual cooperation are emphasized.

Tested hardware is assembled into standardized desktop computers which are then loaded with cutting-edge community-based operating systems and applications. Such software extends the life of computers, as it runs more efficiently and can therefore reclaim a greater proportion of systems from the waste stream.

A specific goal of this project is to redirect an average of 15 free refurbished computers per week, or about 750 per year, away from the waste stream and into community circulation. These computers will be given to individual volunteers exchanging community service for a computer, regional non-profit organizations or sold at low cost through the thrift store.

Throughout Community Build, the Build Coordinator, Volunteer Coordinator and Hardware Grant Coordinator will offer regular guidance, instruction, support and feedback to individuals enrolled in the program. Seeking help from peers is also facilitated, as Build Volunteers are encouraged to share their skills with each other. After graduation, they may continue their volunteerism at Free Geek and pursue further skills in the form of “Extra Credit.” Graduates may be encouraged to become volunteer Build Assistants; Build Assistants in turn can be groomed as Build Instructors. This ensures continuity to the program, as well as mutual assistance and a sense of camaraderie.

Both the day to day operations at Free Geek and our other programs require assembled working computers. We will draw upon the products of the program to provide systems to these areas. Initially, our staff and experienced volunteers will work together to cultivate builders. As more volunteers gain experience through the program, much of the work of updating documentation and building can be carried by these individuals.

In addition, Community Build educates and engages participants regarding the environmental impacts of computing and the benefits of computer reuse; it offers a hands-on opportunity for the public to participate in mitigating climate change, while exposing them to better practices with tangible social and environmental benefits, in a local context infused with global implications.

Ore mining, electronics manufacturing, the transport of systems for sale and a massive electronic waste management morass all conspire to extract a horrific toll from the biosphere, including human health. The average lifespan of a computer is now two years, although many cast-off and recycled systems are still useful; often due to lack of orchestration or infrastructure, they are customarily destroyed despite an often desperate need in the community.

This program actualizes computer re-use and resource conservation. Rebuilt and repaired computers are kept from the waste stream for longer, offsetting the cost of extraction and consumption of virgin materials, as well as the environmental costs inherent in manufacturing and shipping new computers.

B6. Which of the following issue areas does your project address?
FORMCHECKBOX   XX Consumption & Waste Reduction
FORMCHECKBOX   not Sustainable Transportation 
FORMCHECKBOX   not Ecosystem Preservation & Restoration
B7. Project rationale:
List the specific local environmental concerns that your project is addressing under the selected issue area(s) and tell us why it is important to address these concerns.

Please reference or provide links for any scientific research that has been conducted that provides rationale to support your project activity. FORMTEXT      
B8. Work plan & timeline:
Insert up to 2 (8 ½ x 11) pages with the detailed tasks required to complete each goal & objective.  ;Identify the person(s) accountable and timeline for each goal/objective.  ;(Max. two 8 ½ x 11 pages typed in Arial 11 point font) FORMTEXT      


  1. Reduce computer waste by diverting systems from the waste stream through refurbishment and remanufacturing
  2. Reduce consumption of virgin materials and energy expenditure by providing refurbished computers to the public (free systems for nonprofits, Community Build graduates and other volunteers; stock for the thrift store for general purchase)
  3. Facilitate skill-sharing, technical education, job skills, empowerment between community members
  4. Foster experiences of collaboration, cooperation and sharing
  5. Engage the community by providing vehicle for active involvement in environmental solutions
  6. Provide sustainable, accessible, community-based software to the public
  7. Utilize the power of social production and decentralized non-market cooperation to generate equitable distribution of technology and accumulate skill-sharing opportunities within the community


- the amount of waste material responsibly recycled
- the number of students successfully completing build training
- the number of computers donated to individuals and non-profit organisations

Teach computer building to volunteers:


Refurbished systems produced by Builders will primarily go to Adopters, or nonprofits and organisations of social change with successful Hardware Grant applications. Any surplus systems will either be kept in stock or be sent to the thrift store.


STAGE ONE: Preparation (1 month) M

1. Build Coordinator/Instructor training and workshops: Volunteer Coordinator and Reuse Coordinator, in conjunction with Education workgroup will conduct workshops how to teach; sensitivity training; how to assess Build applicants; familiarity with Pre-Build and Build material and conventions; how tracking Build volunteer hours and information in the database.

2. Build Coordinator to format program guidelines on Free Geek's wiki

3. Build Coordinator develops additional guidelines in conjunction with Hardware Grant Coordinator and workgroup: how to meet Hardware Grants appropriately; how to prioritize Hardware Grant applications; build specifications.

4. Additional training facilitated by Volunteer Coordinator and Communications/Outreach workgroups: incorporating Community Build Program into tours and outreach; managing sign-up and enquiries; Phone centre documentation.

5. Build Coordinator to oversee constructing of tables, shelving, assembly of Builder tool kits, organising of stock parts bins.

6. Build Coordinator and Reuse Coordinator to design and implement additional testing stations, in conjunction with Warehouse Coordinator.

7. Build Coordinator and Volunteer coordinator design signage/displays for Builders.

7. Reuse Coordinator to install open terminals for Builders to consult online documentation

8. Occupational First Aid certification for Build Coordinator.

STAGE TWO: PreBuild (1 month)

1. Begin PreBuild thrice weekly

2. PreBuild workshops: orientation, sorting, quality control, command line, etc. Workshops will be organised by Build Coordinator and Instructors.

STAGE THREE: Build (10 months)

1. Community Build program officially starts

2. Actively promote program and solicit Community Build volunteers via media outreach: flyers, business cards, website stories, press releases, blogger solicitation, community event appearances.

3. Communications workgroup solicits hardware donations and stimulates demand for Build systems by promoting Hardware Grant Foundation and Adoption Program.

4. Instructor training nights continue. Expanded evening workshops for build-related skills.

5. PreBuild expanded to 5 days/week. Build expanded to 5 days/week.

6. Documentation continues, driven by Build Coordinator and contributed to by Build Instructors and volunteers.

7. Regular review of feedback from volunteers by Volunteer and Build Coordinators.

STAGE FOUR: evaluation and assessment (over 1 month, to commence a year from official start of Community Build)

1. Community Build continues.

2. Project assessment: store profits, increases to mailing list, increased volunteers, increased production, etc.

3. Volunteer Coordinator analyses survey data collected from Build graduates.

4. Build, Hardware Grants, Reuse and Volunteer coordinators evaluate Community Build as a whole and decide on plan of action to expand and optimize program.

5. General membership is presented with overview of the progress of the program.

STAGE FIVE: Build expansion and optimization.

1. Community Build continues.

2. Expanded workshops.

3. Documentation continues.

4. Promotion/solicitation/outreach continues.


A) PreBuild workshops/instruction:

1. Basic Concepts for Computer Users

2. Card Sorting and Identification

3. Motherboard Sorting and Identification

4. Basic Linux Command Line for Builders -Hands-on class that serves as an introduction to using the GNU/Linux command line. Some basic commands are introduced, but the focus is on familiarity with the form of commands.

5. Intro to Sustainable Computing: Importance of re-use, responsible recycling, and community interdependence.

6. Viewing of Basel Action Network e-waste documentary.

B) Build:

1. Quality Control (QC) - learning to use scripts and other utilities, basic troubleshooting.

2. Assembly and Software - advanced troubleshooting, building computers, installing software.

C) Extra Credit:

1. Advanced Command Line - Review of basic command syntax. Introduction to basic file and directory operations; BASH as a programming environment. Some of BASH's features will be showcased to illustrate its powerful possibilities.

2. User to Root: workshop series designed to confer system administrator competency.

3. Advanced Testing

4. Server Build

5. Intro to Instruction: teaches how to teach others and support Build instructors

B9. Technical resource needs:
What resources/facilities/equipment are required to successfully carry out this project and where will you get these resources? FORMTEXT      
  • Computers for refurbishment and related components: Ongoing.

Free Geek receives a steady of supply of free computer equipment from the public, most notably individuals, the corporate sector and educational institutions. In June 2008 alone, 681 systems were donated to Free Geek, along with over 500 monitors.

  • Evaluated systems: Ongoing.

Volunteers in our other programs will provide the necessary labour to test and sort systems and components for builders.

  • Operating systems and associated software: Already in place.

Free Geek exclusively uses free and open source software. All computers will be installed with Ubuntu Linux, a free and open source operating system that comes with software for email, internet usage, graphic design and multimedia. Additional software is available through the free software community, free of charge. Installations will be done on Free Geek's network, using a network installation process maintained by Free Geek staff.

  • Facility: Already in place.

Free Geek already operates a fully functional technology community centre. About 25% of our space is already devoted to the process of rebuilding systems, though it can accommodate more activity. With increased staff, we will be able to better optimize our space to handle more building.

  • Distribution network: Ongoing.

Systems will be given to organisations through the Hardware Grant Foundation, graduates of the 24-hour Adoption Program, or sold through the Thrift Store to the public. Each builder will also take home a machine upon graduation from the Community Build Program.

  • Technical expertise: In-house.

There is no shortage of 'geeks' at Free Geek. Both staff and over a dozen regular builders will contribute their support to the implementation of the Community Build Program.

  • Willing volunteers and publicity for new program: In-house.

Free Geek signs up between 10-15 new volunteers per week for our programs, and there are already over 500 volunteers in Free Geek's database. Great interest is continually expressed in learning to build machines. Due to Free Geek's ascendant profile both in the recycling industry and community, due partly to frequent appearances at community events and in the media, there is no shortage of committed volunteers. Unfortunately, the transfer of building skills is largely at a standstill due to lack of resources to coordinate a formal program.

The publicizing of the program will be included in Free Geek's online materials, primarily through our prominent website, which receives an average of 200 hits per day. A Google search for "computer recycling vancouver," "computer reuse vancouver" or "free computer vancouver" all lead to Free Geek as the first result. Free Geek also regularly appears in the media, including CBC TV, CFRO Co-op Radio, 24 Hours, the Tyee, the Westender and the National Post. Free Geek frequently appears at community events such as Carfree Day, the Folk Festival, and Earth Day, in addition to speaking at conferences such as the Massive Technology Trade show and the Recycling Council of BC 2007 and 2008.

Items that likely hinge on a successful EnviroFund grant application:
  • Additional space:

Due to significantly increased activity with the commencement of Community Build, Free Geek will need additional space for prebuilding, building,sorting, class space and storing built units. From November to January, interim storage space would be required for the backlog of tested systems waiting for refurbishment. This would also allow for the construction of more build stations and related areas. A storage unit would be rented from Maple Leaf storage nearby. Starting in January 2009, Free Geek would need to acquire 1525 sq ft more floorspace in order to increase room for production. Our current building will be able to accommodate this expansion at a cost of $1168.91 per month.

  • Metal "Baker's" racks:

These racks are very useful for organising systems awaiting imminent refurbishment. We have already acquired 5 racks; another 10 are required.

  • Tool kits:

To keep tools organised and handy, we will put together tool kits that will be signed out by individual builders. Tools will be purchased and assembled into sets.

  • Bicycle trailers and handcarts:

Because of this program, more computers will need to be transported to their new homes. To support those who do not have access to a personal motor vehicle, or who choose not to use such transport for environmental reasons, Free Geek would like to loan carts to be used to transport computers. A local bicycle welder will be commissioned to create a customized bicycle trailer that can attach to any bicycle. He will also create two hand carts that can be taken on public transport.

B10. Human Resource needs:
List the key staff involved in this project and describe their role(s) and their relevant experience & education. If this project is being carried out through a partnership with other community groups, please list the key partners (in delivery) of this project and describe their role(s) and the relevant experience of the project partners. FORMTEXT   
  • Build Coordinator: Oversee all aspects of Community Build program. Regularly communicate with Systems Developer regarding Build needs. Liaise with the Operations Coordinator regarding standardization and quality control of built systems. Standardize training and support Build Instructors; mentor Build Assistants. Oversee Build Volunteer assessment (initial and ongoing); liaise with Volunteer Coordinator on human resource issues and dispersing constructive feedback. Communicate program status to the general membership in person or by proxy. Inform Communications/Outreach Coordinator of upcoming workshops. Post documentation to Free Geek wiki; oversee database and Builder files. Meet regularly with Hardware Grant Coordinator, Stewards and workgroup. Implement workshops. Assist Build Volunteers and encourage interdependence. Oversee inventory and dispersal of finished computers. Experience: Advanced testing and building experience; teaching experience; wiki, Linux and networks competency; consensus experience a plus.
  • Build Instructors: Assist Build Coordinator with the above. Groom Build Volunteers to become Assistants and maintain schedules for Builders and Instructors; stay in communication with prospective Builders on the wait list. Make contact with prospective builders and give initial assessment. Schedule and facilitate “Test Out” opportunities. Check supplies of tested hardware, orderly workbenches and toolkits, safe and supportive environment. Inventory finished computers and ensure profile is attached to each. Provide support, assistance and encouragement to beginner Build Volunteers. Experience: Building competence; organisational capacity; teaching experience; First Aid; human resources and consensus experience a plus.
  • Volunteer Build Assistants: Support and help instruct Build Volunteers. Assist Instructors and Coordinators. Continue adding to skill set. Experience: Graduation from the Community Build program required.
  • Build Volunteers: Support fellow Build Volunteers. Learn to build six computers and keep the sixth one that is built. Provide feedback to Instructors and Build Coordinator. Keep workbenches tidy and toolkits orderly. Sign in and out. No experience required.
  • Volunteer Coordinator: Track human resources and keep personalities flowing smoothly. Handle volunteer and orientation scheduling logistics, sign-in sheets, recording of volunteer and staff time in Free Geek database. Understand and explain the program to visitors and media. Perform tours and safety orientations. Facilitate consensus and conflict resolution. Liaise with Communications to design publicity materials and organise events. Help design campaigns to attract volunteers. Ensure volunteer cooperation with safety regulations and post clear signage in the building. Solicit feedback from volunteers. Monitor Adoption Volunteers' hours and keep Build informed about upcoming Adoption graduates who will need their free computer. Schedule staff & volunteers, and record their hours. Handle phone enquiries about Free Geek programs and maintain volunteer waiting list. Help lost sheep. Attend to general tidiness of work areas and kitchen. Assist volunteers with internet access. Experience: Human resources; conflict resolution; ability to delegate; Occupational Health and Safety knowledge, patience and positive; teaching experience, community connections and First Aid a plus.
  • Hardware Grant/Education Coordinator: Monitor and evaluate incoming hardware grant applications. Revisit past hardware grant recipients and solicit feedback. Make initial contact with grant applicants to ensure that dispersed systems will be appropriate. Track dispersal and communicate this to Build, Operations and Communications Coordinators. Liaise with Build Coordinator and Instructors to ensure that grants are filled in a timely manner. Collect feedback from Hardware Grant recipients. Coordinate Education workgroup, Hardware Grant workgroup and Stewards. Facilitate workshops that hone teaching skills and cultivate teachers from volunteer pool. Schedule classes and document curriculum online. Experience: Past nonprofit experience; understanding of free software philosophy and applications; teaching and human resources background; computer proficiency; consensus or collective experience an asset.
  • Hardware Grant Stewards: undertake a particular Hardware Grant that has been accepted and is waiting to be built. Ensure that it is filled in a timely manner; keep grant recipient informed about progress. Call them & arrange a time they can pick it up. Ensure grant equipment is clearly marked and set aside for pickup. Experience: understanding of free software philosophy and applications, computer proficiency.
  • Reuse Coordinator: Design and implement programs that enable Build to operate more efficiently; e.g. automatic installs and faster hard disk wiping. Keep systems and networks up and running. Support Build Coordinator and Instructors with technical issues. Ensure steady flow of parts and systems from warehouse to Build. Experience: extensive systems administration ability; programming skills; education and consensus an asset.
  • Communications/Outreach Coordinator: Work closely with Volunteer Coordinator. Design campaigns to attract volunteers, media attention, funding and hardware donations. Conduct outreach, post events/workshops on mailing lists and calendars. Ensure meetings are called and minutes are recorded, archived and available. Update website content. Solicit feedback from volunteers and visitors. Arrange for workshops on consensus and facilitation. Attend networking events to raise profile of Community Build. Press releases, media relations, market research. Public speaking. Graphic design, press kit, b-roll. Experience: Public relations, writing, graphic design; teaching and public speaking; community connections and consensus exposure an asset.
  • General Volunteers: Handle the receiving bay, receive donated equipment, do preliminary evaluation to determine if hardware should be directed to Community Build or Recycling. Remove RAM and other salvageable hardware from computers headed for recycling. They also test monitors; those that pass will be available for Build computers. Remove hard drives from incoming systems and bring it to Build for data erasure; after sorting a variety of components in the warehouse, they bring items to the Build area for testing. No experience required.
  • Volunteer Tradesperson (Carpenter): Construct the workbenches and movable dividers that Build requires.    
  • Recycling Coordinator: Oversee warehouse and preliminary culling of incoming equipment. Experience: Good organisational skills, extensive hardware recognition abilities.
B11. Organizational capacity:
Please describe your organization’s previous experience in the area of the proposal.

  The Free Geek model was first implemented in 2000, in Portland, Oregon. Since then, 10 Free Geeks have emerged in North America; while each Free Geek is started indigenously and run autonomously, knowledge, documentation and systems are shared. Build programs have been successfully implemented in other Free Geeks in North America. Since 2000, Free Geeks have given away over 7000 computers and provided over 320,000 hours of training to volunteers.

Free Geek itself has been refurbishing

Free Geek Vancouver has been refurbishing systems, recycling computers and working with volunteers since 2006. We will draw on our network of environmental agents, grassroots connections, community events and promotional vehicles to publicize and promote the program. The program will be promoted through ongoing outreach activities to pursue opportunities for donations of more modern hardware, volunteers, and avenues to expand our own hardware grants.  

Please provide a list of the current Board members, and describe the education/expertise and skills of your Board in relation to the proposed project.
B12. Evaluation plan.
Briefly describe your plan for evaluating the goals & objectives of the project. What questions will be addressed? Who will be involved in evaluating this work – staff, board, project partners, community, etc.? How will the results be used? Please identify evaluation costs in your budget. FORMTEXT      


A successful Build Program will impact the community socially, economically, and environmentally. FreeGeek will measure its impact by recording and assessing its contributions to each of these aspects, such as:

- the number of machines diverted from the waste stream
- the amount of waste material responsibly recycled
- the number of students successfully completing build training
- the number of computers donated to individuals and non-profit organisations

To help measure progress in each of these dimensions of its work, FreeGeek has a number of databases it currently uses and will continue to develop. These include tracking volunteer hours (to meet community service reporting requirements, to measure impact, etc.), maintaining records of grants (to measure where computers are going and the overall effectiveness of the grant program), and logging recycling shipments.

Once the program has been operational for a year, the results from each of these databases will be compiled into a report as described under Timeline. This report will provide recommendations for the refinement and continuation of the program.



Questions: How many Build volunteers go through the program? What neighbourhood do they live in? How many hours does it take for each person to complete the program? What areas do they spend the longest on? Where do refurbished computers that come out of the program go? What neighbourhoods and organisations do these computers go to?

  1. Contact Database
  2. Hardware Grant applications
  3. Dispersals

1. Contact Database

Free Geek keeps a contact database of our members and volunteers; the database was created in-house and is maintained by staff and volunteers. Data entry is largely done by volunteers.

In the database, each individual is assigned a membership number. In this way volunteers log hours and the category of activities they help with. We therefore have a good handle on how many volunteers we have, and can break down data accordingly; for example, by volunteer, program or date. Our workshops and classes are another place to evaluate attendance. Events are archived on our website. Community Build volunteers also log hours and activities; additionally, we keep a paper data sheet showing what workshops they need, what skills they have, and how many computers they have built.

We can then determine how long it takes someone to complete Community Build. We can determine the size and type of target audience in relation to Build by counting the number of Build graduates, number of Build instructors and assistants; number of built computers given to Hardware Grant recipients; demographic nature of Hardware Grant applicants; number of built computers given to Adopters; and demographic information associated with Adopters.

We also will track the builder of each machine at least until it passes Quality Assurance and is distributed to a recipient; we do this by having Builders attach a Build Sheet to each completed machine with their name and the machine's specification. This is essential for quality control as well as being able to provide feedback and sensitized instruction to each individual builder.

2. Hardware Grant applications

We assemble significant information about Hardware Grant applicants who fill out the application on our website. In addition to the data mentioned above, the applications remain on our server and can be reevaluated. A mailing list of staff and volunteers evaluates applications; its archives are private to protect the data of the applicants. Hardware Grant applications allow us to assess new demographics that have come into contact with us, and compare it to past trends.

3. Dispersals

We keep track of Hardware Grant, Builder and Adoption computer dispersals, so that we can measure the success of the program at getting computers out into the community.

Questions: How will we gather feedback about the program from participants? How will participants contribute to the growth and momentum of the program?

  1. Face to face communication
  2. Online communication
  3. Survey

1. Face to face communication

Meetings, such as those relating to human resources and operations, allow us to stay abreast of problems and successes. General monthly meetings are a good way for us to keep in touch with what our membership wants. Additionally, those meetings are open to the general public, so we are able to hear from people in the community as well; people and organisations regularly appear at our meetings to propose activities or become more involved in Free Geek's governance and decisions regarding the direction of Community Build.

Build workgroup meetings will allow instructors and core volunteers to address issues and plan for contingencies.

Education workgroup meetings will assess curriculum and instructor needs, and attempt to address ongoing education-related issues.

Staff meetings will ensure that staff are aware of developing issues.

Minutes for meetings are recorded and posted online, allowing us to reference them or revisit them for further understanding. Attendance recorded at meetings enables us to see how engaged volunteers are in our governance on a regular basis. In this way too, the community becomes more aware of itself and cohesive.

2. Online communication

Free Geek runs numerous mailing lists. Our general list is a place where discussions take place, and this is one place where feedback emerges. Also, we host an online chat room using Internet Relay Chat (IRC) where people can bring questions or concerns. This channel is logged for future reference and monitored by staff.

3. Survey

Community Build graduates will be asked to complete an online survey relating to their experience at Free Geek. This survey will be designed by the Build Coordinator, Education workgroup and Communications workgroup. The survey data will be input by volunteers and eventually automated. The information collected will be reviewed regularly by the Build workgroup.

Question: How can we tell if the Community Build Program is registering with the greater community?

Communications workgroup meetings will continue to analyze data from our online presence, and community/media appearances.

Due to recent media attention and campaigns, along with a growing consciousness regarding the dangers of ewaste, it can be seen that the public responds by gradually changing their habits. The new provincial legislation, media campaign and responding increasing access of depots by consumers is a good example of the correlation between promotion, positive awareness and change. Free Geek experienced an exponential increase in hardware donations, grant applications and volunteer signups last August, when the provincial electronics recycling program was launched.

We find a direct correlation between a spike in hits on our website and appearances we make in the press or at community events. We use Google analytics to log numbers of website visitors, their geographic location, the last page they came from, how long they spend on each page, which pages are the most popular, and the search terms they used to find our website, among other things. This gives us feedback about the effectiveness of certain campaigns, and what we're being associated with, and what we need to promote more. Page ranking is also a good indication of how many community links we have, and how effective our search engine optimization is.

Media articles that mention us are tracked; we make note of the circulation of each media outlet, and use a search engine to automatically deliver any item on the internet that mentions our name. The blogging that people do about us also results in a spike in hardware donations, as people who spend extended time on the internet are more likely to be established computer users, and therefore to have extra computer gear.

When we appear in public, we keep track of how many business cards/flyers we bring, and use that to determine how many people we talked to. We also follow up with event organisers to determine how many people attended. Different media have different results. Immediately following radio appearances we inevitably get a barrage of telephone enquiries. With blogging or Internet-based news stories, the website sees a surge, typically over a three or four day period. Of course latent surges come in the form of the inevitable hardware donations, thrift store business and volunteer enquiries.

Section C - Program Criteria & Preferences:

C1. Local

What percentage of the project takes place in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley or Greater Victoria areas? FORMTEXT 100% In which community(ies) will the project primarily take place? FORMTEXT Hastings/Sunrise Which geographic areas will benefit from this project (impact area)? FORMTEXT BC

C2. Ecological Impact:

What ecological benefits to the local environment will your project produce over the next year (please quantify if possible)? FORMTEXT

Happily, since August 2007, electronic waste legislative reform in British Columbia has prohibited e-waste from being disposed of in the province's landfills. This is far superior to the previous practice of dumping it in municipal landfills. However, a significant amount of e-waste continues to be shipped overseas to countries with questionable recycling methods, often in contravention of the Basel Convention. Canada is a major illegal exporter of hazardous wastes, with smugglers and brokers outpacing enforcement officials. In 2006, during Canada's only enforcement effort to date, federal agencies seized 50 containers with 500,000 kg of ewaste at the Port of Vancouver; 27 Canadian companies settled out of court for about $2000 apiece and remain anonymous.

Canadians alone throw out 140,000 tons of equipment every year,the equivalent of about 5.6 million computers. Approximately 80% of this material that is collected for "recycling" and "re-use" actually ends up dumped or burned in poor countries with few environmental or worker protections.

The environmental costs are both local and global. For example, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are flame retardants impregnated in the plastic of electronics. Close chemical cousins of PCBs, they're endocrine disruptors, affecting hormones and reproductive systems after they leach into the environment. When burned or buried, they can become dioxins, which cause DNA mutation.

According to Health Canada, Canadian women have PBDE levels of five to ten times higher than women in any other industrial country. A 2004 study in Puget Sound found nine women who had levels of PBDEs twenty to forty times higher than levels found in European and Japanese women. In Europe, between 47,000 to 95,000 square kilometres are already known to be contaminated by hazardous wastes. Countries such as the Netherlands have spent over a billion dollars to minimise and collect dioxin from incinerators, but still have to contend with hazardous emissions and disposal of toxic ashes.

The life of many of these unwanted systems could be extended, as they are good candidates for reuse when paired with a little technical knowledge. With hardware upgrades, a few repairs or the installation of lighter software, computer systems could be made available to people and organisations of limited means. Additionally, increasing the mileage of systems defers the consumption of their replacements; resource extraction, energy consumption during manufacturing, use of biodestructive materials and large-volume water contamination are all good reasons to slow down IT manufacturing by decreasing demand.

Educating the public about reducing the rates of computer consumption is an urgent matter, in view of the environmental damage done by e-waste, misinformation and apathy. Awareness of global e-waste abuses is rising, particularly due to media attention, leaving a growing number of individuals and the private sector in search of responsible, reputable options for their old hardware. Newly hesitant to put functioning products into the waste stream, consumers are increasingly seeking re-use organizations. Often these people have old computers in storage, hoping that they will be able to find a productive use for them, but lacking both the technical ability to prepare the computers for re-use and the means to get them into the hands of those who need them. As an expanding grassroots organisation, we would like to continue to expand the resources we can offer the community.

By implementing Community Build, Free Geek reclaims systems from the waste stream, restoring them with the help of volunteers and empowering those people in the process. Much-needed computers are thereby put back into community circulation, engaging the public in active re-use, while deferring the consumption of new computers and extraction of raw materials.

Free Geek receives a continual stream of incoming computer equipment from regional individuals and businesses. We took in approximately 650 donated systems and 500 monitors in June 2008. The stock of refurbished computers will be built out of unwanted computers regularly donated by individuals, businesses and institutions. Current regional opportunities for community-oriented computer reuse in are limited and usually without standardization. While it is difficult to directly quantify the environmental costs of recycling or other disposal options, we can confidently state that all of the materials used in these refurbished computers have been diverted away from waste streams for longer than otherwise would have happened; the benefits of this are obvious.

In addition, a percentage of refurbished computers will make new computer purchases unnecessary and will thus save resources. Computers require a surprisingly large amount of raw materials, energy, and water to manufacture; for example, the energy used in manufacturing far exceeds the sum of all electricity usage over the lifetime of the computer. For example, mining for raw resources account for 7-10% of the world's energy consumption. We have provided rough calculations on the impact of manufacturing a computer, based on academic studies, and have estimated savings in greenhouse gas emissions, energy usage, water usage, and industrial hazardous material usage. Since environmental impacts are tabulated on a per-computer basis, given these calculations it will be easy to measure the total environmental benefits of the program. Computers that go into Community Build have already undergone initial culling and evaluation by volunteers in another free computer program, the Adoption Program; Adopters donate 24 hours of their time helping in the Free Geek warehouse, afterwards receiving a free computer that was produced by someone in the Build program and a class on basic computer use afterwards. We estimate that 300-400 Adopters will receive computers in this way.

How will you measure your results?

EXPLANATIONS OF CALCULATIONS OF ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS Our strategy for measuring environmental indicators is to calculate the values of various indicators per outgoing desktop computer (PC), and to count the number of outgoing computers over the duration of the project. These calculations are detailed below. The environmental costs of manufacturing a computer are significant, especially considering that the average lifespan of a computer is now two years. By refurbishing computers that would otherwise be discarded, we are extending the lifetime of these computers, and also making it unnecessary for the recipients of these computers to purchase new ones. Thus, the energy and materials that would have gone into producing these new computers are conserved. In addition, computers that are re-used are diverted away from end-of-life streams. The environmental indicators are summarized in the table below; explanations of how they were derived follow.


We have assumed that half of reused PCs produced under this program will obviate the need to purchase a new PC. Thus, for every reused PC produced, half of a new computer need not be produced, and half of the energy and material costs in the production of a new computer are saved. However, since we also assume a refurbished PC has half of the lifetime of a new PC, we divide the savings in half again.

The PCs that we reuse are primarily rebuilt from donated components that would otherwise go to waste streams. Electronics recycling is costly and there is some energy and emissions involved, but these are extremely difficult to calculate and are not included here. End-of-life computers are essentially classified as hazardous waste; thus, since each refurbished PC produced comes from waste, we classify the weight of that PC – about 25kg – as hazardous waste reduced. Incidentally, our usage of free and open source software, which performs exceptionally well on older hardware, is a key factor enabling us to put this older hardware to good use.

Estimating the environmental costs of manufacturing a computer is a difficult task due to the complexity of the manufacturing processes involved as well as the high degree of globalization in the industry. The numbers used here are based upon those in a study by Eric Williams [1]. The study is from 2003 and the source data is from various sources dated 1997-2002; there are very few studies available and this appears to be the most complete, as well as the most highly-cited in the field. The principle result of the study is that the manufacturing of one personal computer and monitor requires 1500L of water, 330kWh of electricity, 240kg of fossil fuels, and 22kg of chemicals. These estimates are crude, and processes have likely changed since the original study, so the calculations herein should be considered rough.

The 22kg of chemicals per manufactured PC is listed under “commercial toxic substances reduced”. Electronics production involves a variety of chemicals, mostly acids used in chemical etching processes. The 240kg of fossil fuels accounts for electricity usage as well as energy used in bulk material production and other indirect uses. According to the study, the figure was reached by “multiplying electricity use by 320g of fossil fuel per kWh, based on the global average mix of energy-generating technologies (coal, hydropower, nuclear etc) and assuming that the average energy density of directly consumed fossil fuels is 40 megajoules per kilogram.” Unfortunately the author does not provide more information about how much of each type of fossil fuel is used, so we have to estimate in order to determine the amount of CO2 emissions.

Given 240kg of fossil fuels, we assume coal accounts for about 2/3 of this figure and oil for the remaining 1/3, based on global electricity generation data [2]. According to an EPA brochure [3], coal produces 4744 lbs of CO2 per short ton, and oil produces 0.12 lbs of CO2 per cubic foot. Converting this to metric units reveals that 1kg of coal accounts for 2.4 kg of CO2 while 1kg of oil accounts for 2.8kg of CO2. With the original figure of 240 kg of fossil fuels, about 160 kg is coal which produces 380 kg of CO2, while 80 kg is oil which produces 220 kg of CO2, for a total of about 600 kg per computer.

We have already estimated that each refurbished PC saves 1/8 of the production costs of a new computer. Thus, for every PC that goes out, we claim a reduction of 150 kg of CO2, 83 kWh of electricity, 5.5 kg of chemicals, and 375L of water. (Note that much of the CO2 emissions are due to electricity generation, so the same source is counted under two indicator categories.) The program has an approximate target of 750 computers per year, so the annual totals are arrived at by multiplying the per-PC totals by 750. The target is an estimated average of Build volunteer productivity, somewhat challenging to calculate as each volunteer comes from a different milieu, has a unique learning curve, and is encouraged to work at his/her own pace. As each person becomes more experienced, his/her productivity increases.

Note that our figures are rough and may fail to capture other environmental impacts; for example, there are likely other air pollutants aside from CO2, but there is insufficient data to tabulate them; also, there are other effects associated with computer production, such as occupational health and safety risks, and occasional large-scale pollution events such as groundwater contamination, that are also difficult to quantify.


[1]Williams, E. Environmental Impacts in the Production of PCs, book chapter in Computers and the Environment: Understanding and Managing Their Impacts, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003. [2] International Energy Agency (IEA). Key world energy statistics, 2007, pg. 24. [3] U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Unit Conversions, Emissions Factors, and Other Reference Data, November 2004.

Does your project address climate change?
If so, how? FORMTEXT

By reusing salvageable computers and computer parts we are able to address climate change in two significant ways. First, we divert hardware from the waste stream and minimise the amount which must travel to a smelter and be broken down. Second, we test and produce quality computer systems which address people's needs while reducing the amount of new electronics which need to be produced. Each of these facets reduces the energy which must be expended on travel and heavy industry, both major contributors to climate change.

What actions have you taken to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions associated with this project?

Free Geek strives to recycle as locally as possible, not only to monitor our downstream, but also to reduce fossil fuel consumption resulting from transport. Increased reuse of computers means less consumption of fossil fuels during manufacturing, mining and shipping operations caused by the demand for new computers.

Software is not reliant on removable media like CDs with associated packaging and traditional distribution; rather, installations and upgrades are done via the internet, in collaboration with the free software community.

Computer equipment that fails evaluation and testing goes into our recycling stream. We abide by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal; in particular, we actively seek to avoid sending e-waste to non-OECD countries, in order to avoid intensely polluting and energy-inefficient recycling practices in developing nations. Additionally, we strive to select the most local and sustainable downstream vendors. Free Geek takes great care to choose transparent recyclers who process materials in the most environmentally responsible manner available.

Some failed items, like systems, are dismantled and sorted by volunteers in the Computer Adoption program. Resultant materials not prohibited under the Basel Convention are considered proper scrap and are submitted to scrap operations approved by our membership. Our remaining e-waste is currently either remitted to the Environmental Stewardship Association of British Columbia (ESABC) recycling program for proper disposal, or sent to recyclers approved by both the Basel Action Network (BAN) and our general membership. We strive to keep abreast of increasingly sustainable options as they Excluding outreach, hardware drives and community events, Build activities are entirely contained within our warehouse and office space in East Vancouver. The workshop space is carefully managed to ensure the health and safety of the workers; our Occupational Health and Safety workgroup coordinates with our Operations workgroup to ensure compliance and observation of good practices. Hazardous items like CRT monitors are not dismantled on-site. General carbon footstep-lessening habits are actively encouraged, like power conservation, paper recycling and lunchtime composting. Indoor bicycle parking is provided, and we often use bike trailers to transport our booth exhibit to community events and occasionally to pick up hardware donations. Community Build will also support individuals using bicycle or mass transit by loaning a bicycle or hand cart to transport computers home. We strongly encourage people who receive computers from us to return the items at their end-of-life to ensure that they are processed responsibly.


Will the environmental benefits of your project continue after the project work is complete?
 FORMCHECKBOX Yes    No     If so, how?    FORMTEXT      

C3. Action-orientated:

Approximately what percentage of project time will be devoted to

Research 5% Education 25% Action 70%

What actions are being taken to resolve the environmental issue(s) your project is addressing? FORMTEXT      

C4. Innovative:

What new and creative alternatives does your project offer to address present environmental concerns? Explain what makes your project innovative. *Sustainable software

Free and open source software extends the usefulness and efficiency of computer hardware, increasing the mileage of older systems. This software also eliminates packaging and shipping tolls on the environment. It frees people from the consumption cycles of planned obsolescence, where software and hardware manufacturers artificially stimulate or force upgrades in order to increase sales.

    • NOTE: "Free and open source" does not necessarily refer to price, although this software is often created and distributed for free. More profoundly, it refers to the freedom of the software users to access the source code that the software is written in. Such access enables the software code to be studied, shared, modified, improved and redistributed. In this way, thousands of developers may contribute to improving a piece of software, often resulting in superior programming to proprietary software that keeps its source code secret, and restricts development to a small team. Free and open source offers a full complement of programs that still enable communication with users who have not yet begun to use free and open source.

Often, people use free and open source daily without knowing it. The Firefox web browser, Wikipedia and most Internet servers are good examples.

A free and open source operating system called Linux allows for creative solutions with reuse. The 'Linux Terminal Server Project' (LTSP) provides an excellent low-power-consuming computer lab, particularly as it can run just as quickly on 10-year old computers that would otherwise not be suitable for reuse. Since Linux is not susceptible to viruses, it again can extend the life of a computer; individuals without technical knowhow sometimes cast off computers running operating systems like Windows that are easily infected with viruses, without knowing that an installation of Linux can give their computer a new lease on life.

Free Geek exclusively uses free and open source. The Community Build program would install a particularly friendly distribution of Linux, called Ubuntu, on all outgoing computers. Ubuntu is designed for people new to computers or new to Linux. It is also designed to look familiar to individuals coming from a Windows or Mac OS X context.

  • Engage individuals and communities in legitimate reuse activities and discussions; equip the public with knowledge to avoid bad players and 'greenwashers'

Free computers and services motivate people to put energy into benefiting the greater community. At the same time, they are exposed to a different sector of the desire-consumption-discard-waste process. Instead of being passive consumers, they are actually trying to resuscitate something that someone else discarded, something that they see significant value, as well as significant potential for toxic harm. By trying to repair items that someone else threw away, they gain a greater understanding of ecological interrelationships and the destructiveness of wasting potentially useful items.

This raises awareness of waste issues, particularly the toxic contribution that computers make. The concept of local actions having a global impact is reinforced. Often individuals coming into contact with Free Geek are inspired to investigate the ewaste stream of their own workplace, school or nearby computer recycler. It is in this way that bad players, hazardous waste smugglers, secretive recyclers and toxic polluters will lose their supply, bit by bit, as the public becomes increasingly alert and sophisticated.

  1. Everyone can be part of the reuse solution

The Community Build program does not require previous experience. By inviting everyone in the community to participate, increased solutions, energy and potential for production are available. In order to be effectively reused, unwanted computers require evaluation, sorting, repair and refurbishment. This is very labour-intensive, and would be difficult to accomplish, either sustainably or safely, without cooperation, skill sharing, and invested volunteers. It is also difficult for the public to have a significant impact on waste reduction and consumption levels without large scale non-market participation.

Community Build both supplies and helps stimulate the newly increasing demand for sustainable options in computing.

  1. Ethical recycling: Ethical reuse

Free and low cost refurbished computers reduce the consumption of new products, the environmental cost of extraction of virgin materials, greenhouse gas emissions from shipping, and toxic waste issues that emerge during the manufacturing and end-of-life stages of electronics. Delaying this end-of-life is essential to harm reduction in the biosphere. Community Build is part of Free Geek's ethical recycling and reuse policies which include: - Reuse is the highest form of recycling - Full compliance with the Basel Convention and the Basel Ban - Local computers should be refurbished for local reuse wherever possible. This reduces greenhouse gas emissions from needless transport, and grows inter-community bonds. It also avoids cynical smuggling operations disguised as overseas "reuse". - Fully transparent, accountable and auditable recycling downstream by reputable third parties - Materials unsuitable for reuse are ethically recycled – due diligence - No landfilling hazardous e-waste locally or abroad - Do not do business with recyclers using prison labour

Free Geek is the first and only non-profit in Canada to have qualified for the "Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship," a qualification meted out by one of the world's leading authorities on toxic ewaste abuse, the Basel Action Network. This means that Free Geek's programs, including the Community Build program, can act as a model and cultivate the adoption of reuse, sharing and community values as strategies to combat ewaste pollution and planned obsolescence.

  1. Deployment of consensus decision-making, building awareness and alliances, open organising and full transparency

Fertile ground for toxic abuse can emerge when minority viewpoints are overpowered or ignored. Also, miscalculations are more likely when unique but perhaps not popular viewpoints are not heard. The Community Build project, like Free Geek, will be consensus run, with stakeholders and participants invited to shape and consent or prevent decisions. No one would consent to ingesting heavy-metal laden foods or harbouring polluted breast milk. Clearly communities all over the world were not involved in decisions relevant to them.

Open organising, most commonly seen in knowledge trees like Wikipedia, Google, and in the free software movement, is made possible by mass instances of individual efforts. Not only can it be used for information sharing, but it is a progressive, fertile method of decentralized, community-based production, where improvements are simultaneously made both for selfish and common goals. In fact, this method of production is the engine of the Community Build program, and indeed, the engine of the Free Geek model itself, which in just eight years has accumulated over 325,000 volunteer hours and spread to 10 locations across North America, with almost no capital investment. This approach is one adopted from the free software movement, with its decentralized, community-driven method of production, demand and dissemination. Detailed documentation about the Community Build program will be amassed by participants over time online, so that it may be replicated as a strategy for reducing ewaste.

Exposure to consensus organising can also stimulate questioning, critical thinking and listening, and a feeling of collective responsibility; all of these are important for reducing citizen apathy and feelings of powerlessness. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by bad environmental news, people instead have an outlet for direct positive action. They not only benefit themselves and their immediate environment -- both social and ecological -- but they reduce the harm inflicted on the lives of people in developing nations. By getting involved in the Community Build program, they are directly preventing toxic ewaste from being smuggled out of the Port of Vancouver, heading for an overseas dump or dirty scrapping operation. They also prevent a useful tool from being smelted and rendered a puddle before its time.

By experiencing new models of cooperation, Community Build volunteers may develop new sensitivities towards the nexus between information hoarding, complicity, climate change, individual responsibility, and the power of community to enact more sustainable choices.

How will your project positively change the way things have previously been done?
Compare your approach with that of other organizations that may be addressing a similar issue.

  1. No discrimination based on income: dignity for all
  2. Free computers, running free cutting-edge software, for the local community
  3. Empowerment though application
  4. Open documentation that facilitates to proliferation; why reinvent the wheel?
  5. Onsite data destruction, data hygiene and awareness
  6. Meticulous attention to downstream recycling
  1. No discrimination based on income: dignity for all

Unlike many organisations, Free Geek does not discriminate based on income. Potential volunteers are not required to submit proof of poverty, or any information designed to prove themselves worthy. We consider this an unwarranted indignity; it is up to the individual to assess if they are in need of a computer or knowledge, and to decide their own reasons for enrolling. We also do not require that they be referred to us by another organisation, nor would we wish to deny someone who had the means to buy a new computer but chose to volunteer with us instead.

In this way, the entire community is welcomed to the Community Build program under our roof. The desire to participate, along with an orientation, is all that is required.

  1. Open documentation that lends itself to proliferation; decentralized production

Free Geek staff and volunteers will continually document and update our procedures, policies and related discussions relating to the Community Build program. Free Geek's content is always available online to communities everywhere, enabling others to learn from our mistakes and successes. Not only do we hope people learn from our ideas and experience, but we also emphasize the importance of sharing information, and show the free, powerful tools available to anyone wanting do it. Community Build volunteers will experience the process first-hand, and may apply these tools to other arenas where they may wish to share useful information and sharing methods.

This type of open organising, most commonly seen in knowledge trees like Wikipedia and Google, or in the free software movement, is made possible by mass instances of individual efforts. Not only can it be used for information sharing, but it is a progressive, fertile method of decentralized, community-based production, where improvements are simultaneously made both for selfish and common goals. In fact, this method of production is the engine of the Community Build program, and indeed, the engine of the Free Geek model itself, which in just eight years has accumulated over 325,000 volunteer hours and spread to 10 locations across North America, with almost no capital investment. This approach is one adopted from the free software movement, with its decentralized, community-driven method of production, demand and dissemination.

  1. Free computers, running free cutting-edge software, for the local community

Many reuse organisations sell systems and do not give any away. Or, they may ship systems long distances for donation -- consuming enormous amounts of fossil fuels and leading to dubious disposal at the computers' end-of-life. They may also have ineffective quality control, due to haste, lack of coordination, or insufficient staff or funding.

Most commonly, other reusers sell or give away systems with outdated operating systems, leaving recipients vulnerable to viruses, and certainly guaranteeing a less-than-optimal computing experience blighted by outdated and inflexible software. If they want to add programs, they need to purchase them or copy them illegally. This can lead to a two-tiered

However, the Community Build program is a way to disseminate locally-sourced computers back to the local community, for free. Because the learning is hands-on and collaborative, more builders are available for troubleshooting and quality control, rather than a few experts with limited time.

Most importantly, volunteers install a full complement of latest in community-created free and open source software on the computers they build. This software is accessible, more sustainable, freely updatable via the Internet, and almost invulnerable to viruses. Also, recipients can add additional programs from the free and open source community for free; they will be using software that is more geared to legacy data storage and is ISO compliant, unlike the flurry of proprietary formats that come and go. Due to its flexibility, they will still be able to communicate with others still using proprietary formats.

This leaves new computer owners more in control of what they do with their computer, while still able to do the things they would normally do: Internet, email, multimedia, graphic design, etc. The operating system Free Geek uses is a distribution of Linux called Ubuntu; it is designed with beginners in mind, and looks familiar to those coming from proprietary operating systems like Windows or Mac OS X. It has been successfully installed on over 7000 computers since the Free Geek model began in 2000.

  1. Empowerment though application

Community Build is not designed to simply hand out free computers; rather, volunteers are involved in the process as they share skills, become aware of community software and vested interests, and are welcomed to a whole community of people interested in and learning about technology. Thus, though they may have come for a free computer, or education, or curiosity, the end result is much richer. Also, a sense of accomplishment is imbued in building a working computer of one's own, and knowing that previous constructs are serving other people and organisations.

  1. Onsite data destruction, data hygiene and awareness

Many reuse and recycling programs do not give due care to the data of donors, or may make promises that are almost impossible to keep. There may also be an extensive chain of custody between the drop-off point and the final data destruction.

Community Build uses hard drives that undergo onsite data sanitation less than 30 metres from the point of drop-off. Even drives that fail testing and need to be sent out for smelting are crushed before they leave Free Geek. We use a procedure shared by another Free Geek that is compliant with U.S. Department of Defence standards, and that others can freely implement. Free Geek also provides online information and software links to volunteers and the public to help them implement a simpler destruction of their own data. Community Build volunteers are encouraged to practise good data hygiene for their own data, and are given an understanding of the persistence of information.

  1. Meticulous attention to downstream recycling

Many reuse programs are not concerned with broken equipment that must be removed from the reuse stream and sent for recycling. Community Build, along with Free Geek, adheres to strict ethical reuse practices, including full transparency, awareness and due diligence regarding downstream recycling. Also, the program, like much of Free Geek's work, uses action and participation to increases the public's sophistication about electronic waste and reuse issues through action, so that they become more responsible technology stewards and can demand better practices from manufacturers and policy makers.

C5. Ongoing

Will the project continue beyond the period for which funding is requested? Yes

If so, how long will it continue? Indefinitely

   Does your organization have any long term funding for this project? Yes Please list the sources and duration of funding.

Free Geek secures the vsat majority of its funding through its own social enterprise endeavours. We have experienced phenomenal growth since opening in 2006, operating debt-free just over a year into operations. Our revenue currently comes from two primary streams, used computer goods sales, and scrap and recycling sales. Demand for these products is intense and we are developing the capacity to increase our production, eventually completely supporting the Community Build program ourselves.

To increase retail sales, we are now hiring to expand our electronics repair capability and recent eBay trials. Having dedicated repair staff will allow us to keep up with frequent requests for high-value items like laptops and LCD monitors. eBay has opened up a growing front for selling items which cannot find a local market. The staff in these programs will coordinate to generate strong growth in our online and store sales.

To increase our revenue from scrap and recycling, we are planning to expand our operations into rental space adjacent to our current location. Free Geek receives a steady supply of hardware donations and it is difficult to keep up with demand. The number of people who wish to volunteer and process this equipment is also past capacity. Additionally, our BAN certification, recent awards and comprehensive data destruction policies is resulting in an increase in the number of large businesses that recycle equipment with us. With more square feet we will be able to accept more donated goods and process them more efficiently. An increase in inbound capacity translates directly into recycling revenue.

Finally, the Community Build Program, the focus of this application, will allow us to distribute our workload more effectively. Computers are currently being built and tested ad hoc; this has greatly stretched the resources of current staff who could be better utilized. Free Geek receives a steady stream of eager and willing volunteers. By launching the Community Build Program, we will be able to harness their efforts and streamline the flow of all operations, increasing our revenue by extension.


C6. Community Benefits:

In what ways will your project benefit members of the community (i.e. social benefits – job opportunities, training, community development, opportunities for disadvantaged groups, education or services provided, etc.)?
  • Open access: Volunteers accepted regardless of experience, ability, gender or background
  • Breaking cycles of exclusion: Volunteers can transcend previous lack of opportunities to build a new economic and social future for themselves
  • Tolerance: Cooperation in an environment rich with diversity builds bridges of mutual understanding and tolerance in the community
  • Vehicle for mobility and productivity: Technical skills acquired in the program lead to increased self-confidence, better jobs, sense of purpose, renewed social bonds and more productive citizens
  • Increased environmental awareness and sense of individual responsibility towards environmental stewardship
  • Sophistication about toxics, planned obsolescence and e-waste issues: this will stimulate demand for higher standards, industry accountability, regulatory instruments and enforcement.
  • Healthier neighbourhoods: social bonds, productivity and learning contribute to mental and physical wellness; interdependence makes for more sustainable community economies; closer communities and greater economic mobility lead to lower crime rates
  • Potential for increased competitiveness and more advanced earnings through network administration and free, open source, community software

The information technology revolution has had manifold benefits, but it has also given rise to serious social inequity.

Due to the rapid advance of computer technology and expenses associated with it, many people have been left behind, without basic computer skills or reliable access to the Internet. As technology becomes ever more pervasive, those without computers find themselves increasingly marginalized; they face increasing exclusion from social, cultural and democratic information exchanges, not to mention barriers to employment. Accessing computer training can be intimidating, expensive, or crowded and frustrating.

Sadly, such disenfranchisement is easily transferred from parent to child, as children without access to home computers are not as likely to develop the same technological sophistication as their classmates, nor will they be able to enjoy the enrichment such a tool would bring to their schoolwork. It may even lead to social stigmatization, since they will likely live on the margins of the cultural milieu inhabited by the rest of their peers.

Since the Community Build program does not require any previous experience, it creates a more level playing field for prospective volunteers, regardless of gender, age, ability, ethnicity or other factors. Special effort is made to teach using methods that are inclusive, supportive and empowering, taking into account the frustration or negative experiences people may have had in their past interactions with technology. Positive thinking, self-esteem, cooperation and problem-solving skills are all transferable qualities that are valuable to productive communities.

Participants may also use their newfound skills to pursue employment, and may network through the Free Geek technical community or provide Free Geek as a reference. For people who have been out of the job market, such as stay-at-home-parents or individuals coming off disability, as well students with little experience, a fresh reference can boost resumes, as well as confidence. For many individuals, like seniors, those in recovery or individuals on disability, a sense of productivity and purpose is a boon, and is closely associated with better mental and physical health.

Build alumni will graduate with an assortment of skills regarding hardware and software diagnostics and repair. If they wish to continue in IT, familiarity with community-created free and open source software will greatly enhance their competitive edge, since both local and global trends are prolific in that direction. For example, over 70% of the Internet runs on free and open source, using Apache webservers; even here at home, Vancouver is known as a hotbed for ongoing development and deployment of Drupal, a free and open content management system for websites. The vast majority of popular Web 2.0 trends are free and open source.

Additionally, participants will be equipped with new knowledge of free and open source software, freeing them from having to use out of date software because they cannot afford upgrades, go without programs because they cannot afford them, or use software that abuses citizens' privacy and interdependence. Programs are often available in more languages than proprietary software, allowing more linguistic communities access to resources in their native languages.

Whether they continue in IT or not, participants will be left with a higher sense of community interdependence, social responsibility, and environmental awareness, making them strong candidates to be agents of positive social change. As these individuals return to their respective communities, they will be able to make their technical skills and better practices available to peers and future employers. Since our volunteers come from a wide demographic range, we expect to be able to reach a large and diverse segment of the population.

While at Free Geek, volunteers' exposure to diversity in a fun, respectful setting will help foster understanding and tolerance in the community at large. The social dimension opens up when people have a common goal and common challenges; for new Canadians who want to meet their neighbours, technical gurus who want to pass on their skills, or parents who want to have quality time by volunteering with their children, Community Build will provide a stimulating, interactive experience. Ultimately, no matter what a person's makeup, learning something and being able to teach it to his/her neighbour can be transformative.

Some Build alumni will resemble our other program graduates, many of whom continue to volunteer with us after graduation, enjoying the positive, stimulating atmosphere. Such an atmosphere is a source of pleasure and pride for volunteers informally surveyed. Having been exposed to our high workplace diversity, including age, ability, education, class, ethnicity, and gender, they may find fewer barriers to making connections and organising with people in their neighbourhoods. They will also have the sense of accomplishment that comes from building their own computer, and a sense of belonging in the Free Geek community, where they may continue to pursue their own education, as well as becoming involved in our governance and policy-making if they wish.

In the greater community, non-profits and organisations of social change will benefit from a productive Community Build program. For many organisations, purchasing new or even used equipment can be a daunting task, as they often operate on meager budgets. Many would like to offer computer access to their clients, but are unable to afford it. More importantly, lack of computer equipment can impair their ability to fundraise, communicate internally and network with other community organisations, undertake sufficient outreach initiatives, or remain informed about current issues in their field. Free computer equipment would support their efforts to complete their mission and benefit the community at large.

Increased environmental awareness is a common development in Free Geek volunteers, and will undoubtedly take place during Community Build. While someone may simply have come to our facility to earn a free computer or learn how to fix them, they are continually exposed to direct citizen action combating toxic pollution and climate change. Indeed, they are even participants in the solution as well, although they may not realize it at first. This process of discovery has manifold benefits to the community. Questioning assumptions about where waste goes, or whose responsibility the protection of the environment is, or where community best interests lie, are all important factors in stimulating individual responsibility, demands for industry accountability, and understanding of the community's place in the biosphere. Fostering sustainable behaviour is less challenging when the community is sophisticated about negative outcomes, and when it has outlets to join in the solutions.

Individuals and organisations receiving refurbished computers built by Community Build volunteers will continue to spread the word about reuse and recycling. Free Geek volunteers and hardware donors tend to become loyal and repeat clients, particularly due to our community involvement and programs with clear social and environmental benefits; they often encourage friends, colleagues and employers to access our programs. Overall, community engagement combined with environmentally responsible computing practices like donating old computers for re-use, using computers for a longer period of time, and re-using old computers in lieu of purchasing new ones, has strong potential for long-term improved practices amongst the general public. Such behavioral changes, having been furthered by the Community Build project, will continue to flourish.

The rate at which computers are discarded will not likely decrease, nor will the demand for inexpensive refurbished computers. Community Build, powered and directed by the energy of community will, shall continue to find new ways to integrate with and supply this demand, lessening the over-consumption of new systems and obsolete, proprietary software. Inherent in these efforts will be stimulate the public's demand for ethics in computer waste, disposal, recycling and manufacturing industries, and to elicit the appropriate responses from policy-makers and industry.


What community consultation or involvement is there in your project? FORMTEXT    

Free Geek is a non-hierarchical consensus-based organisation. Our projects and procedures are always transparent and accessible, through open meetings and mailing lists, and extensive online documentation.

Rather than just consulting with the community, Free Geek's membership, volunteers, staff and board actually consists of community members. Our meetings, mailing lists, archives and facility are open to the public. Since we operate using consensus, all viewpoints are considered and included in the decision-making process. and all participants must be comfortable with decisons.

Also, the nature of the computers built by Community Build is determined by the community itself. Free Geek provides a physical space where the community's desire to share and redistribute potentially useful technology and skills. The better the quality of computer donations, the better the computers that can be given back to the community. Hardware Grants are themselves detailed requests for needed items, and directly satisfy demand.

The project itself is designed to channel alleyway

Free Geek will also draw on its network of environmental agents, grassroots connections, community events and promotional vehicles to publicize and promote the program. The program will be promoted through ongoing outreach activities to pursue opportunities for donations of more modern hardware, volunteers, and avenues to expand our own hardware grants.


Can your project be replicated in other communities? FORMCHECKBOX Yes FORMCHECKBOX No
Are you planning to share your project model with other community groups? FORMCHECKBOX Yes No If so, how? FORMTEXT

Free Geek Vancouver is based on a succesful organisational business model pioneered in Portland, Oregon. Free Geek Intergalactic is a growing community of independent organisations across the US and Canada that share common operational and philosophical principles. We support each other and encourage the establishment of new chapters through a comprehensive application and mentoring process. Free Geek Vancouver's Build Project will be loosely based on a similar program of the same name at other Free Geeks and our experience will be used to help other organisations to start and continue their own.

Section D and E - Budget:

Please complete the income & expense enviroFund excel spreadsheet and send this file along with your application form as an e-mail attachment.