NEWS RELEASE: Parents, environmentalists to Google: stop Chromebooks from expiring this summer

Media Contacts

Since we published this update, Google has committed to extend the life of Chromebooks! Learn more about the victory here.

Release: Tuesday, June 20, 2023

Media contacts: Lucas Rockett Gutterman, Designed to Last Campaign Director, (458) 237-2935, [email protected]
Mark Morgenstein, Media Relations Director, 678-427-1671, [email protected]

NEW YORKA coalition of nonprofits, parents, and educators joined the consumer advocacy group PIRG (Public Interest Research Group) in writing a letter to Google calling for the company to extend the life of 13 Chromebook models whose software will expire in less than three months. Widely used in schools, Google Chromebooks come with an Automatic Update Expiration date after which software support ends and schools — and their students — use the device at their own risk.

“Though they cost hundreds of dollars apiece, Chromebooks are not designed to last, so our environment and schools are paying the price,” said Lucas Rockett Gutterman, Designed to Last director with PIRG. “Google has extended the lifespan of Chromebooks in the past and should act again so students can keep using their working laptops rather than adding them to America’s overflowing scrap heaps.

Thirty-six organizations, including the U.S.-based Consumer Reports, National Stewardship Action Council and Environment America and international organizations such as the Greek Consumers’ Association and the Restart Project signed the letter. Advocates warn that without updates, Chromebooks can’t access some state testing websites and become vulnerable to attacks. After the 13 models listed in the letter expire, most owners and schools will have no choice but to replace these laptops with newer products.

Parents, teachers, and the Illinois Parent Teacher Association joined other signers in warning that, “In the United States, we generate about 6.9 million tons of e-waste each year which is equivalent to throwing out 120 Chromebooks every second. We can’t afford to keep replacing technology at this rate. Google has the power to lead the industry towards a circular economy with longer lasting laptops.” 

An April report by PIRG, “Chromebook Churn,” found many schools purchased the laptops when they switched to remote learning due to the pandemic. Schools could save $1.8 billion if Google were to double the life of Chromebooks, assuming no additional maintenance costs, the report found. Beyond the added financial burden on already-strapped school districts, the environmental costs of short-lived laptops also concern PIRG and the letter’s other signers. 

“We want to teach students how to have a sustainable relationship with technology, where they gain digital literacy while also understanding how to take care of technology and avoid being wasteful. Chromebooks need to last longer and become easier to repair,” read the letter.

The letter was released online and sent to Google as K-12 students across the country return Chromebooks to school before embarking on summer break. 36 organizations and more than 10,000 PIRG supporters signed the letter.

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The Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) is a 1 million-member national consumer advocacy organization that stands up to powerful special interests on behalf of the public. We solve problems no one should tolerate in our age of abundance and technological innovation.