We get it. In 2021, saying goodbye to your smartphone isn’t really an option. They are our calendars, our cameras, our messages, and our music – but our obsession with staying connected is causing big problems for the planet.
From design to disposal, we need to get smarter about smartphone sustainability. But what can you do to make sure you’re part of the solution and not part of the problem?
When it comes to saving the planet from your smartphone, it’s about more than just recycling. More than 80% of an iPhone’s carbon footprint comes from the manufacturing process, meaning a lot of damage is done before it finds its way into your pocket.
Smartphones are also full of precious natural resources that are in limited supply. Scientists have warned that crucial elements like silver, arsenic and gallium could run out in the next 100 years…
In short, we need to produce fewer phones than we do right now. But how can your choices influence that?
The best way to minimise the production of new phones is to keep the ones we already have in circulation. A circular economy – which means constantly reusing or recycling items and materials – would reduce damage to the environment from phone production and sales.
But adopting a circular approach to our phones would mean changing the way we think about phone ownership itself. Raylo, for instance, are offering an entirely new way to get a phone –leasing. You pay monthly for your phone, then when you’re done, send it back and upgrade to a new one. Raylo will then make sure your old phone gets another life, or, if needed, they’ll recycle it responsibly. It’s a more sustainable approach to phone use, that reflects our changing attitude towards possessions in general – when was the last time you bought a CD? Choosing to lease your phone rather than buy outright guarantees that it won’t meet the fate of millions of others – dumped, prematurely stripped for parts or left to languish in a drawer. It’ll stay in circulation, meaning one (or potentially more) less phone off the production line.
If you’re not bothered about having the very latest model and want to up your environmental karma, and save some cash, consider getting a refurbished phone. They’re more available now than ever, with this option increasingly being seen as something of a smart shopping hack. Refurbished (or pre-owned) phones go through stringent checks to make sure they’re in good working order, and usually come with a warranty for peace of mind. Improvements to each new model are coming in smaller and smaller increments, so going for a phone that came out a couple of years ago might mean you’re not actually missing out on much. And by giving a phone a new home, you’re doing the planet – and your pocket – a massive favour.
When you’re deciding which phone to pick, you could take a look at the eco credentials of the manufacturer. Apple have committed to being 100% carbon neutral by 2030. That means using more recycled materials and more renewable energy in the manufacturing process. By removing chargers from iPhone and Watch boxes, Apple expect to save 861,000 tons of copper, zinc, and tin, while the smaller packaging allows them to fit 70% more boxes per shipping pallet – reducing transportation emissions. They are also going back to the drawing board and designing phones which actually use less energy. After coming under fire for their approach to sustainability, Samsung have an extensive list of targets as they set out to make everything from their product design to their supply chain more environmentally friendly. You’ll want to make sure a company walks the walk as well as it talks the talk, but it’s worth looking for manufacturers and outlets with good green credentials if you want to maximise your power to make an eco-friendly choice.
It might be hard to get your head around, but larger capacity phones result in higher carbon emissions. If you’re more of a ‘store your stuff in the Cloud type of person’, opting for a device with less megabytes of storage could be a good way to go green.
So, you’ve leased your refurbed phone from an environmentally friendly source. But it’s easy to forget about the army of accessories that come with our phones – stands, cases, chargers, earbuds… until we come to get rid of them that is. Where possible, choose accessories that are easy to recycle, or are made from recycled materials. There are tons of choices that are safe, sustainable, and stylish, like these compostable cases from Pela, so there’s no excuse!
So, there you have it, five ways you can have a positive impact on the planet while treating yourself to a new phone. That’s what we call a win-win.