First published July 2020
It seems impossible to believe that in 2012, just eight years ago – the year of the Olympics, the year of the smoking ban, the year that BoJo became London mayor – most of us didn’t yet have a smartphone. How did we muddle through without Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at our fingertips? How did we ever find our way anywhere without Google Maps to tell us which way was up? How did we cope without emails constantly barraging our consciousness?
Well, probably a lot better in many ways, but that’s a whole different blog for a whole different day. Smartphones are here now, and the chances are, they’re here to stay.
While smartphones might make us more connected and more able to cheat at pub quizzes whenever we like, they are not without their environmental costs. Mining the precious metals and rare materials that make the chip and motherboard for smartphones is pretty carbon-heavy; and if we’re changing phone every two years, this is a process that is repeated again and again.
Given that most of us have – and feel we need – smartphones, how can we try to neutralise some of the damage they do? Here are three simple steps we can all take to be greener smartphone owners.
• Upgrade less often
Keeping your smartphone for even three years instead of two makes a big difference as it means no-one has to mine for those new materials. I've done this a few times now - it tends to mean deleting some of those photos (honestly, are you ever going to look at them again?) and getting rid of the apps you don't use, but if you do those things, you should be able to get a bit more use of out your handset than the typical two years.
• Buy second hand when you do upgrade
There are plenty of good sellers offering refurbished second-hand phones on eBay; just check the seller’s reviews before you buy. Or visit your local branch of CEX, where you will always find a selection of second hand phones for sale. As with all ‘stuff’, second hand is better as it means fewer resources are used and less once treasured items are thrown into landfill. I bought my most recent handset from eBay and it's working like a dream.
• Get an Ecotalk SIM card
Ecotalk are a company who offer well-priced mobile phone deals with a green outcome. They use the money they make from their customers to buy land and give it back to nature. In this way, they are providing urgently needed homes for bees, meaning that you are giving something back to nature as you make calls and texts. Getting an Ecotalk SIM is a simple process which only takes a few days. I've had my Ecotalk contract for nearly a year now. They don't yet support Wi-Fi calling, so if you live in a poor reception area and rely on Wi-Fi, that is something to bear in mind. However, aside from that, I've had no problems with them at all. Their customer service is excellent and the deals are good value.
Have you got any more tips for how to be a (slightly more!) responsible smartphone owner? If so, post them in the comment box below.
Did you know: Smartphones are more damaging to the environment than computers, laptops, monitors and servers, as demonstrated by the fact that that ICT (Information and Communication Technology) represented just 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007 and, according to the researchers, will top 14% by 2040.