Mobile devices don’t last very long. Your screen breaks, or the battery dies (or explodes), or you get so excited for the newest iPhone that you marathon it all the way to Best Buy before sunrise so you can be there for the release — something you’ve done every year for the last four years.
But our digital devices are notoriously horrible for the environment. The carbon footprint for each individual smartphone isn’t horrendous — nothing like a desktop or a server — but with more mobile devices on the planet than people, the environmental impact of these resource-devouring devices is substantial… and toxic, and disturbing.
Not to scare you from browsing Tumblr while waiting for the elevator. But there are a lot of simple things we can all do to lessen the impact our smartphones have on the earth. Incidentally, these things can also help save our wallets. So, without further ado, here are some ways you can Reduce Your Phone’s Environmental Impact:
- Help Your Phone Live Longer
Don’t let your phone get wet, ever. Don’t shoulder-hold it while using the restroom, don’t leave it on the edge of the tub while bath-bombing yourself to bliss. Even humidity is bad for your phone — the moisture collects inside the phone-jack, USB port, and elsewhere. So don’t bring your phone into the bathroom if you’re taking a hot shower. You can sing to yourself, instead of listening to Spotify.
Don’t throw your phone. There’s no need for it. Even if your friend is sitting all the way across the room when he asks to borrow your phone, just walk it to him. And when you’re angry, don’t take it out on the dozen rare-earth metals (and gold and platinum) inside your phone.
Senator Lindsey Graham needs a case for his phone. And so do you. Try an OtterBox, they’re indestructible.
Be good to your battery, too. It contains a whole lot of lithium and copper, and a small bit of graphite which is produced in a surprisingly horrendous way. Best way to keep your battery’s full-charge from diminishing? Charge it less. And keep it out of hot cars. Lithium batteries hate heat.
Do you ever answer late-night drunk texts from your ex-roommate? No, you let no one interrupt your sleep. Turn it off when you aren’t using it (analog alarm clocks are still cool). Wait until the battery is almost dead; charging less saves the battery, and does a lot to lower your carbon-footprint.
2. Be A Smarter Phone-user
It’s not just the stuff in your phone that tars the earth — your calls, emails, and data all have a carbon-footprint. And while texts have a smaller impact than anything else, if you can face talk to someone instead of clogging up servers and cell towers, the air around you might not be so smoggy.
The less data we use, the less electricity we use. Plus, if you’re pounding buttons and screens less, they’ll last longer. Point? Talk to faces; use phones less. You’ll help save the earth, and our humanity.
3. Don’t Compulsively Purchase Phones
Yes, we’re all desperate for the newest iPhone. But planned obsolescence is dying; smartphone advancements are plateauing, and newer models have fewer and less-necessary improvements.
So while Best Buy is still dancing over every new release, it’s best you show some restraint…
… and put down the new phone. Remember the half-a-billion old phones sitting around our homes, hogging a continent’s worth of rare-earths, and decide whether a few minor improvements are worth us adding to that.
4. Fix it; Don’t Pitch It
Your phone isn’t a piece of alien technology. You can replace the screen yourself, and you can even replace the battery on your iPhone. Plus, it’s not really that difficult to fix a phone-jack. Sure, there’s a small learning-curve, but it’s better than deepening those toxic lakes.
The next time your old(ish) phone is frustrating you into violence, remember you can find on-demand phone repair, and have your phone fixed at your house while you eat your cereal.
5. Buy An Ethical Phone!
There’s a growing demand for environmentally safe(r) phones that don’t depend on child labor and environmental evisceration.
Fairphone is a Swedish company which makes modular smartphones — when a piece breaks or wears out, you can order the replacement and listen to an Iron & Wine song while you help save Chinese villagers from exotic cancers.
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And now you know.