Wanna Help Save the Planet? Think Twice About that New Phone

It’s an inescapable fact that cell phones make our lives easier. Communicating with friends and family is a thousand times faster, Google can answer your questions in the blink of an eye, and it’s never been simpler to capture the perfect photograph. But your phone doesn’t just impact your life, it also impacts your carbon footprint.

Researchers at McMaster University in Ontario, Canada performed a study analyzing the “carbon impact of the whole Information and Communication Industry (ICT) from around 2010-2020, including PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones, and servers.” They found that this industry’s effect on global carbon emissions has almost tripled since 2007, and the production of smartphones is one of the largest factors.

Smartphones are essentially built to be disposable, as most have a lifespan of about two years. Investigations by Italian authorities have also found that Apple and Samsung purposefully limit the lifespan of their products by providing software updates that actually reduce the older phone’s performance. None of this is surprising - in order to make higher profits, companies will obviously encourage customers to purchase a new phone as often as possible, even if it sacrifices the actual quality of the product. But building new smartphones, particularly mining the materials, comes with heavy environmental consequences. If you bought one phone and kept it for a whole decade, the energy it takes to recharge it would only then be equivalent to all the energy it took to manufacture it.

Keeping your current phone for as long as possible can go a long way to reducing your individual carbon footprint. According to Lifehack, a few tips to increase the lifespan of your phone include:

  • Getting a good case so it doesn’t break (try an eco-friendly case, too!)

  • Making sure to charge it smartly - Charging your phone too often and too long wears out the battery, so if possible, let it get down to 1% before you plug it in, and unplug it when it hits 100% or even a little before. But letting it hit 0% also isn’t a good idea, as it can cause the battery to become unstable.

  • Keeping it clean! When the ports of your phone get filled with dirt and other grossness, it can cause it to malfunction

However, you will have to get rid of your phone eventually. Instead of sending it to a landfill, check out the multiple options for recycling or donating it. And when you’re looking for a replacement, there’s no need to get a brand new model. My current phone was bought through a company that refurbishes used smartphones, and my next one will probably be, too. There are many reliable places to buy a used phone, so you can save the Earth and your wallet at the same time.

Cell phones are such a big part of our lives that it’s not easy to think about how they might be damaging our world. But there are plenty of steps you can take to make your cell phone use more sustainable. Take care of your technology so it lasts for a long time, make sure to recycle it when it’s done, and avoid buying the shiniest, newest model when used can work just as well. The world just doesn’t need so many phones to be manufactured, and the companies who make them know that. So don’t contribute to the problem - when consumers decrease demand, maybe they’ll finally get the message that the planet matters more than their profit.