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 of that BoJo became London mayor – most of us didn’t have a smartphone.
How did we muddle through without Facebook and Twitter and Instagram just a fingernail away? How did we ever work out where we were going 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, 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.
Photo by Gian Cescon on Unsplash
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.
1. 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. Have a look at this blog for some tips on how to extend your phone's battery life, which will help you hang onto your phone beyond the two years that our contracts suggest we should have them for. The tips include ideas such as deleting the power-hungry Facebook app and turning the brightness down on your screen. Since reading that advice, I've been aiming to charge my phone little and often rather than all the way up to 100% - it's not always possible, but can be done.
2. Buy second-hand when you do upgrade
There are plenty of reputable sellers offering refurbished second-hand phones on eBay. Make sure you check the seller’s reviews before you buy. Or you could go to 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 for the planet as it means fewer resources are used and fewer once treasured items are thrown into landfill.
BCR Energy Group secretary Dorian Wainwright has been buying second-hand phones for a while now. He says...
"When my last phone broke beyond repair, I decided to buy a second-hand one from CEX in Broadmead. This was actually the third or fourth phone I've bought there for me or someone else. I'm always impressed by the range they have on sale, and if you don't mind the occasional little scuff or scratch, or having an odd colour phone (mine's gold, but I've hidden it inside a black case!), then there are some real bargains to be had. I highly recommend second-hand phones to anyone who knows what they're looking for."
Have a look at our page on Sharing, Repairing and Buying Second Hand, which includes links to where to buy second-hand phones in Bristol.
Photo by Darwin Vegher on Unsplash
3. 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.
I recently made the switch to Ecotalk myself, and found that getting one of their SIM cards was simple. Since I was on a SIM-only deal with another company, all I needed to do was send a text to my providers asking for a PAC code. Once I had that, I paid for a deal on Ecotalk which was a similar price to my previous deal, with exactly the same amount of minutes and data. They then sent me a SIM, which I put into my phone. Even for someone like me who is nervous about new tech, this process couldn't have been easier.
Edited on 5/10/202: Please note that Ecotalk SIM cards don't currently support WiFi calling, which can be a problem if you rely on this at home. They hope to address this issue soon. I'll update the blog when they do so!
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.
Photo by Jenna Lee on Unsplash
Did you know: Smartphones are worse for the planet than computers, laptops, monitors and servers, as demonstrated by the fact that that information and communication technology represented just 1% of the carbon footprint in 2007 and, according to researchers, will climb up to a whopping 14% by 2040.
I moved to Bristol four years ago, from London, via Hull. I’ve driven since I was 18, a terrifying 25 years ago. I didn’t drive that much in London, because of public transport, or in Hull, because it’s tiny and you just don’t have to. But when I moved to the top of the hill in East Dundry, I was suddenly driving to work, to yoga, to the supermarket - everywhere.
I was dimly aware that all the traffic jams I was part of were bad for more reasons than just my blood pressure, but with miles rolling away beneath me, the sun coming in through the windows and pop music pounding on the stereo, I kept telling myself that this was my only option. My brave neighbour cycled to work every day, but given that I hadn’t been on a bike in 15 years and even my Renault Clio could barely make it up Broadoak Hill, I quickly dismissed that option as madness and kept on truckin’, despite the guilt about my emissions creeping up.
When I moved to Fishponds in 2019 and became properly engaged with just how bad the climate
crisis really is, I knew I couldn’t put off the evil moment anymore. So, filled with a certainty that I’d be smashed to smithereens under a truck before
the week was out – or, more likely, die of a stitch by the end of the day – I got myself down to
Bool’s Bikes on Staple Hill and, after being helped
by some truly lovely staff members, bought myself a purple hydrid. I named her Greta. Because why not?
Rather than being the trial I feared, I fell in love with cycling pretty damn quickly. Zipping past the traffic, flying down hills, taking in the ever-changing graffiti – it’s all pretty awesome. Living right near the Bristol and Bath Railway Path helped. You do have to contend with all those terribly important men wearing Lycra who are in a Very Big Rush to get past you at the speed of sound. That can be a bit unnerving at first, but you soon get used to it. And the certainty of knowing that you will arrive at your destination at the right time, rather than having to allow an extra half an hour ‘just in case’ makes it all worth it.
The hills are hard, I’m not gonna lie. But the warm glow of knowing you’re doing good for the planet while also earning yourself some extra cake-calories for when you get home make it easier. And if the hills are too much for you, you could always get an electric bike for that bit of extra help.
If you live in Bristol and are nervous about making that all important switch from car to bike, you might be interested to know that Life Cycle UK does lessons for adults who are new to cycling, making it that bit easier get started. If you live in the South West, have a look at this map to find a bike shop near you.
All of this information and so much more about cycling is available on the Better Transport Options page of this website.
Let us know how you get on in the comment box below.
Did you know… Bikes aren’t entirely carbon-footprint-free as they do need to be made. However, riding a bike contributes 10 times LESS carbon to the atmosphere than driving.