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.