How green is your cell phone?

Earth Day Network Intern - Christine Hoguet

I recently had to replace my 3-year old cell phone. I try to use such electronics for as long as possible to reduce electronic waste, of which there already is way too much in this world. I had now reached a point where replacing the phone had become inevitable.

So when I was looking over my options for a new phone (a “dumb” one, not a smart phone) I was surprised to see one phone being advertised as an “eco-phone”. My curiosity took over – what makes a phone friendly to the environment?

Well, in this case it appears to be mainly the material. The plastics used in the phone are made from recycled material, and 80 percent of the packaging is made from post-consumer material. The ink comes from soybeans. Moreover, the phone’s screen savers have a variety of nature scenes to choose from, you can make forest sounds or sounds from the sea shore your ring tone, and there is a calculator built in that tells you how much you decreased your CO2 emissions by walking or biking some place. Sounds pretty nifty, right? As someone who deeply cares about the environment I thought it sounded great.

But then I started to wonder if this was just another incident of “greenwashing”, a practice that Wikipedia defines as “the deceptive use of green PR or green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception that a company's policies or products are environmentally friendly”. It might very well be that handset makers have decided to jump on the green bandwagon, trying to win their share of environmentally minded consumers for their products.

And yet, if cell phones, and other such products, reduce even a little bit of waste and use more environmentally friendly materials, and find creative ways to raise people’s interest in nature, it may be a move in the right direction for the electronics industry. Producing electronic waste is never good, but I feel that by purchasing this phone I chose the lesser of two evils. It is always nice to have a greener alternative.

So next time you go out to buy a new phone, consider your options and check out the green alternatives. You will do your planet and yourself a huge favor, and choosing an “eco-phone” is an Act of Green that can help us at Earth Day Network reach our goal of A Billion Acts of Green® by June 2012.