Let us start with a small quiz. Do you guys know what the most popular consumer electronics product in the world is? It is so popular that most analysts predict the total number of units will reach 4.5 billion! You probably have guessed already what I am talking about. It’s the smartphone!
Smartphones are such an integrated part of our lives that it is difficult to imagine the days when we had to use old desk phones and fax machines to communicate! You can do so many things with your phone, be it making calls, taking pictures, browsing the internet, using social media, chatting with your friends, booking your flights, shopping for things and even paying your bills or transferring money!
While we excitedly await new models and features on these smartphones, one crucial impact of the technology on all our lives is seldom discussed. Smartphone manufacturing and usage cause a lot of emissions, contributing to the climate change that we are or should be concerned about.
A smartphone in the first year of its life (including manufacturing, packing, shipping and first year usage) causes a whopping 85 kilograms of emissions! And as we use it over the years, it generates 9-10 kilograms of emissions per year of its operation. Not to mention, the old discarded mobile phones contribute a lot to the e-waste problem.
What is the solution, one may wonder? After all, we depend on this gadget for so many essential business activities and even for leisure. Fortunately, industry leaders recognise these facts and efforts are on to make mobile phones more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Measures are already undertaken to use recycled packaging, standardise charging ports (so one charger can service multiple devices), commit to net-zero goals and so on. Some makers have gone a step further and have made their phone devices themselves more sustainable. Let us see who the top sustainable phone makers are and how they do it.
This company prides itself on the way they source the raw material only from recycled sources or from ethical miners. Their phone design is highly modular, thus making the device easily repairable. Fairphone also sells replaceable parts via its website alongside new devices.
Starting in 2022, the warranty offered by this company is also longer at five years, compared to the industry standard of one year. The longer warranty helps extend the life of the devices.
For every device sold, Fairphone recycles an equivalent amount of e-waste. Wouldn’t it be fair to say Fairphone is the leading company when it comes to sustainable smartphones?
In their quest to help the environment, this company plants a tree every time they sell a device! What can be cooler than that? Add to this their modular design, minimal packaging, use of recycled material and optimized manufacturing process make them a serious contender for the title of the greenest smartphone trophy!
Teracube comes with a four-year warranty as well, incentivizing customers to use their devices for a longer time. A win-win situation!
Why buy when you can lease? Now that would be a major shift in consumer thinking, don’t you agree? The German company Shift offers a choice to customers to rent their devices, apart from their for-sale products which have eco-friendly features like replaceable parts, durable hardware, recycled parts and packaging.
Renting a phone would be handy for short-term requirements such as when your main phone is undergoing repairs. This indirectly promotes green practices.
Shift proclaims that its manufacturing and operating process are designed to delay obsolescence – both by making its hardware last longer and by committing to provide software updates over a longer period. Thus, they keep the device current in terms of features and trends.
The company’s mission statement is To Do Maximum Good With Minimal Damage (to the environment). So this maker definitely deserves a place on the sustainable phones honour list.
Google Pixel 5
The Pixel 5 was rated the easiest to repair phone in 2020 by the popular YouTube channel JerryRigEverything, and for a very good reason. Despite having high-end features, the design is quite modular, and most of its components are easily replaceable. Pixel 5 does not contain any screws and even the screen is customer-replaceable due to its easy-to-remove adhesive. With its dust and water-resistant features and easy repairability, Pixel devices can last longer. This reduces the need for replacement with new devices. It supports 5G networks and has a recent processor that supports newer Android OS versions.
While not at par with the likes of Fairphone, TeraCube or Shift, Pixel smartphones with their repairability can be considered highly sustainable phones.
Some of you may feel surprised to see iPhones listed here. However, Apple has steadily improved its manufacturing and support processes to make its phones greener.
The iPhone 13 is made with 100% recycled gold and 98% recycled tungsten. The remaining materials are also sourced from fair-trade suppliers. Apple phones are free from PVC and other harmful chemicals. The main phone body is made from aluminium, which is easily recyclable.
Since 2018, Apple’s operations including their data centres, stores, and offices are run with 100% renewable energy. They sell new phones without chargers and use recycled packaging. Apple has pledged to eliminate plastic entirely from its packaging by 2025 and to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030.
The company has come a long way on its journey towards sustainability. However, its smartphones do not yet have a modular design. Hence, Apple ranks below the other players we discussed on the Green scorecard.
A recent survey by Mastercard found that a large majority of consumers place increasing importance on green initiatives by the big manufacturers. Tech companies have a prominent role in influencing industry and the general populace towards protecting our environment and leaving a better, greener planet for future generations.