Sustainability adds convenience

The Samsung Blue Earth phone - solar chargeable, and free of several nasty chemicals if not of hype

The Samsung Blue Earth phone - solar chargeable, and free of several nasty chemicals, if not of hype

Here’s a perfect example of how a drive towards greater sustainability can also offer great benefits to consumers. Just a few weeks back, I was cursing because I’d gotten separated from my phone charger after house-sitting for a friend. It’s a Nokia — but uses a small jack frustratingly incompatible with the older chargers I had to hand. Sony Ericsson also changed their charger plug configurations a couple of years ago — and the world is piled ever higher with perfectly usable but useless chargers as a consequence.

Now the GSM Association has announced at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that by 2012, all phones will be using compatible chargers fitting the micro-USB appearing on newer phones.

What’s more, several manufacturers have announced phones that incorporate solar panels, and/or eliminate dangerous chemicals such as brominated flame retardants, chlorinated flame retardants and polyvinyl chloride.

So in a couple of years time, we may be able be to rely entirely on the sun or friends’ chargers to revive our less toxic phones.

What else could be done to make the mobile phone industry more sustainable? The Congo (DRC) is looking at certifying the ethical production of coltan, a mineral used in the production of cellphone, the pursuit of which has directly contributed to war in the DRC.

Update 21/2/09

Richard Traherne of Cambridge Consultants is not convinced mobile manufacturers had particularly noble motives for undertaking this change: they were just given a new marketing angle, he told New Scientist by the growth of the mini-USB technology, which was unfolding anyway.

Network operators are trying to create lower-powered networks running on renewable energy.

Low-tech Magazine points out that most of the energy consumption of mobiles comes not during use but in manufacture, and that ever more data-intensive applications and networks are pushing up energy consumption fast; LTM also argues that mobile phones are replaced with excessive regularity.

How often have you replaced your mobile phone? Would you slow down the upgrades in the interests of sustainability?

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About David

I am an environmental writer, journalist and speaker living in Cape Town, South Africa.
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