No, we cannot live without our cell phones. Land lines are pretty much unfathomable now, as we spend more and more time on the move, chasing newer and better technology dangled in front of us like touch-screen, app-stuffed carrots. Unfortunately, because of exponentially increasing technology and way the cell phone carrier industry is set up, consumers rarely use phones for more than two years before they’re discarded, usually ending up on a scrap heap in Asia. These same phones are difficult to recycle and contain toxic, flammable materials.
That, fortunately, is changing. In response to environmental pressure and because, well, it’s just good for the bottom line, every major cell phone company is making green strides, whether it be a carrier greening up its support structure or a manufacturer offering a greener product. All cell phones are getting greener to some extent, but a few companies are taking the lead and actually competing to offer the world’s greenest cell phone.
#1—Samsung Reclaim. Available for $50 after rebates, the Reclaim is made from 80% recyclable materials and encased in 40% bio-plastic made from plants (corn, unfortunately). It is free of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates, and “nearly” free of brominated flame retardants (BFRs). The Reclaim is sold through Sprint/Nextel, which (at least at time of release in 2009) is donated $2 from every sale to the Nature Conservancy’s Adopt an Acre program. The phone comes with an Energy Star rated charger.
#2—Sony Ericsson GreenHeart. The GreenHeart purports to have a 15% smaller footprint than the standard cell phone. It comes with an online manual to save paper, smaller packaging and is made from at least 50% recycled plastics. An upgraded model even comes with an Ecomate application entailing a Carbon Footprint Calculator.
#3—Samsung Blue Earth. The Blue Earth is currently only available in UK markets, but it represents a fascinating improvement in cell phone products: the solar panel. It is no longer the only solar-paneled cell phone (LG has a model and Apple may have a solar iPhone in the works), but that is not its only green feature. Blue Earth is made from recycled plastic water bottles, includes software to track your reduced carbon emissions, free from beryllium, BFRs and phthalates, and has a one-touch Eco-mode that puts the phone in low-power mode to conserve energy (touch screen phones are inherently power-hungry).
#4—Motorola MOTO Renew. The Renew claims to be the first carbon-free cell phone on the market (available through T-Mobile and Best Buy). Motorola works with Carbonfund.org to offset the carbon emitted to manufacture, distribute and operate the phone. Renew is made from recycled water bottles and is 100% recyclable. All Motorola phones are now PVC-free with BFR-free phones phasing in (Renew’s BFR status is unclear). The phone comes with a postage-paid envelope to facilitate recycling.
#5—Nokia Evolve. The Evolve is made from biomaterials and comes with a charger that only uses electricity when charging—no phantom loads here. Not BFRs, not chlorinated flame retardants (CFRs) and no antimony trioxide basically mean that this phone is non-toxic to the environment. Even the sales box is made from 60% recycled materials. Evolve is currently only available in Europe.
Photo Credit: thedailygreen