by Tom Watson
Okay, "killing the planet" may be exaggerating a bit. But all those zillion cell phones we're all using do add up to a helluva environmental impact. Here's how to lessen that load:
1) Keep your phone longer
I've seen estimates that average Americans keep a cell phone only 18 months, and 20 percent of cell phone users don't even keep a phone for a year before getting a new one. Is that barrage of cell phone advertising, on TV and everywhere else, really working that well on us? I can understand if you're ready to make a serious upgrade to one of the new "smart phones." But that doesn't mean you need to get another new smart phone next year.
And don't let the service providers pressure you into a new phone if you don't want one. If a couple family members want a new phone they'll try to give everyone in your family new phones, and they'll look at you like you're crazy if you resist. But just say, "No, my old phone is fine, thank you," even though it is - gasp - two years old!
2) Get your old phones out of the drawer
There's a great demand for old cell phones. This collection is referred to as recycling, although they are usually refurbished and resold in developing countries (and reuse is even better than recycling, because fewer resources are consumed). So don't just throw your old phone in a drawer or a junk box in the basement, where it sits for years, not doing any good. Do an online search for "cell phone recycling" - there are tons of programs, including charity efforts (to help Haiti for example) and ones where you can print out a postage-paid mailing label and send in your phone at no charge.
3) When you do buy a new phone, go greener
Several cell phone manufacturers are now making phones containing fewer toxics, or made from recycled plastic. Motorola has one for example. Seek those out. If you let your service provider know that having a greener phone is important to you, maybe they will carry more of them.
4) Use what you got
If you do have a smart phone, why not take advantage of its capabilities to reduce your environmental impact? It can help you with directions, or whether a store is open, or whether a movie you want to go see is sold out, so you don't waste gas. And there are lots of new "green apps" (green applications for smart phones) that can help you choose more sustainable seafood, for example. Here in King County, we hope to have an app before long to help you find recycling locations, like they already have in San Francisco.
5) Don't die
You can't help save the planet if you're dead. And if you dress all in black and walk across a street without looking up from your phone while you're texting someone, you might as well have a sign saying, "Cars: Hit me!" If you use the phone while you're driving and get distracted, you might also take out some innocent folks as well as yourself. So just put down the damn phone for a few minutes and drive, or walk.
Contributed by Tom Watson, Project Manager, EcoConsumer Resources, King County Solid Waste Division Telephone: 206-296-4481 | Fax: 206-296-0197 www.ecocoolremodel.com