Hold off on buying a new cell phone, that is. A clever marketing ploy that my cell phone company uses is to “allow” customers to upgrade their phones every two years, at a discount over the full retail price. Since I’m a loyal customer, they let me purchase a new phone even sooner. In exchange for me paying them some cash, I get a new phone and the right to continue making monthly payments to them for another twenty-four months.
What I realized though, is that just because my company lets me purchase a new phone, doesn’t mean that I actually need one. I’m going to keep the one that I have until it stops working. The features on the phone that I currently own are more than what I need. I don’t need video or email on my phone, so as long as it keeps making calls, it’s doing what I need it to.
When it does finally die, I’ll recycle it. Aside from keeping waste out of the landfills, recycling a cell phone is an environmentally important decision to make because the materials used to make a cell phone include metals which can be destructive to the environment to mine. According to the EPA, less than 20% of cell phones are actually recycled. There are many ways to recycle a cell phone – Recycle My Cell Phone is a site I’ll consider. They only recycle phones from within the US (due to restrictions on import/export of hazardous waste), but they reuse as many phones and parts as possible, and only dispose of what is really “dead”. They dispose of what hazardous waste remains responsibly, and do not export it to developing countries. The other thing that is great about this site is that they accept any make or model of phone, pda, beeper, or charger. They even make it easy for you to save money by taking a tax deduction for the value of the phone you donate, including the postage you use to send it to them!
Until I’m ready to recycle my phone, however, there are things I can do to make it last as long as possible. The National Geographic Green Guide offers some great tips on how to save energy and extend your phone’s life, including:
1. Only charge as long as necessary – if you leave the charger plugged in after the battery is fully charged, the charger will continue drawing energy and will heat the battery, which shortens its life span.
2. Turn down the brightness – the more light your phone puts out, the more battery it uses, meaning it’ll have to be charged more often.
3. Unless you plan on answering the phone if it rings in the middle of the night, turn it off until you wake up.
Another thing that I'll investigate when my plan is up is switching to a company such as Credo Mobile, whose prices seem a tiny bit higher than my current provider, but allows you to donate a portion of your monthly bill to charity.
As a follow-up to things that should be recycled responsibly, I found out last week that Ace Hardware, at least in my neighborhood, also accepts used CFL bulbs for recycling. For many of us, we probably have an Ace closer than an Ikea…and I for one am a lot less likely to make an impulse purchase at Ace than Ikea!