Their low cost and our (well, some of us) constant need to have the latest and greatest cell phone has seen them piling up in landfills at an alarming rate. This is even more worrying as toxic metals in these devices pose serious health threats should they find their way back into our immediate environment (e.g. Mercury seeping into waterways where it eventually ends up in food, causing brain damage).
Enter, the Eco Phones.
Major phone manufacturers, Sony Ericsson, Motorola and Samsung have all recently released phones touting Green Credentials as a key feature.
Earlier this month, Sony Ericsson unveiled its 2 new phones which pioneer a feature they’ve named ‘Greenheart‘, the C901 and the Naite (which comes with a “Carbon Footprint Calculator“?). ‘Greenheart‘, it seems, is the company’s new label for products which use:
- Reduced Packaging
- Recycled Plastics (min 50%)
- Waterborne Paints
- Electronic Manuals instead of Paper
The most impressive feature here has to be the use of recycled plastics with ‘reduced packaging’ and the use of electronics manuals sounding feeble. The company however hopes to expand these features through the entire product portfolio, which could collectively make a significant impact on the environment.
One thing to note here though is that the C901 actually has a pretty impressive feature set which includes a 5 megapixel camera with xenon flash and smile detector (because of course, knowing that you’re doing your part to protect the environment, why wouldn’t you be smiling), something which is in stark contrast to the other phones introduced here which are disappointingly lacking in ‘real’ features and seem to be targeted at very basic phone users.
The Motorola W233 Renew for example, announced in January, attracted this less than flattering comment from technology site Engadget:
“We hear this thing is made out of water bottles… and lameness”
The former is a fact, this phone IS made out plastic recycled from discarded water bottles, which I think is interesting because of its ‘single-source’ nature (think Green & Black’s Chocolate) but otherwise, do we really care what our recycled plastic used to be?
In addition to using recycled plastics, the phone also comes with a postage paid ‘recycling envelope’ to make it easy for purchasers to return their previous phone for recycling. Neat, but with the W233’s limited feature set, you might want to hang on to your older phone for just a little bit longer before mailing it away.
The press release that accompanied the launch announcement made it abundantly clear that the product’s designers had “people who put making phone calls as their number one priority in a mobile phone” in mind. Something which tremendously limits the appeal of the product, since a large population of us, I am sure, use our phones for so much more than just phone calls.
Motorola also reminds us that the phone is the world’s 1st Carbon Neutral Phone (much like Fiji Water is the world’s 1st Carbon Negative Water) through the purchase of carbon credits from carbonfund.org (the same people who awarded the product a CarbonFree Certification).
Finally, in September 2008, Samsung launched an Eco version of their basic E200 phone, which meant that the phone now used:
- Bio-Plastics (from Corn) for its case
- Recycled Paper for its box
That can’t be it can it? Yes it is. The amount of carbon you would save by buying this version over the regular phone (as calculated by mobilegazette) is equivalent to the carbon generated by driving all of 382m in a Ford Focus.
It seems that life is still tough for the mobile phone buyer who wants to minimize her environmental footprint.
The good news though is that despite how the credentials of the current generation of Eco Phones seem lacking, they do seem to be improving with each successive product launch.
I do hope that next year will see mobile phone companies move beyond the gimmicks like ‘Carbon Footprint Calculators’, introduce measures to reduce their manufacturing process’ carbon footprint (real reductions, not ones achieved by carbon credit purchases) and take steps to eliminate (or at least reduce) the levels of toxic chemicals in their products.
What kind of Green Features would YOU like to see in your next Mobile Phone?