03 March 2009

the mobile green-pack

I'm on the market for a cellphone and like with any product I check out the internet first for user reviews, performance updates, price comparisons etc. The past two years has seen an explosion of eco-friendly cellphones and for obvious reasons I'm gravitating towards one of these.

Cell phones are probably one of the most frequently updated item of gadgetry. The average Indian changes cellphones every 18 months. Cell phones batteries are also a source of lithium, cadmium and other harmful chemicals. Not to mention all the metal and plastic bits on a phone. Out of all modern technology, cellphones are probably my favourite, next to digital cameras of course! My criteria for a green cell phone:
  • the phone should be manufactured with recycled material as much as possible
  • the production process of the phone itself should not be carbon intensive
  • good battery life, features and ease of use
  • should be easily recycled at the end of its use
  • extra points for recyclable packaging
  • should be affordable and look cool
So I've shortlisted a few. Take a look!

Sony Ericsson Green Heart:

Sony Ericsson is probably one of the greenest companies around. First, it has announced a new environmental warranty. And second, it has unveiled a new green concept phone called the GreenHeart.

The environmental warranty is essentially a green light for easy recycling. Now, when any Sony Ericsson product is taken to a designated collection point, the company will recycle this product in an environmentally sound way. This warranty is valid globally, regardless of where the product was originally purchased.

So far, over 500 collection points have been opened up in India, Taiwan, China, Thailand, Singapore USA and Mexico. And the company plans to expand the program so that every country in which it operates will have easily accessible collection points for recycling.

Now on to the more exciting news about GreenHeart. It is the new concept phone that would feature some very cool green elements. It is a full concept with all life cycle in mind it includes features such as bio-plastic housings, recycled plastic keypads, zero charger with 3.5mW standby power, HTML based e-manuals, a game style educational application ‘Ecomate’ and environmentally conscious packaging.

Nokia 3110 Evolve:

The company recently knocked off Sony Ericsson on the Greenpeace list of most sustainable electronic companies. Nokia, is focusing on phones that have green features. Phones with these features beep when they're fully charged so that they can be unplugged. They have a light sensor that detects natural light so that the phone can save energy.

The Evolve comes with a media player, a 1.3 megapixel camera, bluetooth as well as external memory to store music and photos. What I like best is that the phone comes with a AC-8 charger that minimises the 'vampire power' consumption in case you forget to unplug it from the power socket. The packaging is smaller and uses 60% recycled materials. The body is made up of unpainted bio-sourced materials that reduce fossil fuel usage.

It looks pretty basic but it is incoporates environment-friendly innovations. If the Green heart and Blue Earth turn out to be too expensive I might just go with this one. Nokia is unfailingly user-friendly which is always a bonus.

Samsung Blue Earth Cell Phone:

Hitting the UK in the second half of 2009, the Samsung Blue Earth phone is a touchscreen smart phone that can apparently generate the power it needs to make a call any time from the solar panel built into the back.

Most of the phone is constructed from PCM, a plastic extracted from recycled water bottles and both the handset and energy efficient charger ditch harmful substances such as Brominated Flame Retardants, Beryllium and Phthalate.
Additionally, the phone comes in recycled packaging.“Samsung’s ‘The Blue Earth Dream’ demonstrates our small but meaningful commitments for the future and our environment,” said Mr. JK Shin, Executive Vice President and Head of Mobile Communication Division of Samsung Electronics.

It has a built-in pedometer that can calculate and tell you how many trees you are saving by walking instead of driving. At first glance, the solar power feature is pretty darn exciting. But it is questionable of how powerful that solar panel must be to charge up an energy-intensive touchscreen phone for 24/7 use. Perhaps it's simply that it can get enough juice from the sun to make a call, but not run much else on the phone. Also, are people really going to leave their phone in the sun long enough and often enough to charge it? At any rate, it's an excellent addition to a cell phone so that needed back-up power can be gathered when it's bright out.

Motorola Renew:

It is being touted as the world's first carbon neutral cell phone. The MOTO W233 Renew is made from plastics comprised of recycled water bottles and is100% recyclable. Through an alliance with Carbonfund.org, Motorola offsets the carbon dioxide required to manufacture, distribute and operate the phone through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation. The phone has earned Carbonfund.org’s CarbonFree® Product Certification after an extensive product life-cycle assessment.

When designing the packaging, Motorola was able to reduce its size by 22% and the box and all of the materials inside are printed on 100% post-consumer recycled paper. In addition, a postage-paid recycling envelope in box makes it easy to return your previous mobile phone for recycling at no cost. Renew was designed for eco-conscious consumers as well as the millions of people who put making phone calls as their number one priority in a mobile phone. With nine hours of talk time, CrystalTalk technology and messaging capabilities, Renew makes environmental responsibility affordable for consumers everywhere. Renew will first be available at T-Mobile USA in 2009.


This is a fairly basic cellphone in comparion. It is designed to be used in locations where electricity and charging outlets are not readily available. While it is marketed as environmentally friendly, the only thing green about it is its ability to charge up with the sun. Solar can be used in any type of handset if you have a solar charger powerful enough to charge the phone's battery. But is this solar cell strong enough?

The phone is really bare bones, it
looks like, so it very well might be enough, especially if the phone is only used for short, infrequent calls. Again, this is supposed to be a basic phone for basic use in places where electricity is scarce. But if that's the case seems like a greener, cheaper option would be to organize better used cell phone redistribution programs and package them up with quality external solar chargers that use fewer materials in total.

I'm a little dubious about Samsung's solar panels. I would buy it only if its reasonably cheap - I admit it looks pretty good, albeit bulky and has some cool eco-features. Although the idea of Motorola's first carbon-free phone is exciting, it looks rather drab. But I'm leaning more towards Sony Ericsson or Nokia. Ultimately the availability of the phone in India will be my biggest deciding factor. This list is by no means comprehensive, it is just a small guideline to what's out there. It is also important to bear in mind the manufacturer's eco-ranking - according to the Greenpeace list Sony Ericsson and Nokia are pretty high up.

The market for green phones is not expected to take off for another 2-5years, but the reason that manufacturers have put them out there is to stay ahead of the curve. Sure, they might be more expensive than other models but if you can afford it and have the option why not choose it. Ultimately, what is the price being paid for being 'cheap'?


Daniel McDonell said...

Intersting article! I don't know if this is just available in the US right now, but CREDO Mobile http://www.credomobile.com/ is a carrier that is basically a progressive lobby group and donates to humanitarian, environmental, etc concerns. If we're going green with our cell phones, why not wrap it up with a whole progressive package?

Akhila Vijayaraghavan said...

excellent going credomobile! thanks for that daniel - was looking for something along the likes of it

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