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Sustainable & Smart Changes For Your Smartphone

Scrolling, screenshotting, sending, & repeat. We are all data collectors, but no worries right? It’s up in the cloud somewhere– but that’s where it gets complicated. The cloud, though it sounds weightless, is actually grounded right here on earth, in many different storage warehouses. So let’s talk about why cleaning up your storage and taking good care of your phone is not only good for your peace of mind, but for the environment too.

How Data Affects The Environment

A few photos and texts aren’t going to affect much– I know, but when every human collects unnecessary data, it adds up to a whole lot of space. All this data has to go somewhere and it ends up in mega data centers that have rows and rows of supercomputers that can take up millions of square feet of land and use excessive amounts of energy to power them.

How much is your phone really responsible for?

Mike Berners-Lee, an expert in carbon analysis and author of How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint Of Everything, shares that:

  • Using your mobile phone for an hour a day is about 63kg CO2e* a year

  • Using your mobile phone for 195 minutes a day is about 69kg CO2e* a year (about the average)

  • Using your mobile phone 10 hours a day is about 86kg CO2e* a year

*CO2e, or Carbon dioxide equivalent, is a term for describing different greenhouse gasses in a common unit. For any quantity and type of greenhouse gas, CO2e signifies the amount of CO2 which would have the equivalent global warming impact (source: Ecometrica, Matthew Brander).

Always Buying The Latest Device?

Avoid purchasing the newest phones when they launch. The two main elements of your phone’s carbon footprint are its manufacturing and general use & charging. Manufacturing a brand new smart phone not only uses energy to create, but rare earth metals such as yttrium or praseodymium and precious metals like gold and tungsten, that are wildly unsustainable to mine. Mining is a carbon-intensive process that not only depletes our earth, but can also release toxic substances into our ecosystems.

Changes You Can Make

  • Only keep important data. Hold onto your favorite memories & photos and keep only the apps you frequently use. It’s time to cleanse out the mountains of screenshots you forgot you snapped and start fresh.

  • Keep your phone as long as you can. As I mentioned before, manufacturing new phones takes a lot of resources and the old ones just end up in landfills. You don’t need the added features from every new release, just take care of the one you have… and put on that screen protector!!

  • Stream over wifi whenever possible. Cell phone data surprisingly uses a lot more energy than your at-home wifi. Streaming Netflix or scrolling through TikTok is best done on wifi- plus it’s usually faster too.

  • Turn off automatic downloads for apps.

  • Call on your mobile network instead of internet calls like Facetime or Whatsapp.

  • Try not to use your phone while it charges. As the phone charges it generates more heat which only degrades the battery.

For more tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint, check out this article.


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