Smartphones are now a ubiquitous part of day to day life – in fact, more people now own a smartphone than wear a wristwatch. Yet despite their manifold uses, from managing our bank accounts to keeping up with friends to taking family photos, it’s fair to say that smartphones don’t have the best reputation from an environmental perspective.
Their ever more complex and powerful processes use precious metals, and mining activities can cause untold ecological harm, while their disposal can be just as much of a hazard, leading to potentially toxic waste entering landfill.
All this is true, but the environmental costs need to be balanced against a range of benefits that might not always get the same level of media attention. Your smartphone could be a great deal greener than you think.
Originally, mobile phones were seen as a tool to help us stay in touch on the go, which implied we could travel more. However, they now allow us to actually spend less time out and about. Online banking, supermarket shopping from stores like Tesco or Sainsbury’s and internet leisure activities such as Mr Green online casino mean we can undertake work, household or social activities without having to step outside. That means the car can stay safely in the garage instead of burning fuel and adding to the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
Your phone doesn’t just reduce fuel usage in your car, however. It can also help cut energy consumption at home. The IoT isn’t just about convenience, it also helps you live a greener lifestyle thanks to smart thermostats, remote lighting and other IoT innovations that you can control and monitor from your trusty handset.
Going paper free
We seem to have been talking about going paperless since the dawn of the digital era 20 or 30 years ago. At last, though, it is becoming more of a reality, and we have the smartphone to thank. It is about more than creating our own docs electronically, important though that is, and apps like OneDrive have made it simple and intuitive to do so. The real difference, though, is in the ease with which we can access paperless billing for purchases, utilities and so on. It’s led to a sharp decline in the amount of paper coming through the letter box every morning, and that can only be a good thing.
Your smartphone can also be a useful eco facilitator thanks to a growing selection of green apps. For example, Ecofinder will track down alternative fuel stations in your area, while PaperKarma will take the strain of helping you save paper by unsubscribing you from junk mail subscriptions.
A power for good
The smartphone era is here to stay. Critics are right to highlight the ecological risks, and more needs to be done to ensure better sustainability in both their manufacture and disposal. However, we should not let these challenges overshadow the significant ecological benefits that our mobile technology can deliver.