Humanity is caught in a pickle. Our world depends on technology to function, yet we are filling up our landfills with consumer electronics at an alarming rate. These electronics aren’t just obsolete components from the 1980s. Sometimes they are just a couple years old.
Although all smartphones will eventually end up outdated, that doesn’t mean they can’t be used to reduce our impact on the environment.
Smartphones are more than phones
To understand how a smartphone can help reduce environmental impact, it’s important to see the depth of their capabilities.
A smartphone is a computer you can stick in your pocket. It’s your connection to the world. It’s a web browser, an email client, a video camera, digital camera, voice recorder, alarm clock, electronic planner, address book, and so much more.
The capabilities of certain apps are astounding. Genius developers are constantly figuring out new ways to use native phone capabilities to enhance user experience. There’s even an app that lets you monitor air and water pollution with your camera.
It’s all about instant, uncensored communication
Smartphones make it easy to publish information about our world. For example, it was likely a smartphone user who took these disturbing images of 38 million pieces of plastic on an island in the South Pacific.
Photos can be taken with a digital camera and published online, but a smartphone makes those photos instantly available to the entire world. Social media allows people to post news and photos in real time without having an editor censor the content.
Smartphones capture the truth as it happens
A smartphone user captured the Morton County Sheriff’s Department dumping trash inside the Standing Rock camp, instantly publishing the dirty deed to the entire world. The official story said it was the protestors who left behind appalling amounts of trash, but thanks to eyewitnesses and a smartphone, the official story doesn’t stand up.
Each person with a phone and access to social media becomes an independent reporter. Being able to instantly broadcast the truth of what goes on during environmental protests and rallies inspires people into action.
Smartphones reduce consumption of consumer electronics
Many people today don’t use a laptop; they use their smartphone for everything.Those who grew up surfing the web on smartphones don’t mind the small screens. Although neither laptops nor smartphones should be in our landfills, smartphones take up less space.
Today, it’s easier for small business owners to combine their personal and business lines into one phone. Previously, phones required a dual SIM and could only house two numbers. Today, phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8 provide options for up to 5 lines without needing multiple SIM cards.
Each person who chooses a smartphone over a laptop causes at least one less laptop to end up in a landfill. Each person who uses one device for business and personal lines eliminates a phone from being discarded. If millions of people do this, the difference would be huge.
Live events streamed from every perspective
Environmental events are usually streamed from only one perspective, and for the most part, they are scripted. Often, event organizers are looking for professional footage they can use for future marketing efforts, which they are less likely to broadcast casually.
When attendees broadcast an event from their smartphones, you’ll get a bunch of perspectives and a broader sense of what’s actually going on. It’s often attendees who capture the controversy and unexpected happenings.
Despite every electronic device being destined for the junkyard at some point, the decisions we make today will determine how many devices are manufactured and sold to consumers in the future. It might be too idealistic to believe we can completely eliminate the demand for technology. However, as manufacturers improve device capabilities, we’ll continue to see multiple devices merging into one.
We’ve seen the merging of disk drives with laptops, cameras with phones, and now phones with computers, each time leaving obsolete devices behind. With the invention of apps, people don’t need to carry a watch, buy an alarm clock, use a thermometer, or look outside to check the weather. There’s no telling what’s next!