Welcome to the green side, tech-savvy comrades; we’re glad you’ve joined us. But as we enjoy the latest gadgets and marvel at the innovative features that our devices offer, it’s important to remember that our love for technology comes with an environmental impact.
It’s no secret that producing – and using – smartphones and laptops generates a significant carbon footprint. In fact, according to infomineo, ‘’The ICT sector — including personal computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets — as well as its digital infrastructures such as data centers and communication networks, is expected to contribute to the global carbon footprint by 14% in 2040, representing more than half of the contribution made by the transportation sector worldwide.’’
But don’t let these numbers steal the joy of tech appreciation (or, have you switching off your computer before you’ve got to the end of this article!). After all, being informed is the first step toward making sustainable choices, and reducing your smartphone’s environmental impact involves a combination of mindful usage, proper maintenance, recycling, and responsible disposal. With shopping sustainably in mind, here’s how to make more eco-conscious tech choices.
Because knowledge is power…
Research the energy consumption of various smartphones and tech devices before making your next purchase. The peak power of a typical smartphone is around 2,000 to 4,000 mW, while wearable devices consume 150-200 mW during data transmission. Look for devices with lower energy consumption rates and longer battery lives to ensure better efficiency.
According to the ever-useful Tom’s Guide, 2023’s most long-lasting batteries include those found in the Asus ROG Phone 7 Ultimate (18 hours and 32 minutes), the Asus ROG Phone 6 Pro (15:30) and the iPhone 14 Pro Max (13:39).
Energy Ratings & Labels
Check for energy efficiency ratings and labels on electronic products such as TVs. In the UK, appliances are rated on a scale from A+++ (most efficient) to G (least efficient). Choose devices with higher ratings, though do be aware that portable devices, such as smartphones and laptops, don’t carry such ratings, though in the US, the Energy Star certification does approve such devices.
In the UK, look for products approved by the Energy Saving Trust, which promotes energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy sources. Its recommended label is given to products that meet specific energy-saving criteria, helping consumers identify and choose energy-efficient products.
For smartphone specific recommendations, check out Eco Rating, who evaluate a smartphone’s eco-friendly credentials based on five criteria; durability, resource efficiency, repairability, climate efficiency, and recyclability. In 2023, they believe that the Samsung Galaxy A23 is the most eco-conscious smartphone choice.
Smart Features & Energy Saving Apps
Whether it’s a smartphone, laptop or other piece of tech, opt for devices with smart features that help conserve energy, such as automatic sleep mode, adaptive brightness, and energy-saving modes. These features can significantly reduce energy consumption when the device is not in use or when operating under low-demand conditions.
There are several apps you can download which can help your smartphone or laptop save energy. These include:
- Greenify (Android): Greenify helps identify and hibernate power-consuming apps when they are not in use, thus saving battery life.
- AccuBattery (Android): AccuBattery provides information about your device’s battery health and usage patterns, allowing you to make informed decisions about charging habits, screen brightness, and app usage.
- Battery Doctor (iOS and Android): Battery Doctor offers power-saving tips, provides information on power consumption by each app, and lets you quickly stop apps consuming excessive power.
- Battery Life (iOS): This app analyses your iPhone’s battery health and suggests optimisations to prolong its lifespan.
Considering global smartphone charging accounts for over 8 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent every year (roughly the same amount as throwing a BBQ for 1.5 billion people), these battery-saving apps could really help reduce your own smartphone’s impact.
Get Things Repaired Rather Than Replaced
The majority (around 85%) of a smartphone’s carbon footprint is attributed to the production phase, with the average impact of manufacturing such a device thought to be around 63kg CO2-equivalent on average, according to that infomineo report from earlier.
Due to a laptop’s larger size and complex components, its manufacture is several times more, at around 200kg CO2-equivalent. Ooft…
So, before you rush to replace a malfunctioning device, consider getting it repaired instead. Repairing extends the life of your tech and reduces the demand for new products, breaking that link in the chain of a device’s environmental impact.
Many local repair shops such as likewizerepair.co.uk specialise in fixing common issues like cracked screens or battery replacements. You can also explore DIY repair guides on websites like iFixit or, of course, YouTube to fix minor issues yourself.
Or, if you do have to purchase a new smartphone or laptop, consider investing in a modular device. These innovative devices have been designed with interchangeable components, making them easier to repair and upgrade.
Brands like the Dutch company Fairphone and US laptop manufacturer Framework have introduced modular devices that prioritise repairability and sustainability, helping you extend a device’s lifespan and reduce electronic waste.
Buy Refurbished Tech
On average, a brand-new smartphone generates 85 kilograms of emissions in its first year of use. With the average user switching phones every two years without recycling the retired device, that’s a whole lot of totally avoidable environmental impact.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint, then, is by only buying pre-owned, refurbished devices. Look for reliable platforms like eBay, Swappa, or certified refurbished sections on manufacturers’ websites to find high-quality used devices at a fraction of the cost of new ones. Many retailers in the UK, including Amazon, Argos, and Currys PC World, offer certified refurbished devices with warranties to ensure quality and reliability.
Dispose Of Old Mobile Phones & Laptops Safely
Improper disposal of electronic waste contributes to pollution and resource depletion. When it’s time to part with your old mobile phone, make sure you dispose of it safely.
There are several ways to dispose of a smartphone or laptop. Here are some methods to consider:
- Recycling centres: Most local councils in the UK provide facilities for recycling electronic waste, also known as Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). Visit the Recycle Now website to find your nearest recycling centre, where you can safely dispose of your smartphone and laptop.
- Retailer take-back schemes: Some electronics retailers offer take-back schemes for your old devices, even if you’re not making a new purchase. Major retailers such as Currys PC World, Argos, and John Lewis offer this service.
- Manufacturer recycling programs: Many manufacturers, like Apple, Samsung, and Dell, have recycling programs in place. You can send your old device directly to them, or drop it off at one of their designated locations.
- Donate to charities: Some charities accept used smartphones and laptops, particularly if they are still in working condition. The British Heart Foundation, for example, accepts electrical items, including laptops and smartphones, and resells them to raise funds. Another option is Computer Aid International, which provides refurbished computers to schools and communities in need.
- Give away: If your smartphone or laptop is still in working order, then sites like eBay, Gumtree, and Freecycle are good platforms for finding new homes for your unwanted tech.
- Trade-in programs: When purchasing a new device, inquire about trade-in programs offered by the retailer or manufacturer. They may provide discounts on your new purchase in exchange for your old device, and responsibly recycle it.
Always remember to remove any personal data from your smartphone and laptop before disposing of them by performing a factory reset and, in the case of laptops, securely erasing the hard drive.
The Bottom Line
Making eco-conscious tech choices is not only beneficial for the environment but also helps you save money in the long run. By adopting sustainable shopping habits like buying second-hand, repairing, and choosing energy-efficient devices, we can collectively reduce our carbon footprint and contribute to a greener future. So, next time you’re in the market for a new gadget, remember to think green!