5 Tips to Green your Cell Phone
✔ Unplug your charger when not in use – Be sure to unplug your charger when you finished charging. Cell phone chargers are electricity ‘vampires’, which means they consume electricity the entire time they are plugged in. Only about five percent of the power consumed by phone chargers is used to charge phones; 95 percent is consumed by the charger when no phone is plugged in.
✔ Be aware of the toxic components – Cell phones are made from many toxic materials. Many manufacturers are now beginning to replace these materials with safer alternatives.
- Cadmium – Cadmium is used in cell phone batteries. Cadmium is a PBT and probable human carcinogen that can cause lung, liver, and kidney damage and is toxic to wildlife. Because of its toxicity, cadmium is banned from electronic products under the EU’s RoHS Directive.
- Lead – Lead is a heavy metal and a suspected carcinogen. Its main application in cell phones and other electronic products is in the solder used to attach components to each other and to the printed wiring board.
- Mercury – Mercury can be part of a number of cellular phone components. In addition to the phone’s PC boards, the phone’s backlight and the battery can contain mercury. Because mercury is liquid at room temperatures, it can quickly find its way into waterways, where it builds up in sediments and enters the food chain. Mercury causes brain damage when ingested.
- Arsenic – Some cell phones and cell phone batteries contain arsenic. By disposing of phones containing arsenic in a dump, that arsenic will eventually leach out of the phone and into the environment. Acute arsenic poisoning results in a relatively quick death. Constant, low levels of exposure can cause severe problems, including acute skin conditions.
- Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) – Brominated flame retardants are added to plastics to reduce the risk of fire. They are used primarily in the phones’ printed wiring boards, cables, and plastic housings. BFRs have been associated with cancer and disruption of the immune and endocrine systems in humans.
✔ Dispose of your cell phone properly – When you are ready to get a new cell phone, be sure never to throw it into the trash. Cell phones contain a variety of toxic chemicals. If they end up in a landfill, these toxic chemicals will leach into the groundwater or be released into the air. To properly dispose of your cell phone, either recycle it or donate it. A good first place to begin is to check with the manufacturer or retailer where you bought the phone to see if they have a take-back program in place. If they do not, try to find a local recycling center. If your cell phone is in good condition, you may want to donate it. A search on the internet should provide you with local donation options.
✔ Make sure the cell phone’s power adapter meets or exceeds EnergyStar requirements – Because a majority of a cell phone’s power consumption comes from the charger, it is very important this equipment is highly energy-efficient. EnergyStar publishes performance criteria for power adapters.
✔ Look for an environmental status report from the cell phone manufacturer – More and more cell phone manufacturers are providing information about the sustainability of their products. The things to look for in this report are mentions of arsenic-free glass; brominated flame retardant-free; mercury-free LCD display; PVC-free; the number of recycled materials used in packaging and the energy-efficiency rating of the charger.
✔ Be aware of the cell phone’s material efficiency – Reducing the material footprint of a product helps maximize shipping efficiency. It also helps reduce energy consumed during production and material waste generated at the end of the product’s life. Many manufacturers will list the weight of the various manufacturing components. Look for phones made from recycled or recyclable materials. The most common materials include stainless steel, glass, plastic, battery, circuit boards, and display.