Flickr: David DennisKeep Your Cell Phone Longer, Save the Planet (and Other Things You Should Know About The Device Of Our Lives)In the space of a decade, cell phones have gone from novelties to arguably the most central objects in our lives. Cellular has just adopted a new full QWERTY feature phone to their lineup, the Samsung Profile.
They connect us to our loved ones, enable busineses, help us behave more intelligently, and give citizens a viral voice -- especially important in countries where phones are the only real means people have to spread information.And yet, despite how close we are to our cell phones -- paying a small fortune for them, nesting them in our palms, talking to them all the time -- we know amazingly little about them and the heavy impact they're having on our world.
This is the same model as the Samsung Restore on Sprint, and the Samsung Messager III on MetroPCS.The Samsung Profile features a slide-out full QWERTY keyboard, as well as a numeric keypad on the front.
In the spirit of thinking more carefully about how these devices impact lives around the world -- and our own -- and in the interest of reducing, reusing and repairing -- here's a dive into a trove of data on cell phones.Wait -- How Many Cell Phones Do We Have?There are nearly two cell phones in existence for every three people on earth. While the top 4 carriers still get first crack at the newest devices, the regional carriers are competing with straightforward, low-cost plans. All of them leached hazardous amounts of lead -- on average, more than 17 times the federal threshold for what constitutes hazardous waste.
That sounds a bit rosy considering the continuing growth of mobile devices, especially in markets where waste regulation moves at a glacial pace (think China)On top of the energy and cost associated with extracting the materials that go into a cellphone, the disposal of cellphones often leaves a toxic imprint on the environment.


And read Jon Mooallem's excellent New York Times Magazine piece from last year, "The Afterlife of Cellphones"(Sources: US EPA, Inform)How Much Power Do Cell Phones Use?Phones and their batteries are getting more efficient. As the Times notes, "Cellphones emit non-ionizing radiation, waves of energy that are too weak to break chemical bonds or to set off the DNA damage known to cause cancer.
Critics say many studies are flawed for that reason, and also because they do not distinguish between casual and heavy use of mobile devicesA New York Times series this summer reignited the discussion over cellphone usage and distraction while driving -- and the lack of regulation or enforcement around the practice. For teenagers today, the cell phone has always been a part of their world, sometimes for the worst. But any debate over the downsides of a life mediated through mobile devices must also weigh the powerful positive impact that mobile technology is having in the political sphere.Mobile phones are helping to expand environmental awareness, reduce inefficiencies and find solutions. If it breaks, falls in the toilet, or gets scratched, chances are your inner MacGyver can fix it; check out this great round-up of how to videos for that.
If you switch to a new provider, ask about keeping your current phone, or check out a service like Houdinisoft.
And if you must get rid of it and your phone still works, find one of the many organizations that will take your cell phone and donate it to someone who needs it elsewhere.Lifeline for Africa collects used phones and sends them to Africa.


The UK conservation NGO Woodland Trust receives a donation for every phone it recycles, while Telenor aims to plant 25 trees for each phone recycled through them.Recycle Your Cell PhoneThrowing a cell phone into the trash is actually illegal in California and Maine and in Westchester County, New York. In the United States, the EPA launched a cell-phone recycling program in 2008 in partnership with popular service providers, retailers, and device makers like LG Electronics, Motorola, Nokia, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. They're so enthusiastic about cellphone recycling, the EPA folks even made a podcast about it.A number of companies have signed the Basel Action Network's Electronic Recycler's Pledge of True Stewardship, the most rigorous criteria for sustainable and socially just electronics recycling. Many of the participants provide convenient mail-in service from any state.Ultimately the trick to more responsible phone use (apart from not using them at funerals and at the movies) is remembering the impact of their disposal, and thinking twice before we toss them.



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