Look, I’m not here to tell you not to buy your annual iPhone. What am I, your bank account?
I’m also not your mother. I am, however, a fan of Planet Earth, as well as an advocate of sustained life on this rapidly deteriorating rock. Which is why I feel compelled to share new findings by Canadian researchers that reveal how our disposable relationship with smartphones is devastating the environment.
According to a paper published by two McMaster University researchers, the carbon footprint of communications technology, aka smartphones, is growing at an alarming rate. By 2040, the sector will account for about 17% of the world’s carbon emissions. That’s half the toxic burden being placed on our already fragile planet by the entire transportation sector.
Manufacturing smartphones is about as sustainable as driving a diesel Hummer into a vegan. Before you even buy a smartphone, the device will have already inflicted 85% of its environmental damage.
That’s a big problem for a world that is estimated to support almost 9 billion smartphones by 2040, let alone the same number of people. And like most things burning a hole through our atmosphere, the problem is exacerbated by devilish business practices.
The study points a finger at telecom providers foisting two-year contracts on customers by luring them with subsidized phones. After 24 months you can get a brand new phone, again for the low, low price of irreversible damage to everything around you. And the cycle continues.
“Clearly this business model, while highly profitable to smartphone manufacturers and the telecom industry, is unsustainable and quite detrimental to the global efforts in (greenhouse gas) reductions,” wrote the researchers. “The technology is fine. It’s the business model that’s driving the very frequent changes and upgrades.”
Of course, the technology is absolutely not fine. Show me one person who’s had a reasonably functional phone beyond their contract.
The solution is an easy one: recycle the parts of used phones and integrate them into new models. Imagine pitching that to Apple, lol.