Fairer phones: gadgets helping us get a grip on e-waste
HOME & GARDEN | February 1, 2020

Fairer phones: gadgets helping us get a grip on e-waste

The Greenredeem team are big fans of Fairtrade Fortnight (Monday 24th February — Sunday 8th March 2020), so for each week of February on the Greener Living blog, we’ve decided to feature an industry in which fair trade is flourishing. 

In our fourth and final week we’re taking a look at fairly traded tech, but before we get plugged into that, we need to talk about our big message for this month…  


Fairer trade is helping re-forest agricultural land

Last week we learned how a reliable income from fair trade practices is helping producers conserve water and protect wildlife by switching to more sustainable agricultural practices. 

Small-scale tea farmer Jane Sepkazi, a member of fair trade co-operative Sireet OEP based near Lake Victoria in western Kenya, says, “Fairtrade has taught me so many things. One of them is environmental conservation. I planted trees on my farm to provide shade for my crops. When they shed leaves, the leaves decompose, increasing the organic content of the soil and making it more fertile. The tea yield has gone up.”

Together, the tea producer co-operatives in the region have chosen to plant more than 150,000 trees in and around their farms, helping to support local biodiversity while naturally protecting their crops from the effects of rising temperatures due to climate change.

If you’ve been inspired by this month’s fair trade focus, could you help us spread the word about how buying fair trade helps protect and restore the environment?  


Modular parts of the Fairphone 3

A fair trade phone designed for DIY repairs and upgrades

In the high turnover smartphone industry of yearly ‘flagship phone’ launches and constant pressure to ditch your existing phone for a newer model, the built-to-last Fairphone 3 is something of an anomaly. 


Fairly traded metals in fairly managed factories

Assembled in a factory under safe, healthy and respectful working conditions using fairtrade gold and recycled plastics, Fairphones are designed to make repairs or upgrades simpler than wiring a plug. 

When the lithium ion battery inevitably reaches the end of its life? Unclip the back, pull out the old battery, pop a new battery into place and clip on the back. Done! 

Unlike most phones, the Fairphone is screwed together, not glued together. A small cross-head Phillips screwdriver is supplied with the phone for carrying out replacements of the screen and display, camera module, speaker module and, in fact, all the parts that go into building this modular smartphone. 

Ideally, Fairphone owners will be able to keep up with technological innovations by simply switching out phone parts as standards move on. Watch one of Fairphone’s industrial designers showing how the swappable modules will help to reduce electronic waste: 


Your phone can still be more ethical, even if it’s not strictly ‘fair’

While the initial cost of the Fairphone 3 (€450, approximately £380) might put this astonishingly ethical phone over many people’s budget, there are still plenty of ways to be more ethical when choosing from more ‘ordinary’ phones:

>> Look for a phone that’s ‘new to you’ — we can save hundreds of pounds a year on standard phone contracts by switching to a SIM-only contract and buying a phone outright. We can save hundreds of pounds more AND be far more eco-friendly by choosing a lightly-used refurbished phone from a reputable resale company such as Envirofone or Music Magpie

As an example, a brand new Samsung S8 currently retails for between £350-£400, whereas you can rescue a refurbished model in perfect working condition from Envirofone for just over £210.  

>> Look for a phone that’s easy to repair — screens get broken, lithium ion batteries will eventually stop holding a charge. Make sure your phone is one of those that’s cheap to repair and you’ll potentially be able to get more use out of it. We checked the iFixit phone ratings to see which phones are currently top of the pops in terms of repairability:

           >> Best rated brands from the last three years: Fairphone 3 (10/10) and the German-designed Shift 6M modular phone (9/10) are standouts. 

           >> Best rated of the ‘ordinary’ brands from the last three years: OnePlus 5 (7/10), Google Pixel 3a (6/10)  and iPhone 8 (6/10). 

           >> Worst rated from the last three years: Samsung Galaxy Fold (2/10), Samsung Galaxy S10 (3/10) and Huawei P20 Pro (4/10).   

>> Always, always recycle your phone at the end of its life — like most electrical gadgets, our phones contain substances harmful to the environment if they end up in landfill. On the bright side, our phones also contain a lot of useful metals that can be harvested in order to make new tech. 

Don’t let your phone languish at the end of its life, especially as you could make a bit of cash by selling it to a phone recycler. The Money Saving Expert has a handy guide on recycling your mobile for the best price. 


Would you ever buy a modular phone? Do you wish there were more fairtrade options when it comes to tech? Share your thoughts with us on Facebook or Twitter


>> A quick way to save energy? Recycle! 

>> Is this the future? Clothing made to be remade

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