Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Cost of Communication

When asked what their favorite or most used electronic is, I would bet a lot of people would answer a cell phone. But have you ever wondered about the impact of this super important device? James Katz, professor of communication and director of Rutgers University's Center for Mobile Communications Studies, says:"Current statistics indicate that two billion people currently have subscriptions for cellular phones... enough phones for one third of the planet's population. In fact, there are some countries with more cell phones than people. In the United States, 66% of the population owns a cell phone: U.S. population stands at 297 million, with 197 million cell phone users. Collectively, people spent 675 billion minutes talking on cell phones in June 2005."

If you take that number, 197,000,000 users, and times it by the 10 gallons of water it takes to make a single cell phone chip it becomes 1,970,000,000. Nearly 2 billion gallons of water that cannot be used for anything else, possibly ever, because the water becomes polluted with acids, chromium, solvents, various metals, and more.

What can we do to stop this though? A few people refraining from buying cell phones doesn't seem like much help, especially since it wont stop the companies from continuing to make the phones. But there are choices: like Hi-Tech Wealth Co.'s TW S116 Solar Mobile Phone, the first solar powered phone. Or like Motorola's new W233 Renew, which is made from recycles water bottles and "offsets the carbon dioxide required to manufacture, distribute and operate the Renew through investments in renewable energy sources and reforestation."

There are even companies coming out to help dispose of phones without putting them in landfills or places where they could do harm to the environment, many of these places can be found through the Chicago Recycling Coalition.

But that doesn't solve the problem of waste water, does it. And honestly, I don't know what does. What I think is that, though communication is important and cell phones are very useful to have around, very few things are worth the waste they cause, not even the phones that cause it.

Cell Phone Culture
Corp Watch
Standford News Service
Green Living Ideas
New York Times


LynnA said...

On Friday March 13th, less than a week after this posting, posted an article on Green Cell phones. It mentined the W233 Renew and other phones, some not available in the US. I don't think the environmental impact of electronics can be stopped but it can be minimized. I think groups like have to keep putting the pressure on companies to make environmentally friendly products. The consumer has to vote with their wallet. The search needs to continue to reuse, renew, recycle; it needs to be cheap and easy. Progress will be made; it has to be.

katelaugh said...

I think we have to have a serious shift of values in not always wanting the newest, fastest, but still cheapest Whatever. Until that happens, consumers will continue to put up with poorly made products that don't last, and technology that's forced out of date just to drive sales.