3 Ways the iPhone Could Be More Environmentally- Friendly

iPhone & the Environment

It’s a shame that the iPhone, which Apple pitches as the innovative and intuitive “revolutionary mobile device” of tomorrow, is actually one of the least environmentally-friendly handsets on the mobile phone market.

A Greenpeace report released yesterday pointed to Apple’s use of toxic chemicals in the iPhone, including brominated flame retardants and PVCs, which are so harmful to the environment that even other cell phone companies have abandoned them.

“Nokia, Sony Ericsson, and Motorola have removed some of the worst chemicals from their phones and identified extra toxic chemicals they intend to remove in the future — even beyond the minimal legal requirements,” Greenpeace said on its website.

So what is Apple waiting for? I think their progressive reputation would benefit from a campaign to make the iPhone more environmentally friendly. I’m proposing three things Apple should do to make the iPhone less harmful to the environment:

1. Ditch the chemicals.

The brominated flame retardants and PVCs in the iPhone are dangerous chemicals that can contaminate groundwater both during their production and via landfills after products containing them, like the iPhone, have been tossed away. The phthalates in PVC can cause reproductive harm, and the EPA lists the chemical as a “probable carcinogen”.

Unfortunately, many people are not aware of these dangers, and will dump their old cell phones in the trash. Keep in mind that you should never throw away old cell phones. If your iPhone breaks, recycle it. If you plan to buy an iPhone, recycle your old cell phone. Which brings me to my next suggestion for Apple:

2. Encourage new iPhone buyers to recycle old phones.

It took me a while to figure out that Apple had a cell phone recycling program, since it is clumped in with the iPod recycling program.

My guess is that I’m not the only person with an iPhone who didn’t notice Apple’s cell phone recycling program. Apple should draw more attention to it, particularly for new iPhone buyers to recycle their old phones instead of tossing them into the trash.

When you’re at the Apple Store checkout about to purchase a new iPhone, the person at the cash register should ask you, “Would you like to recycle your old mobile phone and get a discount on your iPhone?” Why not?

The recycling program should focus on iPhone recycling as well. In addition to the bromides and PVCs, iPhone’s lithium-ion battery can introduce dangerous metals into our drinking water if not recycled properly.

Though not many people are getting rid of their iPhones just yet, after the holidays roll around and new versions are introduced, some of us will need a place to put old iPhones. Apple should raise awareness about its iPhone recycling program and play a hand in reducing global pollution.

3. Make long-lasting iPhones & focus on software upgrades.

Instead of promoting a disposable cell phone culture, why doesn’t Apple stick with one single iPhone model for now and focus its innovations on software updates?

Apple delivered a huge innovation in September via a software update, the iPhone WiFi Music Store (which also debuted on the iPod touch). In time we’ll realize the expansive possibilities that these kinds of software updates allow.

Apple could add a near-endless amount of features to the iPhone via software updates, with virtually no impact on the environment. Software updates require no material resources and produce virtually no waste, which lowers the expense for Apple, too.

Here’s what I propose: Apple should deliver both

  1. free iPhone updates, and
  2. “premium upgrades” that they charge for

The free updates could add new features, while the premium upgrades could be more substantial. Apple could even team up with other companies and offer third-party software upgrades, like Photoshop on iPhone or something.

I would be happy to keep my iPhone for years, as long as the interface is steadily evolving. iPhone is the most sturdy, durable phone I’ve ever had. I’ve dropped it countless times with no protective case and it’s not affected in the slightest. Why get rid of a perfectly good phone just to have new features? Apple should make iPhone about the software.

Of course, this model would not allow for adding hardware features like 3G, GPS or a video camera to the iPhone. I wonder if it would be possible for Apple to make the iPhone physically expandable so that you could take it to the Apple Store and get new hardware additions soldered on for a price.

This kind of commitment to sustainability would no doubt help Apple stand out as a true innovator in technology. “Green” is a growing consumer trend that Apple shouldn’t ignore. Its forward-thinking image could suffer if it doesn’t pay more attention to these increasingly important environmental issues.

7 thoughts on “3 Ways the iPhone Could Be More Environmentally- Friendly”

  1. Yes you are right iPhone is very unfriendly for our “planet”. Look at bateries. Most people will throw away iPhone because they will not be able to change bateries by itself. Good post.


  2. Stacy, I’m sorry my blog raised your gas prices. I was only trying to think of some ways Apple could produce less waste for the landfills. Didn’t realize I was killing our country. 🙁


  3. Stuff like this is doing me in. I believe in taking care of what God has blessed us with to the best of my ability. But it is political movements like this that are killing our country.

    By the way. Thank you all you environmentalist for $4.00 gas prices. You can try and blame it on President Bush but we all know it’s your lobbying efforts that have kept us from not being dependent on foreign oil.

  4. Thanks for the info about recycling phones. We’re still considering the iPhone, but it’s good to know that we can recycle our old phones at the Apple store if we decide to get them. Do you know what kind of discount they offer if you recycle your old phone?

  5. I’ve got a beef with Greenpeace and want them to change THEIR stance. How does one go about it? When was that election held that elected them to …. what high position? Who do THEY report to? Who peer-reviews their faulty, error-laced output? Who funds them? These clowns are nothing more than self-appointed shake-down artists, no better or worse than the Mafia. Greenpeace is where old communists go to die.

    Your suggestions, particularly #3, are about as dumb as anything one would expect from Microsoft. “Free updates”? They got that already — two of them in 5 months. Premium upgrades? You mean create a tiered product tree just like Vista, where different people have different features? Suggestion #4: only Greenpeace card-carrying members would be allowed the “Ultra” upgrade… “The rest of you piss ants, go away and don’t bother us.” Puke.

    Maybe the reason your phone doesn’t break when dropped is BECAUSE of the dreaded PVCs. Did you ever consider that? Maybe if Greenpeace gets its way, your beloved iPhone would shatter like a crystal the next time you drop it. And I bet you’d bitch about that, too.

    “Apple should make iPhone about the software” (sic). You’re so dumb that you don’t even understand that the iPhone is ALREADY about software. Anyone who knows anything about it knows that.

    This is probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. Here’s hoping you do YOUR part to reduce global pollution and go jump off a bridge. Sing a chorus of Kumbaya on your way down. Humanity’s collective IQ will rise accordingly.

  6. Chris – this is far and away the best post I’ve seen on the Greenpeace iPhone report. Thanks! You offer three practical and realistic steps Apple could take to go green with the iPhone. I hope they take your advice!


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