cell phones

Got Gadgets and Gizmos A-Plenty

By Felicia Chou

I’m waiting for the moment when smart phones become obsolete: when scientists announce I can now share the latest doge meme, what I had for lunch, and embarrassing pictures from my last holiday party straight to the rest of the world without some clunky device. Forget game consoles, computers, tablets, and cameras. Someday, someone’s going to find a way to incorporate all those electronic devices into a miniscule hologram projector that can be embedded into something as small as a ring. 

But while we wait for science to catch up to our wildest technological fantasies, we’ve got to stick with what we’ve got. And what we’ve got are much larger gadgets and gizmos that are made of valuable resources and special materials. We’re talking about all sorts of metals, plastics, and glass, all of which take energy to mine and manufacture.

That’s why I enjoyed helping to put together our new infographic about the secret life of a cell phone. Take a look – it’ll help you make more environmentally-friendly choices to make a difference.

That includes using your electronics to their full potential, like upgrading the software and hardware as needed to get the most bang for your buck. You can also give unwanted electronics a second chance by donating or selling them. And if you’re ready to ecycle, make sure you do it with a third-party certified recycler that has protecting human health and the environment in mind.

Like floppy disks, typewriters, pagers, and virtual pocket pets, our shiny new gadgets will ultimately be replaced by superior things. But that’s ok, as long as the resources and materials we put into our gadgets today can be reused for better things tomorrow. And hopefully by the time we can share the latest video with touchable holograms, wasting resources will also have become obsolete.

About the author: Felicia Chou is a program analyst in the Office of Resource Conservation and Recovery. She is looking forward to the future of technology, sans homicidal robots, zombie-causing viruses, and apocalyptic computer failures.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Don’t Let That Used Phone Go To Waste

By Lina Younes

The other day, I was looking through the newspaper ads checking out cell phones, computers, TVs and other electronics. Even though I’m not planning to buy anything special right now, I like to see what the market has to offer. The latest developments in mobile technology and electronics are hard to resist, though, even for the most frugal shopper. It’s funny, but when I even hint at getting new cell phones for the family, my children quickly declare that the new features are “must-haves.”

While the new features and available applications might be great, think carefully about whether you really need a new phone. Is your current phone damaged beyond repair, or can you still use it? Have you thought of donating or recycling it?

Electronic products, like cell phones and computers, contain valuable materials like precious metals. By recycling them, you can conserve natural resources and avoid water and air pollution generated during the manufacturing process. Recycling a million cell phones means we can recover 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium. In turn, these recovered materials can be reused to manufacture new products.

Some retailers offer the option to donate or recycle electronics at their stores. You can check out which companies have recycling centers in your area.  Community organizations also work with retailers to host e-cycling events. You’d be surprised how many electronics are recycled at these events.

If you decide that your current cell phone is perfectly fine and you don’t need a new one, we might have a green mobile app available for you. Check out our site for nearly 300 apps that will help you understand and protect the environment. This green technology is just a click away.

 About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Got an old cell phone?

cell phonesDo you know what to do with your old cell phone when it stops working or when you buy a new one?

You  might decide to keep the old one as a back-up in case or you could pass it along to a friend that might not have one.  This is a great way to recycle or reuse!

Sometimes people throw  away old cell phones in the same fashion we throw away other items we don’t use anymore. Our electronics are made up of lots of resources like metal, plastic, and glass, which can be recycled and used to make other devices. These resources are valuable and take lots of energy to make. Many electronics contain elements that take time to find in the earth’s natural environment.  By throwing away these items, we’re wasting non-renewable energy (like gas or fossil fuel) instead of trying to reuse them in some way.

Most electronics also contain parts that can’t be broken down in the environment – they aren’t biodegradable.  If they don’t biodegrade they have the potential to sit in landfills taking up more and more space.  Some may even start to leak harmful liquids and substances into the ground like lead and mercury.  These toxins can make their way into our water supply and pollute it.

What if we donated used electronics for reuse? It would extend the lives of valuable products. Recycling electronics prevents valuable materials from going into the waste stream.  One of the best way to get rid of old electronics is to recycle, reuse, and refurbish!

Here are some ways to eCycle electronics:

1. Check manufacturer’s websites for recycling programs. Sometimes you can save a percentage on your next purchase by recycling!
2. Donate electronics to charities. Some charities are even recycling old phones!
3. Ask friends or family if they want your used electronic item.
4. Check with local electronic stores for recycling kiosk.

If you have any questions or are searching for resources, check the EPA’s website on eCycling for more information:
http://www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/materials/ecycling/

Wendy Dew is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8 in Denver, Colorado.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Everything Starts with a Question

By Lina Younes

I’ve always been fascinated by how children learn. In their early years, they are practically like sponges absorbing everything, constantly incorporating information and experiences from their environment. Their innate curiosity moves them to explore the world around them. They don’t have preconceived notions that impede learning. Nothing is too difficult. Technological advances are not a challenge to them. Observe how they figure out their toys and play with electronic gadgets. Adults need manuals. They just figure things out. Here I’m speaking from my experience with cell phones. I confess, sometimes I’m technologically challenged, to put it mildly. I approach some mobile technology with trepidation, while my children, even my 9 year old, use cell phones and mobile apps like they were second nature. I’m sure they’ll have a good laugh when they read this blog entry.

As children grow, they get to the stage of asking frequent questions. “But, why, Mommy?” While the frequent questions might test the patience of parents, they can serve as golden opportunities for us to teach children about the environment and love for science.

When you come to think of it, whether we are talking about environmental protection, the sciences, engineering,or inventions in general, everything starts with a simple question. What causes problem x, y, or z? How can I solve the problem? How do things work? How can I make things better?

I’m puzzled how children seem to “outgrow” that innate curiosity. Let’s foster that sense of wonder and love of learning. It will benefit us all and generations to come. Imagine: what would have happened if Sir Isaac Newton was not curious about apples falling down? Would he have been intrigued by the laws of physics? If he didn’t ask questions, would he have become a famous mathematician and scientist? Perhaps, but as I mentioned, it all starts with a question….

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as Acting Associate Director for Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Now If Only It Could Cook, Too?

By Lina Younes

I’ve been looking at ads for new cell phones lately. Our family cell phone plan is up for renewal, so now is a good time to see what all these communication gadgets have to offer. In our family discussions, we are exploring our telephone needs and new options while staying on a reasonable budget. Do we want just a basic phone plan? How much texting do we need? Do we need the latest version of smart phones? Do we need a super camera? Are we looking for great graphics capabilities? Bluetooth capability? How many hours of talk time before recharging? How about all those mobile apps?

It’s funny how our mobile needs have changed over the years. I remember the first mobile phones were pretty big and clunky. The best thing about those first wireless devices was to be able to reach family and friends from any location, especially in an emergency. With time, mobile phones have become much smaller and have acquired multiple features that were impossible just a few years back. Yes, thanks to all communications engineers for developing this mobile technology.

As I look at all these cool apps available today, I would like to highlight EPA’s green mobile features. Please check out our mobile site for information on EPA’s news, connecting to EPA’s social media sites, our environmental tips, and special apps that can help you check out the daily forecast for the UV index and learn about the environment in your area. I find it amusing how my youngest discusses mobile apps as if they always existed. I still marvel at the technology. They seem to do everything under the sun. Now if they could only cook, I might consider getting the most advanced smart phone!

If you decide to purchase new cell phones during this holiday season, don’t forget to recycle your old ones! We definitely want to keep usable materials out of landfills and turn them into new products. There might be a local cell phone drop off center near you. Check out our recycling video for some green fun and more information on ecycling.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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What Have You Done With Your Old Cell Phone?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Lea la versión en español a continuación de esta entrada en inglés.
Some links exit EPA or have Spanish content. Exit EPA Disclaimer

Modern technology enables us to be connected 24-7. Whether it’s via a computer, a PDA or a cell phone—most of us have some portable device to connect with family, friends, or work at a moment’s notice. Some of us rely on modern technology to be “connected” to the office even while away. (I recently committed that egregious act—repeatedly– during a recent family vacation). Others rely on the cell phone to text to or chat with friends about their daily comings and goings.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have four daughters. My 6 year old still does not have a cell phone, but she’s quite tech-savvy for her early years. She often surprises me with her technology skills. On the other hand, my other three daughters are avid Internet and cell phone users. Each with her own personality and cell phone needs. That brings me to today’s issue. How do you keep up with your mobile needs without hurting the environment?

I pose the question because many of us discard our unwanted cell phones after a couple of years even though they still are in good condition because we want the latest in mobile technology or perhaps we want a battery with more durability. These unwanted cell phones and accessories often clutter our drawers or, in worse cases, landfills. These discarded e-devices are made with precious materials that can be recycled. So why don’t we?

There are many ways to donate or recycle these used cell phones and other used electronics. Learn more about our Plug-In to eCycling program as well as our cell phone recycling campaign in English and Spanish. Let’s teach our children more about the life cycle of a cell phone, perhaps they’ll have a greater appreciation for these communication devices to limit e-waste—and unnecessary text messages as well.

¿Qué hacer con su viejo teléfono celular?

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

La tecnología moderna nos permite estar conectados las 24 horas del día. Sea mediante la computadora, un PDA o un teléfono celular—la mayoría de nosotros tiene algún dispositivo portátil para estar conectados al instante con familiares, amigos o el trabajo. Algunos de nosotros dependemos de la tecnología moderna para estar “conectados” a la oficina cuando estamos de vacaciones. (Cometí ese pecado mortal repetidamente durante unas vacaciones recientes con mi familia) Otros dependen de su celular para enviar mensajes de texto o simplemente conversar con amigos sobre el quehacer diario.

Como he mencionado antes, tengo cuatro hijas. La pequeña todavía no tiene un celular, pero se maneja muy bien con la tecnología moderna pese a su edad. A veces me sorprenden sus destrezas tecnológicas. Por otra parte, mis otras tres hijas son empecinadas internautas y usuarias de móviles. Cada una tiene su propia personalidad y gustos de telefonía móvil. Eso me lleva al tema de hoy, ¿cómo podemos adaptarnos a nuestras necesidades de telefonía móvil sin hacerle daño al medio ambiente?

Planteo la pregunta porque muchos de nosotros descartamos nuestros celulares usados dentro de un par de años a pesar de que todavía están en buenas condiciones o porque simplemente queremos la última tecnología móvil o buscamos una batería con mayor durabilidad. Estos celulares y accesorios indeseados muchas veces son arrinconados en nuestras gavetas o peor, amontonados en nuestros rellenos sanitarios. Estos aparatos electrónicos descartados tienen materiales preciosos que podemos reciclar. ¿Entonces, por qué no lo hacemos?

Hay muchas maneras de donar o reciclar estos celulares u otros aparatos electrónicos usados. Aprenda más sobre nuestro programa “Conéctese al reciclaje electrónico”, así como nuestra campaña de reciclaje de celulares en español. Enseñémosle a nuestros hijos sobre el ciclo de vida del teléfono celular, quizás tengan una mayor apreciación por estos aparatos de comunicaciones y así limiten los desechos electrónicos—y los mensajes de texto innecesarios también.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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