Sustainable mobile phones

There are now more mobile phones in the world than there are people, that’s over 7 billion! Of course any contribution on the scale is going to have a tremendous impact on the environment.

What are the environmental effects?

Most mobile phones are made with heavy metals like lead, cadmium and mercury – only 15% of mobile phones in Europe are recycled, the rest end up in landfill sites where they release toxins into the soil and atmosphere – and of course that’s generally in the developing world where most non-recyclable waste ends up.

Getting the mobile phone to the shop produces around 36kg CO2 and takes about 834 MJ of electricity. But it doesn’t stop there, using the phone for a year produces 47kg CO2 and since the average contract length is 18 months that’s 106.5kg CO2 in the life time of the phone.

To put that in perspective your average petrol car is producing around 240g CO2 per mile, so the phone is the equivalent of driving about 443 miles. And times that by 7 billion.

How do you reduce the environmental impact?

– Switch off the charger when not connected to the phone and when the battery is full.

– Turn your phone off at night.

– Reduce the screen brightness – turning it down to 70 – 80% is barely noticeable and the screen is the most energy consuming element of the phone.

– Recycle it when you’re done

The most environmentally friendly mobile phones

Most major mobile manufacturers are talking the talk on sustainable mobile phones but are they walking the walk? Well yes actually. Here are some of the environmental forerunners:

The Sony Ericsson greenheart – The Greenheart uses 50% recycled plastic in their casing and a variety of other methods. This is in line with Sony Ericsson aim to reduce their carbon footprint by 15% by 2015

Motorola have the renew – The casing of which is made from 100% recycled water bottles and the company claim that the phone production is in fact carbon neutral.

The ZTE Coral 200 Solar is an entirely solar mobile phone, it’s a basic phone which is actually aimed at people without access to power rather than aiming to cut the usage down.

The Samsung blue Earth is a solar powered touchscreen phone, the solar panels can supply 35% of the phones energy requirements. It’s also made from a significant amount of recycled materials and no heavy metals.


However it’s worth noting the mobile phone manufacturers who are creating the greenest mainstream mobile phones because this will likely have a big effect on the figures:

Samsung get honourable mention here for really optimising the efficiency of the way their phones across the board use their charge and Nokia have been using an increasing proportion of recycled materials in phone construction with their Nokia 700 getting a 5 star energy rating.

But the most energy efficient mainstream phone has to be the LG Rumor Reflex – Made from 31% recycled material, carbon neutral and built from environmentally sensitive materials it also has a 5 star energy rating.

Written by TreeThinker

Passionate about the Earth and those who inhabit it. An engineer (BEng (Hons), MSEE) from Oxfordshire, UK, specialising in designing for a sustainable future. A member of the Society of Environmental Engineers and a keen environmental advocate who volunteers for several grass roots sustainability groups. I work full time as a project manager for a renewable energy company based in Oxford and also run ‘TreeThinker’ (; converting previous pasture land into a rich permaculture farm growing produce for sale locally. I deliver workshops on sustainable living, including building renewable energy technologies, as well as workshops for schools discussing 'Energy as a resource' amongst other topics. I am qualified in ‘Information, advice and guidance’ (level 4) and experienced at teaching practical skills. I'm also a keen cyclist and have a love of wordplay - writing a blog on etymology (

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