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Sustainable phones and eco-friendly tech tips

Get our expert advice on how to use your devices in a more environmentally-friendly way.

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How to be more sustainable with your phone

image of a refurbished iphone

Smartphones and broadband have completely changed the way we live our lives.

They’ve provided a digital space for all of us to work, play and socialise from home, helping us to reduce our environmental impact in multiple walks of life.

However, they still require a lot of energy to use. And for every set of emissions our devices help us reduce, they create more of their own through things like factory production, transportation and waste.

Thankfully though, in recent years, phone makers and providers have made it a lot easier to be more eco-friendly with your devices.

So from phone repairs to trade-ins, here’s how you can use your tech more sustainably.

The life cycle of a phone

For the last decade or so, we’ve been replacing our smartphones every couple of years.

When the time came to renew our mobile contracts, the latest handset would often be thrown in for a very reasonable price, and many of us would abandon our old device by either throwing it away or leaving it in a drawer somewhere in the house.

But there are much better ways to treat your phone, and they can benefit both the environment and your budget.

infographic of a poor life cycle of a phone

Unsustainable life cycles

  • Most phones are bought brand-new.

  • They're used either until either they break, or the customer's contract finishes.

  • Then they're often left alone in a drawer or thrown away, and a brand-new phone is bought or replaced.

good life cycle of a phone

Sustainable life cycle

  • A refurbished phone is purchased.

  • It is kept in good condition for as long as possible, and occasionally repaired when needed.

  • Eventually, it's either traded in to be re-sold, donated to someone else or recycled to re-use its materials.

Our sustainable phone tips

Try one (or all!) of these options when buying your new phone.

Buy a refurbished phone

  • One of the simplest and most effective ways to reduce your environmental impact.

  • Prevents perfectly good smartphones going to waste.

  • Each new smartphone uses finite materials and produces emissions through factory production and transport. The more refurbished phones bought, the fewer brand-new phones need to be made.

Learn more about buying a refurbished phone with our guide.

Keep your phone as long as you can

  • If your phone still works perfectly fine after your mobile contract ends, keep using it and purchase a cheaper SIMO contract instead.

  • If your phone is broken, try to get it fixed before buying a new one. Put it in a durable phone case to avoid it getting damaged.

  • Explore ways to extend your phone’s battery life.

Trade in, donate or recycle

  • When replacing your smartphone, trade your old one into a retailer. You could make some money from it!

  • Donate your old phones to a charity that will redistribute them to underprivileged communities.

  • Even if your phone is nonworking, you can still hand it in to be recycled. It’ll be stripped of its precious materials and reused for future products.

How do phone manufacturers drive sustainability?

woman smiling at her phone outside

In the last few years, phone companies have ramped up their efforts to make their operations more sustainable.

Measures are now being put in place to reduce and remove the emissions caused by the production, usage and disposal of their products.

Plus, there’s now a more conscious effort to connect underprivileged communities and remote areas to the internet, both in the UK and worldwide. This is vital for securing a more sustainable future.

But companies need to do more to make it easier for customers to make sustainable choices with their tech. Watch this space for our guide on how smartphone manufacturers are becoming more environmentally-friendly.

Eco broadband: how to use your broadband more sustainably

man laughing at his laptop at home

Broadband isn’t the first thing to come to mind in regards to sustainability. Some of the benefits it brings, such as cloud storage, fast fibre-optic connections, and the ability to work from home, significantly help to combat climate change.

But the internet is still a very large contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. The amount of energy that servers, networks and computers require is immense. And according to the Sustainable Web Manifesto, if the internet was a country, it’d be the seventh largest global polluter.

Plus, internet connections are still not reliable enough in remote areas, and they’re still too expensive for many underprivileged communities. So we risk many people falling behind as our reliance on broadband increases.

There are lots of ways you can adapt your broadband habits to be kinder to the environment. Browse our tips for using your broadband more sustainably.

Router recycling

image of a router sat on a table with a house plant behind it

One easy way to help the environment is to send back your old broadband routers to be recycled.

Our research recently found that there are over 22 million unused internet devices lying about in our homes right now.

Routers contain vital parts that could be recycled. So make sure you send your router back to your old provider, or find a way to responsibly recycle it, to avoid valuable materials going to waste in landfill.

Our sustainable broadband tips

The internet requires a lot of energy to work. And the more it’s used, the more power is needed to make sure it works for everyone. So we need to make sure we’re using our broadband in the most sustainable way we can.

Here’s how you can reduce the environmental impact of your time online, while continuing to use the internet for everything you need and enjoy.

Delete and unsubscribe from things you don’t need

Receiving newsletters or regular emails that you don’t ever look at is a waste of energy. You can reduce the impact of your subscriptions by only signing up for emails that you will read.

Use smaller screens when you can

Devices with smaller screens, such as smartphones, require less power to use and charge than large monitors. So when you can, try to use a smaller device more often. Or if you’re looking to buy a new computer, choose a smaller model.

Stream movies or play games in low quality

If you’re not too concerned about streaming or gaming in full HD or 4K, you could limit the picture quality. It reduces your household’s demand for data and helps your local broadband network run more efficiently.

Download big files at off-peak times

Huge game updates or big programme downloads don’t just put pressure on your own broadband — they can put a strain on the whole network around you. Try to download overnight to ensure your network doesn’t use up more power than it needs to.

How fast broadband makes your business more efficient

man using a laptop in the workplace

If you’re running a business of any size, there are multiple ways that a fast broadband connection can make you more sustainable.

A strong, reliable internet connection for your employees can do wonders for your efficiency, productivity and environmental impact.

  • Go paperless: sharing documents online helps you reduce paper waste and printer ink

  • Video meetings: remove travel emissions by video calling your overseas clients

  • Sustainable web hosting: if your business makes money online, you can choose a ‘green’ web hosting service for your website

  • Productivity: the faster your connection, the quicker your team can send and download their work

How to buy from ethical broadband and mobile networks

Many people are changing their buying habits to help reduce carbon emissions from the products they purchase and the companies they use.

If you’re looking to choose a broadband or mobile provider that takes sustainability seriously, there are some good telltale signs to look for.

They fix your equipment

They offer to fix your faulty equipment rather than replace it with a brand-new item.

They offer trade-ins

They let you trade in your old devices to either be reused by new customers or recycled for their materials.

They're clear about climate goals

The provider's climate goals are clear and honest (search their name with the terms ‘sustainability’ or ‘environment’).

Minimal, sustainable packaging

They send their products to you in minimal, sustainable packaging that can be easily recycled.

Check back in soon to read our guide on which mobile networks and broadband providers are the most focused on sustainability.

Eco-friendly tech FAQs