Over recent years, many of us have begun to change our retail habits. Our shopping principles were once led by finding the latest models or the most luxurious products to suit our budget. In other cases, we were looking for the cheapest or most convenient options.
Now, however, there is a newer principle guiding our purchases: sustainability. We are becoming more and more aware of how our individual actions are affecting the planet and its future. And with that, we now know that the products we choose can have vastly different impacts on the environment.
We know that we should try to buy less single-use plastic and more locally grown fruits and vegetables. But sustainable shopping for some products is still a mystery to many. Mobile phones are one such product. How can we buy a mobile phone that has minimal negative impact on planet Earth?
Electronics and sustainability
Many manufacturers of electronics are making headway into finding more sustainable ways to produce their products. However, in truth, the electronics industry still relies heavily on unsustainable manufacturing processes.
Both Greenpeace (in their “Guide to Greener Electronics”) and the United Nations Environment Programme (“Is Your Phone Really Smart?”) have highlighted areas where improvements should be made. These include:
- Reducing intensive mining for raw materials including gold, silver, cobalt, tin, tantalum, tungsten and copper. There is a finite supply of these materials, and as such, it is not sustainable to keep removing them from the earth.
- Lowering the heavy oil use associated with the mining process. This contributes significantly to climate change.
- Avoiding hazardous chemicals used within the product and during its manufacture.
- Increasing the use of recycled materials within many products.
- Improving the lifespan of products to discourage frequent replacement.
- Lowering the carbon footprint of transporting products into shops.
- Improving recycling procedures for electronics.
It is disheartening to find out that 83% of a smartphone’s carbon footprint has already occurred before it even reaches its first owner.
These problems are enough to put the sustainable consumer off the idea of even owning a mobile phone. However, our phones have very much become essential to everyday life. Therefore, it is probably a huge relief to hear that there is a far more sustainable way of owning a mobile phone: by choosing a refurbished phone.
The environmental benefits of refurbished phones
You might be wondering, what is a refurbished phone?
Refurbished or renewed phones
Refurbished phones are items that have already been used. A retailer of refurbished phones will have checked that the phone is in full working order. They will have replaced the battery and repaired any faults as necessary. It is then sold as a fully functioning, almost as-good-as-new product.
The term “refurbished” shouldn’t be confused with “used” or “secondhand.” Items labeled as such will not have been through rigorous testing. Tags such as “refurbished” assure you that you will get a phone in full working order.
The benefits for the planet
By opting for a refurbished mobile phone instead of a brand-new-in-box item, you are able to shop far more sustainably. Here’s how.
When you buy a refurbished mobile, you are making a positive difference by:
- Lengthening the lifespan of that particular product
- Keeping it from unnecessary recycling or even from reaching landfills
- Reusing materials already in circulation
- Slowing down the mining process
- Causing one less new phone to make a long-distance journey to the shops
- Helping to lower the carbon footprint of the electronics industry
When one consumer shops this way, it makes a small difference. If more and more people change the way they purchase mobile phones, it can have an enormously positive effect. Thankfully, refurbished phones are becoming more popular with consumers who wish to lower their own carbon footprint.
Other benefits of buying a refurbished phone
The upsides to refurbished phones go way beyond their environmental credentials.
A refurbished phone will always cost you less compared to its new counterpart. Why spend more than you need to? With a refurbished phone, you’ll still be getting a fully working phone. Hunt around and you’ll find the world’s best-regarded models for amazing prices, some of which may be months rather than years old.
Phones sold as “refurbished” will have undergone quality testing and are guaranteed to come in full working order. Any glitches will have been repaired and a new battery will have been put in.
Refurbished phones should come with a warranty too, for full peace of mind.
It is sensible to avoid buying phones through private sellers on social media or online auction sites. It is impossible to have any assurance that your new phone will work well, no matter how amazing the seller claims it is.
Here’s how to buy safely online:
- Head to reputable online sites that sell refurbished phones. Look for detailed product descriptions that clearly state the condition of their products. Some use helpful rating systems to give you a better idea of whether there may be very minor marks or scratches on the phone.
- To avoid buying a used but untested product from an online retailer, look carefully at how they describe their phones. There are a few different ways retailers of guaranteed refurbished phones describe their stock. You might also find them as “renewed” or presented as “certified refurbished Apple devices” (or those of other manufacturers), for example.
If a phone is described as “used” or “secondhand” then it is unlikely to be quality-assured.
- Before you click to purchase, always check that the website or product description clearly states that the phone was thoroughly checked, that damaged or worn parts were replaced, and that the phone contains a new battery.
- Read the company’s warranty and returns policies very carefully.
If you want to shop more sustainably and reduce your household’s carbon footprint, then refurbished electronics can help you do this. There are plenty of incredible deals to be found on great products, including phones and mobile accessories. You just need to remember to shop wisely and safely, and use reputable suppliers.
Enjoy your new phone and a clearer conscience!