Step 1: Reduce
‘Consuless’ or consume less. It is that simple. Dwell for a moment on your future purchases. Do you really need that new gadget or the latest version of your favourite smartphone brand? Why would you buy a new product if you still have one that works? Marketing incites consumers to always buy the latest model, because of the aging software or because of a crack in your screen. If you are aware of the fact that smartphones and other ICT devices are full of valuable metals (gold, copper, cobalt, nickel, etc.) that are being mined with a negative impact on people and the environment, you might reconsider the purchase of a new device. Our message is fairly simple: use your current products longer and do not buy nor use anything you do not really need.
“The most sustainable phone is the one you already own.”
Or choose environmental-friendly alternatives if they are in stock. In that respect, a ring made out of wood or coconut is more beautiful than a golden one!
Step 2: Reuse
Second-hand or vintage is in. Your grandmother’s golden jewel can give you a trendy vintage look. For us, the same goes for other items that contain precious metals, such as electronics! Sell your smartphone or give it away when you are no longer using it. To friends, to family or just to the thrift shop. And if you really need a new one, buy a refurbished one! Refurbished smartphones or laptops are devices that have already been used, but have been repaired and upgraded when necessary. If you buy a refurbished device, make sure it comes from a company that offers you at least one year warranty.
Step 3: Repair
Do it yourself: repair! Unfortunately, electronic devices are often deliberately designed with a limited lifespan, a method called planned obsolescence. Small parts of the device fail after a while, making it impossible to use the entire device, even if other parts still work. Do you want to fix it yourself? Visit iFixit and find the manual and/or video for your device. Not all smartphones are equally easy to repair. Laptops, on the other hand, usually are. Not such a do-it-yourselfer? Visit a Repair Café or a local repair shop with your electronics and electric devices.
Step 4: Recycle
Urban mining or, in other words, recycle. In Belgium, only 5% of mobile phones and smartphones are recycled. This is because the collection of devices is not going without a hitch. Everybody has a desk drawer filled with old mobile phones and chargers or a broken computer in the attic. If your old electronics can no longer be repaired, take them to a Recupel collection point. Recupel removes all your data and ensures that the product is processed correctly. If we could collect all the old electronic appliances and correctly recycle the precious metals, there will be less need to extract new materials and thus less associated pollution. Not open pit mining, but urban mining: the ‘mining’ of our electronic waste or, in other words, recycling!
Step 5: Redesign
Are you a born inventor or engineer? Use your knowledge to design products that last longer, are easy to repair or reuse and require little energy to recycle. Or to make things less difficult for you: there are already interesting initiatives on the market that are based on this principle and that you can support. For example, the Fairphone: a modular smartphone that is easier to repair and designed to last longer. We have no knowledge about the existence of modular laptops, but there is a big difference between the different types. Nowadays, extremely thin laptops exist in which all parts are glued together and are therefore difficult to replace. When purchasing a new laptop, make sure that you can easily replace broken parts in the future and that, in the event of a small defect, you can simply replace parts instead of having to buy a new device.
Step 6: Reinvest
Did you know that even your investments can have an impact on the environment? Commercial banks promote investment opportunities in mining multinationals to customers as one of the safest and most interesting investments. Belgian banks invest billions in large mining companies and subsequently in their damaging mining projects.
What can you do about it?
- Ask your bank if they invest in the mining industry and what they do about it. By asking this, you can, as a customer, increase the pressure on your bank to invest more sustainably. A sample letter can be found on the Bank Guide. Not satisfied with the answer? Change banks!
- Do you invest on the stock exchange? Do not invest in mining projects, check your bank’s share packages thoroughly before buying them.
- Invest in sustainable alternatives