Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Why Fixing Your Phone Is One of the Most Empowering Things You Can Do

Energy

By Kyle Wiens

Like most people, I don't go anywhere without my phone. In the morning, its shrill alarm rouses me from sleep. During the day it bobs between my ear, my hand and my pocket. At night, I hunt for Pokémon before putting it away on the nightstand. My phone is my MP3 player, my camera and my GPS system—all in one. I really believe that technology is a driving force for good in the world. It makes our lives better.

I've spent the last decade teaching people how to repair their electronics—things like smartphones, computers and tablets. I do it because even though we love our gizmos, we treat them like they're disposable—things we can use up, throw away and buy again without a second thought.

Fred Dott / Greenpeace

Today people go through smartphones like they go through jeans—at the rate of one new phone every 24 months or so in the U.S. A good laptop can be useful for more than five years, but the battery only lasts about two years. And a recent study in Germany found that the lifespan of consumer electronics is getting shorter. Why? Because our stuff breaks more quickly, we tire of it more easily and we're more eager to upgrade before it's necessary.

That's a Huge Problem

Phones, laptops, tablets and TV are some of the most energy and resource heavy products we know how to make. Manufacturing a single microchip requires 2,200 gallons of water—and a computer is packed with dozens of chips. Of the 118 elements on the periodic table, 40 of them find their way into our electronics.

That's 40 natural resources that are often sourced from regions with questionable environmental regulations and little protection for workers. All for gadgets that we use for a few years before tossing away.

A small Chinese child sitting among cables and e-waste, Guiyu, China. Much of modern electronic equipment contains toxic ingredients.Natalie Behring / Greenpeace

In 2012, the world produced 48.9 million metric tons of e-waste. That's about 15.4 pounds (7kg) for every person on Earth. By next year, the United Nations expects the yearly rate of e-waste to rise to 65.4 million tons—an increase of 33 percent.

The Greenest Gadget is Probably the One You Already Have…

More stuff isn't the answer. Every time someone repairs their phone instead of upgrading to a new one, that's one less phone that needs to be manufactured. Every time someone opens up their laptop and replaces the battery, they're doing something tangible to reduce e-waste.

My company iFixit helps millions of people around the world fix their stuff—for free—every single year. Often, the people we teach have never repaired anything before in their lives. They're nervous to open up their gadgets. They're scared they'll mess something up. And they're worried that they're not allowed to fix their gizmos on their own.

But they can. And they do. I've seen moms fixing iPhones for their kids, and those kids in turn fix their grandparent's computer. That experience—bringing something that was broken back from the dead—is incredibly empowering.

You become something more than just a consumer. Something different. Something better. You're a fixer. And armed with a screwdriver and a repair manual, you can fix the world—one broken gadget at a time.

Ricardo Padilla Roman / Greenpeace

Want to Fix the World? Here Are Four Easy Things You Can Do:

  • Do your first repair: Check out some tutorials for popular devices and our whole tutorial database here. (Check out below two video tutorials to replace iPhone and Samsung screens.)
  • Dig the electronics out your junk drawers: Even if the gadget doesn't turn on anymore, swapping out the dead battery in something like a cell phone is probably easier—and cheaper—than you think.
  • Upgrade your computer. If your laptop starts to slow down, give it a little TLC. More often than not, a new battery, more memory and a larger hard drive will make your ailing computer as good as new again.
  • Buy repairable products. Keep durability and repairability in mind as you make shopping decisions. Don't buy electronics that are designed to be disposable. Look for products with user-replaceable batteries, a steady supply of replacement parts and easy-to-upgrade components.

Kyle Wiens is the founder and CEO of iFixit, an online repair community and parts retailer internationally renowned for their open resource repair manuals and product teardowns.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Refrigerated trucks function as temporary morgues at the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal on May 06, 2020 in New York City. As of July, the states where COVID-19 cases are rising are mostly in the West and South. Justin Heiman / Getty Images

The official number of people in the U.S. who have lost their lives to the new coronavirus has now passed 130,000, according to tallies from The New York Times, Reuters and Johns Hopkins University.

Read More Show Less
A man walks on pink snow at the Presena glacier near Pellizzano, Italy on July 4, 2020. MIGUEL MEDINA / AFP via Getty Images

In a troubling sign for the future of the Italian Alps, the snow and ice in a glacier is turning pink due to the growth of snow-melting algae, according to scientists studying the pink ice phenomenon, as CNN reported.

Read More Show Less
Climate activist Greta Thunberg discusses EU plans to tackle the climate emergency with Parliament's environment committee on March 4, 2020. CC-BY-4.0: © European Union 2020 – Source: EP

By Abdullahi Alim

The 2008 financial crisis spurred a number of youth movements including Occupy Wall Street and the Arab Spring. A decade later, this anger resurfaced in a new wave of global protests, from Hong Kong to Beirut to London, only this time driven by the children of the 2008 financial crisis.

Read More Show Less
A climate activist holds a victory sign in Washington, DC. after President Obama announced that he would reject the Keystone XL Pipeline proposal on November 6, 2015. Mark Wilson / Getty Images

By Jake Johnson

The Supreme Court late Monday upheld a federal judge's rejection of a crucial permit for Keystone XL and blocked the Trump administration's attempt to greenlight construction of the 1,200-mile crude oil project, the third such blow to the fossil fuel industry in a day—coming just hours after the cancellation of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and the court-ordered shutdown of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Read More Show Less
A forest fire in Yakutsk in eastern Siberia on June 2, 2020. Yevgeny Sofroneyev / TASS via Getty Images

Once thought too frozen to burn, Siberia is now on fire and spewing carbon after enduring its warmest June ever, according to CNN.

Read More Show Less
The Colima fir tree's distribution has been reduced to the area surrounding the Nevado de Colima volcano. Agustín del Castillo

By Agustín del Castillo

For 20 years, the Colima fir tree (Abies colimensis) has been at the heart of many disputes to conserve the temperate forests of southern Jalisco, a state in central Mexico. Today, the future of this tree rests upon whether the area's avocado crops will advance further and whether neighboring communities will unite to protect it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Independent environmental certifications offer a better indicator of a product's eco credentials, including labor conditions for workers involved in production. Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jeanette Cwienk

This summer's high street fashions have more in common than styles and colors. From the pink puff-sleeved dream going for just €19.99 ($22.52) at H&M, to Zara's elegant €12.95 ($14.63) halter-neck dress, clothing stores are alive with cheap organic cotton.

"Sustainable" collections with aspirational own-brand names like C&A's "Wear the change," Zara's "join life" or H&M's "CONSCIOUS" are offering cheap fashion and a clean environmental conscience. Such, at least, is the message. But is it really that simple?

Read More Show Less