Know Where Your Smartphone Came From
Most smartphones are like sausages: we’re more than happy to consume them, but we probably don’t want to know where they came from. The Foxconn scandal a few years back and the well known environmental tolls of smartphone production illustrate some of the real costs of being on technology’s cutting edge. Given that smartphones don’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon, the question we might start asking ourselves is how we can make smartphones in a smarter, more responsible manner. It’s a question a company called FairPhone is trying to answer. They are trying to ensure that every stage of their smartphone’s lifecycle is done in the most humane and environmental responsible manner.
Fairphone begins with materials. They claim that most smartphones use up to 40 different metals from all of the world. Many of the places where these metals originate have questionable (or just god-awful) humanitarian records. Fairphone only uses materials from conflict-free regions so they are supporting communities, not military juntas.
Next, they ensure that their manufacturing conditions are humane, paying workers a fair wage and work in safe conditions with proper labor-rights representation.
Their Android phones are designed with durability, longevity and repairability in mind. They offer spare part kits and have partnered with iFixit who publishes online repair tutorials.
Lastly, Fairphone has partnered with the nonprofit Closing the Loop to provide solutions for e-waste in countries without a formal electronics recycling sector.
The unfortunate truth of many of our consumer products is that if you don’t know where they’re coming from–whether it’s a vegetable, a garment or your smartphone–chances are they’re coming from not-so-great places. Given that smartphones have become such an indispensable tool for modern living and manufacturing them responsibly is trickier to pull off than a 100% organic cotton t-shirt, it’s nice to know that there are options for smartphones you can purchase with a clear conscience. (Of course, they do mention that the best phone is the one you already have.)
Currently, an unlocked Fairphone can be purchased for €310 and can only be shipped within the Europe. If you do get one over pond, the company warns that the phone will not get a 3G connection in North America. We hope they start making and selling a North American version soon.