Live Green and Earn Points


The Easiest Way to Cut CO2: Keep Your Stuff Longer

By Recyclebank |
According to the U.S. EPA, the lifespan of a cell phone is shorter than other consumer electronics—a fleeting 18 months.
This story is from our partner NativeEnergy and was originally published on 6/18/12.

recycle reuse cell phone technology

My purple cell phone is often the subject of jokes. Affectionately referred to as a “dumb phone,” the paint is worn off on the keys, the flip cover is scratched, and while it can theoretically access the internet, I have never used it for that purpose.

It’s age? Just three years.

This, as you likely know, is ancient in cell phone years. According to the U.S. EPA, the lifespan of a cell phone is shorter than other consumer electronics—a fleeting 18 months. This can leave any of us feeling like last year’s model is dated and uncool. But as our possessions age, it’s worth thinking twice before upgrading.

Manufacturing gadgets requires resources. Rare earth metals like beryllium are mined, plastics are created, and the products are assembled, shipped, and then marketed in storefronts. This array of activities creates carbon emissions. Furthermore, at the end of their lives, they might become toxic waste. Many discarded electronic products end up in developing countries, where they compromise the health of workers exposed to them. UNEP estimates that electronics are one of the fastest growing sources of waste.

Happily, you can limit these effects and save time and money in one simple way—hang on to your stuff a little longer and thereby cut your overall carbon footprint. For example, one study suggests that using a cell phone for four years rather than one reduces the environmental impacts by about 40%. Imagine the results if you extended the life of all your possessions.

Just follow these simple guidelines:

1. Wear it out

In the past, replacing a functional product with a slightly improved version was rare, and items were designed to last. These days, we are encouraged to have the latest and the greatest, but we don’t have to “buy” into it. Take pride in using—or wearing—a product until it no longer works.

2. Fix it up

With a little effort, you can keep your trusted gizmo in good condition, perhaps even past manufacturer recommendations. Daily Green published a great guide for extending the life of items like printer cartridges, textbooks, and light bulbs.

3. End its life mindfully

Of course, products inevitably stop working at some point, or even if they still function, they may stop serving your needs. Instead of dumping them, send broken electronics for repurposing or recycling. The precious metals in them can be reclaimed, reducing the need for mining. There’s enough gold in 200 cell phones to create a wedding ring!

Remember the Apple II and Zack’s hilarious cell phone from Saved By The Bell? Many of us look back on those items with nostalgia (and humor). By valuing function over fashion, we can learn to appreciate our stuff longer—and maybe take it, and ourselves, a little less seriously.

This article was brought to you by Recyclebank partner NativeEnergy. To check out additional articles, please visit

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  • Roxanna M. 5 years ago
    we use things as long as possible and recycle nearly all when we cannot use them anymore. we don't feel like we have the have the newest and best. there are so many things that folks get rid of so quickly and it shocks us
  • Sue C. 5 years ago
    I try to buy quality brand name merchandise to try to ensure that it lasts longer and there isn't a big need to continually replace it. However, I have had a share of appliances that didn't live up to the longevity factor. That would be mainly coffee makers. However, buying name brand merchandise doesn't always ensure the longevity of the appliance.

    When it comes to printer cartridges I have bought the ones that are refilled. Additionally, I recycle the old ones when they are depleated. Most things can be recycled if you know where to take the merchandise once it has gone through it's useful life.

    I don't believe you can recycle incadescent light bulbs tho.

    It saves money not having to replace things as often if they are made well to begin with.
  • Brianna S. 5 years ago
    This also makes your wallet greener!
  • Nyemma C. 5 years ago
    I trully agree
  • Kathy H. 5 years ago
    We must find new ways to reuse, recycle, and repurpose our electronics.
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