The hidden Carbon Footprint of your Smartphone

Carbon footprints and eco-credentials matter. They’re part of the global emissions puzzle - and that includes your smartphone. There is no way we can  deny that we each have a responsibility to make some changes to protect our environment, and it starts with understanding which areas of our life are contributing to unnecessary emissions or waste - starting with our phones.

So what is the hidden carbon footprint of your smartphone? Does every call we make harm the planet? And how much CO2 is released into the atmosphere during the manufacturing of a smartphone?  Let’s get into it

Carbon Footprint of a smarphone

How do we measure carbon footprints in smartphones?

Most of the hidden carbon footprint of smartphones is buried in the manufacturing chain, and it is surprisingly large, in fact, the CO2 emissions a smartphone user creates by using a smartphone is rarely more than  the emissions caused by the device's production.

In the past, smartphone manufacturers have been content to simply measure the emissions of their factories to identify their products' carbon footprint, but this doesn't take into account things like the operations of suppliers, logistics and the output of stores where the phones are sold. Thankfully, Greenpeace Guide to Greener Electronics now measures the work mobile phone manufacturers are doing to make their products greener. They looks at:

  • Efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • The removal of hazardous substances from products
  • Take-back and recycling programs for obsolete devices
  • Improvements in the materials used for both products and packaging

It doesn't get much more comprehensive than this for gauging the attitudes of the world's top consumer electronics manufacturers with regard to environmental impact.

How much CO2 is emitted during the manufacturing of smartphones?

It is estimated that around 55kg of CO2 equivalent emissions are created during the manufacturing of the average smartphone andevery smartphone contains hazardous materials like chlorine, bromine, mercury and lead. There are also many components made from gold, lithium, tantalum and tin, which damage the planet through mining and land degradation. And, of course, the transporting of the finished devices and any other emissions associated with the stores that sell them must be accounted for.

What about the CO2 in smartphone use>?

Mobile phones are surprisingly energy-hungry to operate. On average, they consume more energy than a refrigerator,but this energy doesn’t lie in the obvious places like when its charging, instead it in the running of the infrastructure that keeps smartphones operating.

This includes:

  • Servers running 24/7
  • Air conditioning to keep the servers cool
  • Broadband networks running around the clock

The carbon footprint of all that is massive! 

However, thats not to say physical usage must also be accounted for.A one-minute call between mobile phones produces around 50-60g of CO2, which doesn't sound like much but when you remember that there are billions of smartphone users around the world, all making calls throughout their days, it quickly adds up. A person who spends two minutes a day chatting on their phone will generate around 47kg of carbon emissions per year.

Estimates indicate that mobile calls alone may account for as much as 1.25 million tonnes of global CO2 emissions each year - that's 0.25% of all global emissions.

How can I reduce my smartphone carbon footprint?

There are various things you can do to cut down your own smartphone carbon footprint. They include:

Choose texting over calling

Texting creates far less carbon emissions than a phone call. If you must speak on the phone, a landline is more carbon-efficient.

Buy refurbished phones

Rather than always buying brand new, try looking for phones that are pre-loved or refurbished which helps fight e-waste and cuts down your carbon footprint. We also recommending selling your unwanted phones for cashback - you can get cash for old phones at

Take out longer contracts

With an 18-month contract, your smartphone's lifespan is very short, and you will likely replace it with a new one when the contract ends. By taking out longer contracts, you can reduce the carbon emissions associated with new phone production.

Consider a modular phone

Some smartphones are specifically designed with sustainable materials in mind. They are also modular in their construction, meaning you can simply replace parts when they go wrong. This reduces the need to buy a new phone when something goes wrong with your current one.

Think green

Every part of our lives is open to finding ways to reduce our carbon footprint and waste output. Smartphones are no exception, so consider the information in this post and explore whether you could follow any of the suggestions above.

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