Tesco joins in the sustainable party

Feeding the sustainability party – Whilst Tesco appears to be joining the sustainability party late, at least they are bringing usable food to the party table instead of throwing it all away.  If only we all would open our eyes sooner…..

https://uk.finance.yahoo.com/news/tesco-commits-giving-usable-food-125800655.html

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French Parliament Wastes No Further Time – Legally Ban Major Retailers from Wasting Food

As part of a larger goal of eradicating food waste in France, the French government has taken one small step for sustainability, but perhaps one giant step for person-kind.

A common practice in France has been for stores to convert unsold edible food into unconsumables by throwing the food into trash bins and pouring bleach over them. This destroys the food so it is poisonous and completely unusable. This not only destroys any nutritional value the food may have had, but it also destroys the chances of legal liability, that is, by protecting the company from any legal cause of action if the “older” food were used for anything else. Bleaching the food ensured that there was no further use of the food remained.

Yet on 21 May 2015, this changed as the French government took a stand against food waste in a very sustainable way. It builds upon sustainability practices that can already be seen in some businesses in other countries, but in a more charitably-focused approach. The French Parliament unanimously passed a law requiring major retailers to donate their leftover foods to charity. Whilst some say this “takes a zero-tolerance approach to supermarket food waste” and “forbids retailers from destroying unsold food — and mandates they donate it to charity instead,” some may argue that this is only partially effective because it is only focuses on the large or “major” retailers. http://www.salon.com/2015/05/22/frances_bold_attack_on_food_waste_law_will_prohibit_supermarkets_from_trashing_unsold_food/ Further, the motivation for store compliance is external to the organizations out of concern for being fined, rather than being internally driven. This may change as education in this continues to grow, including an education program on food waste in France. http://www.refinery29.com/2015/05/87938/france-supermarket-food-waste

The new law is a major step in addressing sustainability in a positive manner by mandating positive behaviours. The law does not allow the major retailers to use their own discretion as to whether to participate or not, but rather, the law mandates participation. It is not a matter of changing behavior by the carrot and stick motivation theory, but it clearly focuses on the stick or on punishment. Under the new law, major supermarkets must separate their unsellable food into “edible” or “inedible” groups. Foods which fall into the edible category must be donated to charities for use/distribution, while inedible foods must be donated to farms and the like to be used as fertilizer or animal stock feed. The stick or punishment for businesses that do not comply with the law, whether it be by donating food or entering into appropriate agreements with charities, will be a fine of up to 75,000 Euros for noncompliance.

France wishes other countries to follow in this. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/25/french-supermarkets-donate-food-waste-global-law-campaign Yet this law actually serves to memorialise similar business practices such as Pret a Manger’s approach of collecting its unsold foods at the end of the day and donating them to charities. Whilst Marks & Spencer and other supermarkets may mark down foods that are nearing their “sell by” expiry dates and may even discount fruits and vegetables which are not as pristine and perfect as their normal standards, they are not necessarily focused on donating to charities. These supermarkets are focused on minimizing financial loss by selling these foods at reduced prices before the food is unsellable. This new law recognizes that many of these edible foods that go to waste still have value. Yet, not only are edible foods not being consumed, but worse still, these foods are stockpiling and their subsequent breakdown contributes to unnecessary waste buildup, cesspools, pollution, degrading climate change, and having other negative global effects. A third of all uneaten foods end up in landfills. http://jezebel.com/new-french-law-has-zero-tolerance-toward-supermarket-1706716153 This new law will serve to reduce these stockpiles at landfills, thus further reducing the other negative downstream effects of wasting these foods.

Now there is a “catch” which is that the law applies to major retailers, not to smaller retailers. It could be argued that smaller retailers do not engage in the mass production and mass consumption of its larger counterparts, thus smaller retailers might not have as much leftovers and waste nor make a significant carbon footprint in this regard as compared to a major retailer. Also, smaller retailers may already be optimizing use of their limited resources and these “unsellable” foods. Smaller businesses may be engaged in practices that are more sustainable than throwing away edible foods. However, some pundits may argue that waste is waste among any and all stores, and the same standard should be applied across the board regardless of size and affiliations.

Whilst this may be true, major French supermarkets already appear to be against the new law. The major retailers argue that they are only responsible for 5% of the wasted food. So from this argument, the non-major retailers should also not be responsible because they waste even less. Should large and small retailers be equally accountable? Whilst it is true that individual non-major retailers may not have the capacity and resources to economically address the requirements of the new law, small businesses could coordinate and collaborate by pooling their resources to achieve their own economies of scale as a group. Whilst a major retailer would be integrated more vertically, non-major retailers could work together to be integrated across organisations, thus still achieving the same economies of scale and economies of scope to attain the same results as their larger retailer counterparts.

Then it may come down to whether the businesses’ motivation for action is by the carrot or by the stick. If businesses seek to comply with the letter of the law and not the spirit of the law, then motivation for compliance may be limited to meeting the absolute minimum requirements to avoid any financial punishment. Yet if the organisation were enlightened enough to recognise and embrace the rewards of compliance (e.g., contributing to achieving global sustainability), then their internally-driven actions may surpass the law, seeing the law as merely a starting point as opposed to the goal.

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From Cradle to Cradle to Cradle to…..

This is a remarkable success story with an unexpected start but a sustainable outcome. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2977376/Father-rejected-Dragons-Den-proves-wrong-making-millions-selling-date-food-thrifty-mums.html

When I first saw this story, I was struck by how brilliant the business approach was in its simplicity and how it helped to minimise waste. Yet, it seemed like the Dragon’s Den television panel did not fully appreciate the possible consumer audience, the contributions to sustainability and minimizing waste, and the potential “profitability.” In some ways, it also seems as if there’s a question of whether it was “sufficiently” profitable enough to be of interest to the Dragon’s Den.

Basically, this entrepreneur recognised there was a market for goods that had gone past their “expiry date.” In this context, he explains that there are two separate “expiry dates” in that there are: (1) the “best before” date which means that the food will be at its optimum before that date and acts as a guide to the quality; and (2) the “use by” date which is concerned with the safety aspect (e.g., the “use by” date that means food has to be eaten by then or it could make one ill, which is the case with fish and meat, for example). Many food businesses will not sell items beyond their “best before” date, so they try to quickly discount and rid themselves of these products before the “best before” date passes. Once this date passes, the product “ends” or is discarded for the purposes of these “fresh food” businesses. Their website states that “we only trade in products that have a ‘Best Before’ date which is quite literally the manufacturers estimate that the premium quality of its product may start to deteriorate. We do not sell chilled or frozen “Use By” products.”

For this entrepreneurs’ business “Approved Food,” these products are actually the beginning of a new life cycle for these products, such as From Cradle to Cradle. Approved Food has been a hit online by selling these products which are considered “waste” of regular markets. So basically, the waste of regular markets are actually the lifeblood or starting materials of Approved Food. It is essentially the same product, but the distinction might be based on freshness. Thus, early life of the product could be a “fresh food” product designation and later in its life it is a “less fresh” food product. Approved Food’s products “start” once the “best before” expiry dates are close or have passed.

Whilst the article talks about their consumer audience being “food-thrifty mums” and “other savvy shoppers,” the key was to launch this business as an online business to broaden the consumer audience from the local regions. This entrepreneur recognized that products he had access to were not of interest to a local region of Doncaster, but would have appeal to regions outside of the local region. By operating online, he brought the product to a consumer audience that would buy the products.

I applaud this business for recognizing this opportunity and for minimizing what would otherwise be wasted. But if “other savvy shoppers” includes charitable kitchens that are providing free food to the poor and homeless, I am actually a bit torn. Charitable kitchens would normally receive donated foods for free directly from the “fresh food” business, yet Approved Food could intercalate another layer between charitable kitchens and fresh food businesses. However, there appears to be a distinction. Approved Food appears to recognise its limitations and states “’We don’t touch food that has a limited shelf life such as fresh chicken and fresh fish, but we do sell hardy vegetables.” Therefore, “fresh foods” that are quickly perishable and may be discounted at the end of the day still appear to remain the province of the charitable kitchen.

Yet, after reviewing their website at http://www.approvedfood.co.uk/, it appears that they carry a vast array of products. They state:

“Approved Food is the largest online retailer of short dated and residual stock food and drinks. We want to be more than just an online retailer, we want to be as synonymous to online grocery as Google is to search and Facebook is to social networking. The majority of our stock is short-dated or past its best before date we are able to buy in large quantities and pass considerable savings on to our customers….”

It appears that an interesting sufficiently profitable enterprise grew from recognizing that one organisation’s discards or waste could be used to start a new market. Now if they could only find a beneficial use for foods which go beyond their “use by”…perhaps as compost or other fertilizer? They say one person’s ceiling is another person’s floor, so who knows what other new enterprise might possibly arise from one person’s “waste”?

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Sustaining Olympic Cities

As the next Olympics are being prepared for in Rio in 2016, it started my wondering about sustainability issues faced by Olympics organisers as they bid for and prepare for hosting the Olympics if their bid is successful. In 2012, as part of the mission statement of the “Commission for a Sustainable London 2012,” they stated the Commission “provides assurance to the Olympic Board and the public on how the bodies delivering the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and legacy are meeting their sustainability commitments.” (http://www.cslondon.org/about) In fact, the London 2012 Olympics has been touted as the most sustainable Olympic Games ever held. http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-20334658 Yet sustainability has grown over the many years of the Olympics. In 2010, Canada had established a “high standard for environmentally friendly Olympics with sustainability initiatives launched in conjunction with the Winter Games.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/14/london-olympics-2012-sustainable-games_n_1343099.html. But the “London 2012 – From Vision to Reality” report on the 2012 Olympic games focused on sustainability objectives, targets, and aspirations, showing broadened considerations. There were many of these including “meeting 20 percent of games-time energy use in Olympic Park through local renewables sources and cutting carbon emissions 20 percent through reducing games-time energy use,” a commitment to “sending zero waste directly to landfills during the 77-day games period,” an aim to “treat all waste as a potential resource and ensure at least 70 percent of games-time waste will be reused, recycled or composted.” Although there was criticism for prohibiting outside food from being brought into the games, transportation and logistics were commended for using alternative fueled vehicles. http://www.environmentalleader.com/2012/11/15/london-olympics-met-broad-sustainability-targets-report-says/ Whilst London reportedly did well in meeting sustainability objectives, aims, and goals during the Olympics, it is unclear how continued sustainability is seen. After the Olympics are over and leave the host city, there appears to be a lack of assurance that the facilities will be sustainable. Clearly, there is an understanding that the Olympics host cities and their associated venues will continue to be used in a sustainable manner after the Olympics end; however, not all past Olympic cities remain sustainable in this regard. For example, in the Olympics held in Montreal 1976, this was a huge economic deficit for Canada, which took until 2006 for Quebec to pay off, so there was an issue of economic sustainability. http://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/abandoned-olympic-sites.html. As another example, only six (6) months from the end of the Winter Olympics, Sochi became a ghost city. http://www.businessinsider.com/sochi-olympics-ghost-city-2014-8. Furthermore, Olympic cities can continue to struggle with their huge investments in hosting the Olympics. http://gizmodo.com/do-the-olympics-ever-break-even-1529295819. Further examples include Athens and Sarajevo which have facilities that have become abandoned and fallen into disuse and waste. (http://myfox8.com/2014/02/22/eerie-photos-of-abandoned-winter-olympics-venues/, http://www.businessinsider.com/2004-athens-olympics-venues-abandoned-today-photos-2012-8?op=1, http://news.distractify.com/culture/sports/haunting-images-of-abandoned-olympic-venues/). Yet while there are certain commitments to sustainability and to reuse the facilities, once the Olympics are over, there appears to be little assurance that these facilities/resources will continue to be used. It brings to question what consequences are there to embrace continued sustainability for the city once the region has already reaped the benefits of being an Olympics host city. Without the enforcement of any consequences, countries can bid for hosting the Olympics, yet may not continue to maintain and grow the region in the spirit of sustainability. As noted earlier, Montreal may have reaped the prestige and travel to Canada during the 1976 Olympics, but the city continued to pay for that honour for 30 years afterwards. Of course, there are also various cities which have benefited from hosting the Olympics.  However, without a great investment of time for careful planning for a sustainable future, it seems like these cities may suffer more than benefit from this honour in the long run.  Perhaps this phenomenon may be seen more in Winter Olympics than in Summaer Olympics, but regardless, long-term use and enforcement needs to be considered.

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Self-Sustaining Socially-Sustainable Gyms

Self-Sustaining Socially-Sustainable Gyms

Is there such a thing as a self-sustaining socially-sustainable gym? Basically, this would be a gym that generates its own power so it minimises its use of external electricity, and of course it minimises its overall carbon footprint as a “green” gym. But more than that, it contributes to the social sustainability of the community.

I had heard someone on the train talking about needing to eat so that he could then work off those calories later that same evening at the gym. As I thought about it, it seemed like there was a lot of waste going on there. He was going to eat, but not because he was hungry, but only so he’d have the calories to burn off in a workout. So he was working on improving his health and physique, but could this be done while further benefitting others too?

I started thinking about the law of conservation of energy, that is, energy cannot be created or destroyed in a closed system, but can change form. So in the spirit of sustainability, shouldn’t we be looking at working out as a matter of moving/transforming energy in a more sustainable way? Many movements or transformations of energy can be of practical importance. Fuels can be converted into heat and light, but we may need to reconsider what “fuel” is. As in the example above, when one eats, the “fuel” is the food that is consumed, which could be converted into usable electricity.

“Green gyms” which power themselves are not unusual. These are gyms which power their own facilities from the exercise equipment used by its patrons on site. http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Green-Building/Gyms-Get-Sustainable.html. The article notes Hong Kong’s California Fitness gym in 2008 as the first gym to use human exercise power to power the gym’s lighting (see http://inhabitat.com/human-powered-gyms-in-hong-kong/), as well as the Green Microgym in Portland, Oregon as the first human-powered gym in the USA that is almost entirely self-sufficient. (http://www.thegreenmicrogym.com/) and the Greenasium in San Diego (http://www.thinkgreenliveclean.com/2010/09/the-greenasium-san-diegos-first-sustainable-gym/). California Fitness is one of the first gyms to utilise treadmills to generate electricity. To better understand the significance of human electricity, the innovators state “One person has the ability of producing 50 watts of electricity per hour when exercising at a moderate pace, which means that to prevent 12 liters of CO2 from being released into the air, a person needs to produce the same amount of electricity by exercising on the specially setup machine for one hour. If a person spends one hour per day running on the machine, he/she could generate 18.2 kilowatts of electricity and prevent 4,380 liters of CO2 released per year. So exercise can improve not only your health but contributes to a greener environment.” http://ecohearth.com/eco-zine/travel-and-leisure/930-human-powered-gyms-one-workout-at-a-time.html. But such electricity-generation is not limited to treadmills, energy could be generated from rowing machines, elliptical machines, bikes, weights, and potentially other equipment and means. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2010-05-19/news/bs-ed-innovative-gyms-20100519_1_gyms-electricity-innovations. There has even been a reported Sustainable Dance Club in Rotterdam which turns dancing into reusable energy. http://inhabitat.com/sustainable-dance-club/. Yet are these “green gyms” maximally contributing to the sustainability of the community?

Another type of “green gyms” are activities which focus “exercise” efforts on practical outdoor activities, such as “planting trees, sowing meadows, and establishing wildlife ponds.” http://www.tcv.org.uk/greengym. Unlike the “health club” approach where electricity is generated but only used for zeroing out electricity usage and neutralizing their carbon footprint, these “outdoor” efforts are focused on making positive contributions to making the environment into something more sustainable. Further, the regular commercial gym would still offer much more enhanced services than this green gym and would still collect monthly/annual fees for using their facilities to exercise.

So what about an exercise facility that more directly benefits charities and homeless facilities? These exercise facilities could be run by and located adjacent to, or part of, the buildings that house the charities and homeless services. The exercise facility would either be free or require a minimal donation to join (which could go to the charity to be used to maintain the gym), and all the exercise equipment and programs would be engineered to generating electricity for the adjoining charity and/or homeless facility. Just some fuel for thought.

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Sounding and Resounding Repellents

Sounding and Resounding Repellents

For the last few weeks, my family has been experiencing landline telephone problems. Yes, believe it or not, in this age of mobile phones, we still have landline telephones at our house. While this may seem like outdated technology, it should be noted that when we experienced crises, such as earthquakes and national attacks in the region, mobile phone communication towers were overloaded, such that no calls through mobile phones went through. Yet our landlines kept us in touch with family and friends. Also, our telephone lines are copper wire as opposed to fiber optics. While this may be a bit slower and older technology, copper wire communications are regulated and they also provide service in emergencies. For example, in the event of an electricity outage, our landlines and security system continue to have telephone service, while fiber optic lines no longer operate (unless an additional battery backup is purchased which will provide only a few additional hours of service during a power blackout). If the local telephone company achieves its goal however, these copper wires may soon become totally obsolete. Yet as noted earlier, for the last three weeks, our telephone services have experienced periodic interruptions. The first problem was due to failing copper wiring through a telephone box which had been infested with an abandoned hornet nest. Another telephone wire enclosure had been infested with a deserted bird nest. In each case, the wiring appeared to have been compromised by the infestations, causing our telephone problems and requiring rewiring.

So what to do to protect the telephone connections? I had heard about insect and animal Infestations this month from a few friends, yet then I realised I was also experiencing similar infestation problems. I started wondering how to control these “space invaders” in the telephone poles above and how to do so in the most humane and sustainable means possible.

Of course, there are extermination approaches which use poisons, pain, and power surges to get rid of these pests, yet these do not sound humane and are not practical for a telephone box high above the ground. Also, these approaches can leave the bodies of insects and rodents to decay within enclosed spaces, which could also attract additional parasites to feast upon the bodies, generate odors as things rot, and introduce additional potential health hazards. Accordingly, I wanted to explore the possible technological solution of other sound-based repellents as a more sustainable solution. Yet are they effective and humane?

There appear to be sonic, ultrasonic, electromagnetic, physical vibration, and shock devices advertised as repellents.http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=nwrcrepellants. I guess I knew this, but it was helpful to read about the different categories and background information.

Sonic devices are basically noise generators, primarily for birds or animals that respond to such sounds like “explosive charges, recorded distress alarm bird sounds, or electronically mimicked bird sounds.” Basically, these elicit a “danger” response and there can even be visual repellents like the old Wizard of Oz scarecrow in the field. But of course, sonic repellents would be too distracting if the noise is also constantly heard by humans.

The ultrasonic approach is also “sound” based, but generally beyond the frequency of human hearing. These devices are “manufactured and marketed as electronic pest control “tools” that can prevent rodent invasions, repel rodents in existing infestations, or enhance conventional rodent control methods (e. g., baiting and trapping) by influencing rodent movements to improve efficacy in an “integrated” approach.” http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=nwrcrepellants The effectiveness is sometimes limited to the proximity from the ultrasonic producer and can be absorbed by flexible/pliable materials.

Electromagnetic, vibrational, and electroshock devices are of limited proven efficacy for repelling rodents and insects.

Early technology using sonic and ultrasonic stimuli to repel or control rodents was purportedly partially based on an audiogenic seizure response. Yet I also read that sensitivity to such approaches decreased with the age of the rodent. So young rodents would be repelled but older ones would be fine? It made me think of how my hearing is starting to decrease as I get older, so my telephone pole would still be the perfect retirement home for older rodents and pests? Fortunately, the ill effects of these devices only result if the rodents remain vulnerable and exposed to continuous exposure to these stimuli in an enclosed space, but they can also migrate away and will not experience any effects. Also, the prolonged effectiveness is based on the frequency used, the age of the animal, and the length of exposure, so it sounded like rodents might habituate to the sound and be immune to its effects. As I read further, the literature noted that the mechanisms of action for ultrasonic rodent repellency with commercially manufactured devices have been based on “causing pain, interference with communication, disorientation, or fear-inducing danger signals.” So the ultrasonic interference and disorientation may be a nonpoisonous way of repelling birds and insects from certain areas and even telephone poles, but there may be unintended consequences. And of course, they do use electricity, so there is a carbon cost associated with them as well.

It has been noted such devices do not need to be registered or certified, but in the States they do need to meet the requirements of the “Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (40 CFR 162.10 ) and the Fair Trade Act, under the EPA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), respectively, as well as local government oversight.

In many ways, the ultrasonic repellent sounds workable to relocate insects, birds, and rodents away from the telephone poles, yet we live in an integrated global community and so there may be unintended consequences as alluded to above. For example, a Swiss study cell phones affected bees. When the cell phones were near or in hives, the bees sensed the signals transmitted when the phones rang, and emitted heavy buzzing noise during the calls which signaled to leave the hive, and confuses the bees and caused them to fly erratically. Basically, the signals reportedly cause the bees to become lost and disoriented. http://inhabitat.com/its-official-cell-phones-are-killing-bees/

So even with the availability of technological advances, it appears we must continue to be cautious when adopting them because our lack of “perfect” knowledge limits our understanding of the gestalt and interdependencies of actions and reactions in a global community including all living things.

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Do green phones cost more green or are they smarter smart phones?

Last week, I reached into my pocket and pulled out my mobile phone. I was surprised to see that it hadn’t closed properly. It wouldn’t close, so I tried to open it instead, and as I did, the phone broke apart into two pieces as the hinge came apart. My mates asked, “Since when do mobile phones have hinges?” I responded that it was quite popular with flip phones when I first bought my Motorola W755 https://www.motorola.com/moto_care/manuals/W_Series/W755_UG.pdf. But of course, that purchase was in 2008. So after over 6 years with the same phone, I was faced with the decision of finding a replacement mobile phone.
Motorola W755 Broken 2 Mobilephone
Yet this mishap gave me pause for thought about sustainable practices. Did I really need another mobile phone? Do I need to be that connected all the time or should I be a bit off the grid? Should I be spending resources on another mobile phone and an associated usage plan? I decided that it was important to be available to family and friends for important matters. Also, it seemed as if most my friends and business associates had mobile phones to reach me, so there were considerations to comply with those standards and expectations. So I concluded that I needed a replacement mobile, yet I was hoping to do this more sustainability. Naturally, this started me to do some research to find out what sustainable mobile phones were available.

Fortunately, I remembered a workshop presentation last March 2014 on Fairphone (www.fairphone.com) and its catch phrases “A seriously cool smart phone. Putting social values first” and “We’re putting social values first and opening up the supply chain. One step at a time.” I read more about how their product was sustainably respectful regarding mining, design, manufacturing, life cycle, and social entrepreneurship, as well as being technologically competitive with other mobile phones. So I decided this would be a more responsible alternative to replace my old phone. Yet when I went to purchase the relatively pricey 300 Euro mobile phone, the website noted that deliveries were restricted to Europe and delivery time is one to four months after placing the order. Unfortunately, these limitations ruled out this option since I didn’t live in Europe and I was looking for a replacement now. Thus, my quest continued for another phone.

As a start, I researched and found a recent May 2014 article on the sustainable smart phone market (http://recode.net/2014/05/02/smartphones-and-emerging-markets-making-the-mobile-revolution-sustainable/) and a posting entitled “Get smart: Pick a greener smart phone” (http://www.pahomepage.com/story/d/story/get-smart-pick-a-greener-smart-phone/23676/tkCOv678h0uxhM6_jRxBQQ), This latter posting focused on 4 qualities: (1) Make sure the phone has a high eco-rating; (2) Battery must last longer than your common usage; (3) Must come with a trade-in recycling program; and (4) Green accessories available. Most importantly, it referenced the global organization Underwriters Laboratory’s mobile phone “best practices” UL ISR 110 standard which “provides manufacturers with a way to showcase environmental leadership and product stewardship in an increasingly competitive hi-tech industry.” Similar to Fairphone operating conditions, this UL standard ensured that mobile devices: (1) contain environmentally preferable materials; (2) are manufactured using environmentally and socially responsible practices; (3) are recyclable at end-of-life; (4) make use of recycled and recyclable packaging; (5) have minimal environmental impact; (6) have minimal human health risks; (7) perform efficiently; and (8) demonstrate innovation in sustainable manufacturing. All this sounded reasonable.

UL Environment also provides a “certification” under its UL ISR 110 multi-attribute standard (http://site.ul.com/global/eng/pages/offerings/businesses/environment/services/spc/mobile/). To achieve this certification, a mobile phone must earn at least 60 of the available points (score of 55%). Devices earning 80 points (score of 73%) or more are eligible to receive platinum level certification. Their criteria are as follows:
Requirement Category Points
Materials 15
Manufacturing and Operations 18
Health and Environment 27
Packaging 13
Energy Use 24
EOL Management & Life Extension 12

Yet, I also learned that a company having eco-friendly specs on a product is not necessarily conclusive that the product is sustainable. For example, the US Company Verizon Wireless does include an “ECO Specs label” section for certain products on its website (http://www.verizonwireless.com/wcms/consumer/eco-specs.html). However, the company notes that this ECO Specs label is Not a rating system, but only an overview of how certain products measure to 5 factors Verizon recognizes as key to being eco-conscious. They also acknowledge that this label is only available for certain products, but “all cell phones, tablets, and accessories“ would have this label “at a later date.” Verizon’s 5 key factors are: (1) The % of recycled content or FSC/SFI paper used in the packaging; (2) The % of recycled content in the Verizon Wireless Device; (3) Meets Verizon Wireless requirements for lack of industry-recognized hazardous toxins in the plastics and batteries; (4) Meets Verizon Wireless requirements for how efficiently the device uses energy; and (5) Meets Verizon Wireless requirements for the recyclability of the device and its components.

As an example, they rated the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini ECO Specs as follows:
Box:
•Recycled Content – 100%
• FSC or SFI Content – 0%
Device Plastics:
•Recycled Content – 0%
Energy Efficient: Yes*
Toxins Free–Battery RoHS Compliant: Yes*
Toxins Free–Device Plastics: Yes*
Recyclability of Device: Yes*

When I saw that the device plastics itself had 0% recycled content and the label didn’t mention device metals, I started to wonder about this product in light of all that was being done for Fairphone. Also, I noticed that the Apple iPhone 5S did not even have the ECO Specs label yet on their website. So my conclusion was that there is still a lack of consistency and consensus about what is truly eco-conscious and how to identify these features across the mobile phone market.

In some cases, the product itself may not be very eco-friendly, but the company at least has a product recycling program or packaging program that is eco-friendly. For example, Apple launched an iPhone trade-in scheme in the UK in 2013, in which Apple’s recycling programme gives a £175 discount off a new one (http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/oct/15/apple-iphone-trade-in-scheme-uk).

I continued to read various articles which rated the different smart phones, products, and services, including “Which smartphones and tablets are the greenest?” (http://www.digitaltrends.com/mobile/eco-friendly-smartphones-and-tablets/#!biymKQ); “5-of-the-greenest-smartphones” (http://www.ecopedia.com/technology/5-of-the-greenest-smartphones/); “Different Shades of Green: Three Eco-Friendly Smartphones” (http://www.examiner.com/article/different-shades-of-green-three-eco-friendly-smartphones); Green Mobile Landline & Broadband (http://www.greenmobile.co.uk/; http://www.actionsustainability.com/resources/31/Green-Mobile–Britians-Greenest-Telephone-Company/); and Vodaphone’s eco-rating system (http://www.vodafone.com/content/sustainability/operating_responsibly/customers_and_the_environment.html).

In the end, I realized that we need to be careful not to “put sustainability on the back burner due to the economic climate” http://www.actionsustainability.com/news/617/Monumental-mistake-for-university-sector-buyers-to-forget-sustainability-during-austerity/ when buying a mobile phone, so I did buy what was characterized as an eco-friendly smart phone, but it still depends on how you measure eco-friendly (e.g., which may include packaging and certifications). I could possibly have done better if I waited four months to replace my phone, but economics and timing did play a necessary role in my decision. So perhaps there needs to be a better way for suppliers to meet a higher demand for smarter green phones at a competitive price. In the meantime, it seems like individuals must research and delve through the various standards, ratings, media reviews, and marketing to make our best choice.

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