Quick disclaimer: This post was inspired via a chat on Twitter with the team at Compare and Recycle, who made the excellent infographic below. However, I have no affiliation with them, or any other company mentioned here, and make no financial gains from anything linked in this post.
There’s a pretty significant chance that you’re reading this post on a smartphone or tablet. These devices have become firmly embedded in our lives, with over five billion people expected to own a mobile phone by 2019.
Phones and tablets have arguably saved the production of a lot of other materials in what they’ve been able to replace. My phone really isn’t just a phone – it’s my calculator, diary, pedometer, food planner, personal trainer, virtual yoga instructor, note-taker, camera, video, music collection and it provides storage for countless magazines, newspapers and books.
Internationally, mobile phones have leapfrogged a number of older technologies to provide an important role in society. A great example of this is the huge growth of Kenya’s M-PESA mobile money service, which 40% of Kenya’s GDP passes through. The M-PESA service, which started as a microfinance initiative, now allows people to transfer money for services, and offers loans and savings opportunities. The virtual nature of the service has saved many hours of time and money for its users, especially in the most rural areas of the country as they no longer need to take long journeys to physical buildings to access money. You can read more about M-PESA in this Economist article or in Kate Raworth’s excellent book, Doughnut Economics.
But whilst it’s great that our phones have replaced the need for countless bit of other ‘stuff’, there is a huge environmental impact from the production and running of our tech that we do need to address.