We're so attached to our smartphones that we never stop to question the damage we're doing with them. Here’s a quick look at some of most basic elements required to manufacture these addictions and just what impact they actually have on the environment.
Are millennials really green?
We millennials pride ourselves on being green. It’s become steadily more and more popular to think before you buy, and before you eat. Millennials are also seen as the generation willing to pay more for environmentally friendly options. On top of these conscious buying habits, lifestyle changes have also taken modern society by storm. Going vegetarian or vegan is considered a highly commendable lifestyle choice. But just how environmentally conscious are millennials really?
The millennial generation is obsessed with its cellphones. Selfies, social media, business, pleasure; our phones are used for everything and the impact this has had on modern society is undeniable. It’s also evident that people have become addicted to using them. Instant gratification is the new drug. Watching the number of “likes” increase on our selfies is this generation’s cocaine.
But just how environmentally friendly these devices are isn’t a question many care to ask. Seeing as how attached we are to them, we dare not think about how much damage we are actually doing with these devices. It is a highly relevant question to ask, however, especially considering the fact that 1.56 billion of them were sold in 2018 alone. Here’s a quick look at some of most basic elements required to manufacture these addictions and just what impact they actually have on the environment.
This one doesn’t need much explaining. For generations the dangers of plastic to the environment have been apparent. From air pollution created by refining crude oil, to the toxins released in the plastic manufacturing process. The bad news is that most phones are almost entirely made of plastic.
The good news?
The plastic used in our phones is almost entirely recyclable, so you can take your old phone to the nearest e-waste recycling centre next time you upgrade, and pat yourself on the back for being a little greener than you were yesterday.
COPPER / GOLD
A smartphone handset consists of roughly 40% metal and copper is an essential conductive material used in your phone’s main board. Without it, your iPhone simply cannot function. Similarly, gold is used for its thermal and electrical conductivity.
The problem with using these natural resources lies in the methods with which they’re obtained. In 3000 BCE the Egyptians started mining for copper and we as a species haven’t stopped since. However, mining comes with a massive impact on the environment which only starts with destroying entire ecosystems in the immediate area. Mining is also responsible for the contamination of surface and ground water, as well as the soil itself. Not to mention the risk of sinkholes and the release of greenhouse gasses.
The good news?
One small bright side is that these materials are expensive, forcing manufacturing companies to use recycled material where possible.
The term ‘electrosmog’ refers to electromagnetic radiation emitted by cellular towers and similar structures built to support our mobile phone use. This hasn’t received too much attention, and not many studies exist on the subject. It is therefore hard to say just how large an impact it may be having on wildlife and on our own health.
So what information do we have? It is suggested that cell towers are disorientating flying insects and birds. The most severely affected are bees, who rely on magnetoreception to navigate. Magnetoreception is the process by which bees can sense magnetic fields using iron granules in their abdomens or brains. In fact, studies have shown how the installation of cell phone towers negatively affect honeybee populations in the area.
The good news?
Well, there isn’t any. As long as we rely on technology these problems will exist and it’s hard to see an entire generation discarding (and recycling) their mobile phones any time soon, millennial or otherwise.
It’s great to take your own tote bag to the store, and to stop using plastic straws, but the next time you use your phone to post about how green you are, ask yourself:
“Am I really?”
For Further reading about this topic you can visit the following links:
- Our smartphone addiction is costing the Earth
- Redefining scope: the true environmental impact of smartphones?
- The environmental impact of your smartphone
This story was written by a guest contributor, Gary Knipe. If you’d like to become a contributor for Essential Millennial, please contact us and we’ll make sure your stories are shared far and wide.