These gadgets supported the world through years of pandemic strife — but now could be the time to tame unsustainable technophilic addictions.

In a previous article on adopting eco-consciousness when owning and maintaining smart devices that use lithium rechargeable batteries, readers were reminded to consider extending the usable life of such devices instead of considering them as electronic junk after just a year or two.

Now, in a year when smartphone manufacturers are struggling to sell high-end models at palatable prices, to consumers who are starting to grow weary of the many unneeded features being packed into next year’s models, it is time for a rethink on buying and disposing of such devices in an eco-sustainable manner.

As mentioned in the article on battery-life conservation (considering that smartphone batteries are a drain on natural resources), we can adopt best battery-charging practices to keep the lithium cells in good shape for longer before we start thinking of replacing the entire device or dumping it altogether.

However, there are many other ways we can do our part to exert pressure on electronic equipment manufacturers to fall in line with environmental sustainability expectations through the way we choose to do business with them. Following are some tips that keep consumers in control of how manufacturers should rethinking product design and life cycle management.

Rethinking the smartphone lifestyle

Firstly, while it is in the interest of telcos and smartphone manufacturers to continually lure us into upgrading our phone yearly, it really is time to signal the need for industries to innovate responsibly. How? By walking the talk of sustainability and eco-consciousness when we are tempted to upgrade to a new phone when we do not need to do so!

Other ways to keep these resource-intensive electronic devices in circulation longer include:

    1. Choosing the right models that meet our needs rather than going for overpriced premium devices that we end up not using optimally anyway. Ever bought a gleaming beautiful phone made with the most exclusively treated all-aluminum chassis, only to never really enjoy it much because we cover it up with a phone case anyway? It is time to show manufacturers that the use of sustainable materials in manufacture must also be accompanied by less resource intensive practices, rather than promoting aesthetics and exclusivity in pointless, impractical ways.
    2. Extending the useful life of smartphones, laptops, tablets and other gadgets by protecting them from serious damage; replacing worn-out batteries and other replaceable parts instead of disposing of them after just a year or two; and recouping your investments by selling them off to people who are ready to add years of shelf life to your unwanted smart devices.
    3. Making your voice heard on social media to pressure manufacturers to up their ESG practices and product policies. With so cybersecurity risk at play, many consumers have started dumping their smartphones the moment they are no longer supported by the manufacturers’ stipulated period of producing security patches. So, after say, three years, a perfectly usable phone may be deemed as a cybersecurity liability? Time for consumers to make manufacturers revise and extend this forced obsolescence! We can vote with our wallets, show manufacturers that WE ARE THEIR BOSSES, and resist their powerful influences and clout in making and selling devices that put the future of humanity unnecessary in jeopardy.
    4. Protect your investments! It is too common to see consumers using their smart devices in the raw, without investing in some casings and screen protection. Some may well be able to afford a replacement phone when their current abused phone is damaged beyond economical repair. However, the point of sustainable and eco-friendly awareness is to curb unnecessary demand! Devices manufacturers would love every consumer to damage their smartphones in ways that are out-of-warranty! Telcos are doing everything they can to tempt consumers to upgrade every year for no reason other than vanity and ego. This is NOT how the world is going to reach urgent sustainability goals before global warming destroys our future.
    5. Start educating our young and impressionable generations. With buy-now-pay-later, interest-free credit card payment schemes and attractive telco contracts, even consumers with tight budget constraints can afford to ignore all ESG responsibilities and splurge on the highest-end models they do not need; use them recklessly knowing they can get another better phone within months; or hand them down to siblings and children who are not taught to use the devices responsibly. So please: walk the ESG talk, and also start our young ones on good ESG practices NOW.
    6. Fight for higher device safety standards. What is the use of being ESG conscious and making manufacturers fall in line with national green plans and climate change treaties when our health suffers due to the various effects of heavy reliance on electronic devices? Slowly but surely, there is mounting anecdotal evidence that 5G microwave radiation can impact health insidiously when we place smartphones on our body. Smartphones’ vibrant screens are a joy to consume content with, but watch out for eye damage from the blue light component that can affect the rods and cones (color receptors) in our eyes. Eye strain from overuse also poses a risk to ocular health when it can cause dry eyes, entice us to rub our eyes constantly to ease the strain. These little-known hazards of radiation-rich devices may not affect us (and the young) immediately — but the worst part of the health hazards is that we may eventually suffer health problems without even knowing that they were caused by smart gadgets. It is time for more health authorities to investigate and revise radiation emission and other harms of gadget overuse — and the impetus may well be from consumers themselves.

So, while we enjoy our daily reliance on smart gadgets to be more productive and versatile, now is also the time to rethink how we as consumers can dictate manufacturers’ and governance agencies’ cadence in innovating responsibly, urgently, and preemptively — before technology (in this case smart technology and of course, AI) pushes humanity to cross the Rubicon irrevocably.