I just now saw a short film called “Behind the Screens.” It’s on Waterbear. (If you don’t have a Waterbear account yet I really really recommend it. It’s like Netflix for ecosocial activists, and it’s free.) Go here to watch the film (I expect you’ll be prompted to set up an account, which as I said is free.)

“Behind the Screens takes view­ers on an immer­sive jour­ney into the peo­ple, places and mate­ri­als behind our every­day obses­sion with the mobile phone. A vis­cer­al doc­u­men­tary that expos­es the com­plex, resource-inten­sive pro­duc­tion process of the device that frames so much of mod­ern-day conversation.”

It’s not that we can’t have smartphones. (Myself, I bought my first iphone in 2009, and a smartphone has become my most important work tool as well as indispensable device for personal everyday use.)

But, a lot of phones get replaced far more often than needed. And there are phones sitting in drawers unused when they could be recycled.

A lot of smartphone shops (at least for iphone, in my experience) will take phones back for reuse, recycling of materials. Also a lot of places sell refurbished phones. The first two iphones I owned were refurbs.

I am now on my fourth phone, which I bought last month after my previous one just got too old, no longer upgradeable to be compatible with apps I need, keyboard started going totally haywire, etc.

This one I actually purchased new. I’m hoping to get years of use from it.

But if I hadn’t just bought a new phone, I’d be seriously looking into something called a Fairphone.

The Fairphone organization is mentioned in “Behind the Screens.” Here is Fairphone’s website. It really looks quite impressive what they’re doing. Raising the bar for the smartphone industry.

The Fairphone 4 runs a version of Android, so there should be no worry about finding apps and that kind of thing. The phone is designed to be easy for users to replace the battery or display just by unscrewing with a standard screwdriver. (“iFixit score: 10 out of 10. The Fairphone 4 has been awarded a perfect score for repairable design.”)

Also the phone comes with a 5-year warranty. Definitely check out the website even if you’re not due for a new phone yet. And do share the Fairphone website and “Behind the Screens” link with people you know; let’s get the word out widely!

OKAY. Now here’s the bad news. Which I only found out after typing this whole entire post. The Fairphone is only sold in Europe. That’s a shame. I thought it sounded too good to be true. Never mind — share this post anyway, and share the Fairphone page and info anyway! Let’s start raising the public’s expectations for the smartphone industry.

And please watch “Behind the Screens”!

Finally, a few tips I’ve gleaned over the years:

• Many phone stores sell refurbished phones that will cost you much less than buying a new one, while still being able to last for years.

• The greenest phone is the one we already have; replace your phone as infrequently as you can get by with.

• If you are fortunate enough to have a good repair shop near you, use them! I’ve been surprised over the years at what’s repairable.

• When you go to get a new phone, turn in your old phone; the shop can recycle its materials, use it for parts etc. Plus you know just as well as I do thst it’s a drag having a cluttered drawer full of old phones, chargers, and other related electronic bits. It’s just depressing plus it’s a waste of space in your home. Take any old phones and related stuff that you are not actively using, and turn them in to the shops or recycling centers.

• Always buy a screen protector and protective case with your phone!! The extra expense will more than pay for itself by saving you expenses of screen breakage, time lost taking the phone to have its screen repaired/replaced, and so on.

Further Exploration

• You might enjoy “Upgrade Renegade,” a post I started in February 2022 when my old phone’s screen cracked on a weekend and I ended up putting off dealing with it, just taped it with a wide piece of clear packing tape. It turned into quite the case study in DIY repair, dogged commitment to postponing purchase, and the shaming that can come from even “eco”-minded people in response to a person resisting the “proper, de rigeur” consumer behavior.