We all know and feel the pulse of our times; we need to effectively manage every moment, we need to be fast, flexible (mobile), and connected. Using a cell phone or a Blackberry, a laptop or a PDA, we need to be continuously connected to what happens each and every moment. Access to the new technologies and mobile technology in particular has dramatically influenced our personal lives as well as our work. We all take advantage of the obvious improvement in our lives in communicating and learning things, with the possibility of being continuously connected to almost any network, when we want and where we want. Unfortunately, not all of us are aware of the impact that the manufacturing, usage, and disposal of the computers, cell phones, and other must-have devices have on the environment. Let's identify the phases and the factors with a high impact on the environment.
Extracting the raw materials and manufacturing components is probably the main factor in creating environmental pollution; this phase makes up more than half of mobile devices' environmental impact. The materials that are extracted, such as precious metals, involve mining to obtain the materials for phone circuit boards. This also involves energy loss and contamination to air, ground, and water with a big impact on biodiversity. Assembly of these products also creates energy loss and uses water, and their transport has an impact through pollution and creates waste via packaging . Computer and phone companies can work on improving their manufacturing processes in order to decrease the impact on the environment. For example, producing smaller, lighter laptops and cell phones reduces material used in their construction cuts down on the emissions released.
While using our computers, Blackberries, or cell phones, we use a considerable amount of energy. Energy use is another impact that our mobile devices have on the environment. Consumption of energy by burning fossil fuels has an impact on climate change. Certain gases emissions damage the ozone layer, which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. These emissions make us more vulnerable to diseases provoked by the harmful effect of the ultraviolet radiations. We can help on saving energy by learning how to effectively choose and use our devices. The newer generations of devices implement better power supplies to help save energy. Newer smaller and lighter laptops and cell phones last longer on a charge and comply with new environmental regulations. In contrast, the heavier-weight, larger footprint products consume more energy to provide the desired performance. Big companies like Sony, Dell, and HP have designed their products to consume less energy. "Footprint and weight are key drivers of life cycle environmental impact on PC products" says David Hallisey, a Gateway representative.
Finally, the end of use of a device is another phase of a product life cycle. With the need to upgrade or replace equipment as technology continuously advances, the lifecycle of our devices can be very short. That is why the waste is another factor that has an impact on the environment. All the computer and cell phone producers have developed strategies on reusing and recycling materials to reduce waste, energy consumption, and pollution. These companies encourage customers to return their old devices for reuse or recycle when purchasing new products.
Manufacturers must not only create better-performing products, but also design them to be more environmentally friendly, to improve our lives and help us live freely in a healthier environment.