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How the iPhone helped save the planet

Often we judge the production of a technology device such as the iPhone that has a great impact on the environment and forget the other aspect: the birth of the iPhone reduces the use of other devices, but without it. We will have to produce a lot of devices. The article below from Wired shows us about that.

Since its launch 12 years ago, Apple has sold more than 2 billion iPhones, a form of equipment that is needed today for everyone. To make such a complex device requires a lot of metal, plastic, glass and other materials from the earth. Some of them include cobalt mined by hand, even by children in poor countries like Congo. That's not including a rare element that is gradually depleted.

In addition, electricity is used a lot in the manufacturing process, which comes from burning fossil fuels around the world. According to calculations, a smartphone user consumes an annual amount of electricity equivalent to a refrigerator. Digital economy, where the iPhone is part of which uses about 10% of the power on this planet.

Steve Cichon, a historian and writer, bought a newspaper in 1991, on the advertisement site, he found retailer Radio Shack posted an ad for the electronic devices they sold. "There are 15 types of electronic devices on this advertisement page and 13 of them are in your pocket everyday." The technology equipment has disappeared thanks to the iPhone that Cichon uses every day including computers, camcorders, mobile phones and recording devices. Although the 1991 newspaper ad did not list compass, camera, manometer, accelerometer, GPS, they disappeared because of the presence of similar iPhones and smartphones.

Cichon's discovery shows another aspect of the production of more than 2 billion iPhones as harmful to the planet. Instead, we should think in a different way: what kind of devices have people had to produce in the last 12 years without smartphones? The answer is many, many devices.

Sales of PnS (point and shoot), camcorder, film cameras have decreased in recent years, not that we no longer want to take photos or videos but because of the appearance of smartphones has helped us reduce dependence. and no longer consume those kinds of devices, or what is called dematerialization (dematerialization). This is an economic concept to use less material for the economy but still produce more and more efficiently.

Why do people now think that the concept of dematerialization takes the throne? There are two reasons, the first is technological progress. iPhone is one of the devices that show us about dematerialization but that technology has appeared everywhere. Thanks to powerful computer graphic design programs, people were able to create thinner aluminum cans, build lighter buildings and make machines that consume less fuel. Sensors and machine learning technology allow fish production facilities to consume electricity efficiently. Technology also helps agriculture become more productive while using less land, water and fertilizer. These technologies naturally consume a certain amount of electricity but it also helps to save energy in the economy.

The second reason comes from capitalism, the competition between companies in providing services and products. Companies are increasingly using less money and technological advances allow them to still provide services to our needs every day using less resources. As a result, our economy continues to grow while impacting the planet less.

A typical example is a cardboard cover. E-commerce exploded from the period of web formation but the amount of carton cover consumed in the US in 2015 was lower than in 1995. Every day a household can receive many carton boxes from e-commerce services. like Amazon or competitors. The competition helps these companies to create packaging and logistic ways to use less carton.

In addition to dematerialization, we also need government policies to deal with environmental challenges. In addition, companies like Apple should make products that can be used longer and easier to fix. iPhone contributes to saving the planet and bringing us to the second enlightenment period. This enlightenment period is also expected to spread from US and developed countries to lower-income countries.


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