Skip to main content

GLOBAL – Every so often, Nokia is asked why it doesn’t produce a “green” phone – a device that has has been specially devised to have the lowest possible environmental impact when it comes to materials, power consumption, recycling and so forth.

There’s a few different answers to this question. But the main one is that we do produce environmentally leading devices: lots of them. In ten years, Nokia has reduced the environmental impact of comparable models (e.g. Nokia 3310 vs. X2) by 65 per cent. How has it done that, and what makes the new models better than ever? Read on for the details.

To go back to the green phone idea. First of all, you have to question the idea of a manufacturer producing a special, “green” model within its product portfolio. What does that tell you about its other devices? Surely, the point is for Nokia to be as environmentally conscientious as possible across the business, not just hang all of its ethics on a particular device? It’s not as though we can “offset” the wastefulness and toxicity of a bunch of other devices by having one that’s especially kind to the environment.

Nokia’s policy is to improve across the range and across the lifecycle of its devices. But as Anssi Vanjoki mentioned in his keynote at Nokia World, the new family of Symbian^3 devices provide some great examples of how the company is doing more with each new generation of devices to be kinder to the environment at the same time as making them more powerful.

So what makes these new devices better for the environment?

Bio materials. The Nokia C7 uses biopaints: it’s the first mobile device in the industry to do so. The Nokia C6-01, E7 and N8 use bioplastics for up to 49 per cent of their structural plastic parts. These biomaterials are (ultimately) made from vegetable oils rather than crude oil, and so have a much lower environmental impact.

Recycled materials. The C6-01 is the first mobile device in the industry to use recycled metals. For stainless steel, Nokia requires 75 per cent recycled content. The alloy of Copper, Nickel and Zinc used in other parts of its construction is required to have 98 per cent recycled metals. [By the way, in case you were thinking recycled=shoddy, you may like to read Engadget’s first looks article on the device, entitled, “if this is recycled metal, count us in”].

RFR-free. Mobile phones have historically contained flame-retardants based on bromine, chlorine and antimony trioxide that refuse to decompose after use, thus raising environmental concerns. Nokia has voluntarily phased out the use of BFRs (those based on bromine) and all other rFRs across its product portfolio. Incidentally, Nokia hasn’t used PVC – environmentally damaging from production to disposal – since 2006.

Low energy. Nokia’s new phones feature OLED displays – offering the same brightness for less power. They also have a power-save mode and ambient light sensors that adjust the brightness of the display to use less power in darker environments. And Nokia’s chargers aren’t just a plug and a wire, despite appearances – they have the lowest standby power consumption in the industry and are extremely efficient while charging. The no-load power consumption of its leading chargers has actually been reduced by 95 per cent over the last decade.

Print and packaging. The amount of printed documentation that comes with your new phone has been decreased, with the introduction of electronic user guides on the device itself. For some time, Nokia’s boxes have been smaller and less glossy than you might expect – it’s a move that’s saved 100,000 tons of paper materials since 2006 and halved the number of trucks required for distribution. It’s bad news for unboxing videos, perhaps, but good news for the planet.

One further element that ought to be mentioned – although it’s not new at all – is that getting rid of your old Nokia is very easy. Nokia’s take-back programme has 5000 collection points across 85 countries. Don’t leave old phones lying in a drawer – 100 per cent of its materials are recyclable and every phone that comes back means that we have to extract and refine fewer raw materials for new ones.

image credit: NASA