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09Jun

“Buy a phone, change the world”

I also realized how much waste is produced with all these mobile phones. As they are one of the world’s most widely used devices, their disposal contributes to tons of e-waste each year. The consequences on the environment and populations are devastating. Most of the time, our e-waste ends up in developing countries. All the minerals present in the phone spoil soils, water, air… with consequences on populations’ environment and health. As a result more minerals ,need be extracted to build new products; which means more mines and more environmental damage and exploitation of workers… an infinite circle.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 15.47.24

In my research for a new phone…again… I discovered the Fairphone. This innovative young brand created by a Dutch company, in Amsterdam; is the first creator of an ethical phone. Fairphone already sold more than 100,000 smartphones in Europe, with that they started a new hope that their innovations can be a start for fair electronic shopping.

But what is an ethical phone like? It’s nothing more than an ordinary smartphone working on an Android system; you can call, send text, emails, take photograph, download apps… However, what differentiates this phone from others is its social responsibility, transparency, durability, recycling values at the core of the company’s work.

To reduce the impact of waste to a maximum, Fairphone has a circular view on the production of the phone. That means in the stage of design, it think of how to reuse and recycle parts of other mobile phones. As all minerals can be extracted and reused, this way they use the older phones as materials for the new ones.

In addition they raise awareness and participate in programs to reduce e-waste. And of course they are working towards the goal of using recycled materials for their future products.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 14.21.15

Environmental and social costs of smartphones production are huge; from mining to manufacturing, transportation and wastes; all this process includes pollution and social issues (workers safety, rights…). Fairphone is pushing the limits by proving that it can be done differently and more responsibly; I hope it can give the example for others brands. Thanks to Fairphone’s transparency you know what every cents you spend are for… For example, for each Fairphone produced; 5$ are invested in a Worker Welfare Fund to enhance safety and good development of workers. You know also that they try to extract minerals (gold, tantalum, tungsten…) in conflict-free areas and are involved with NGO to tackle these problems. Indeed, most of minerals present in your phone are from Congo, an area touched by armed conflicts…Armed groups revenue are basically from minerals.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 15.49.34
On top of that, the Fairphone is modular; changing a part of your phone is like playing with lego. If a part of your phone is broken you can easily order a new piece and replace it. Fairphone plans also to upgrade its elements, for example, if one day they commercialize a better camera or battery you just have to order this part and don’t have to buy a new phone for better performances. It is created with the intention of durability and not only selling you a product. This is an innovative idea.

Good news is that other brands are already following Fairphone´s example. Google is developing its modular phone: Ara, built to last. As Legos, you can build your own personal phone. This phone is still in development but it can be promising if these kinds of innovations became the new normal in electronic market.Schermafdruk 2016-06-09 16.02.01

But then, what justify the price of a smart phones? Nice design? Cool brand? A big screen?.. There is no other company that is paying for the environmental damage that they cause. The last version of the Fairphone can compete easily with smartphone of this price range in term of performances. So the only justification that I see is that those other brands are just looking for more profit by so-called innovations in performances, design but nothing concerning the production process. Can we accept that?

Fairphone’s goal is not only to commercialize a new phone.“Start a movement” and “Join the community” are its motto. So what movement are we talking about? Which community?

A part of the population is aware of all these sustainable issues and cannot just accept it. This community believes of our power as simple consumer. The way we consume can also be a way to express ourselves by supporting positive initiatives and boycotting others. And obviously, it has power, if more and more people behave in this way, brands won’t have other choice to change their behaviors and strategies.

Being part of this “community” for me is a way to show I disapprove the behavior of ordinary brands… I want to be part of the people who don’t follow new trends because it’s cool but care about the way they are made and is willing to make things change…

Even though it is not the cheapest, I decided to join the movement and buy one. I believe in the positive changes that responsible purchase can have. Supporting this initiative meant 3 months with no phone. As a start-up who chose to not commercialize its phones in a normal circuit. They produce their phone according to orders and only through internet. Victim of it success, there was a 3 month-delay when I ordered it… But thanks to Fairphone, during these 3 months I realized how much we were connected to our phones but also how easy and liberating it was to live without being connected all the time…

Finally, when you decide to buy your Fairphone don’t forget to recycle your last phone, you can even earn money from it!

09May

Cities of tomorrow

Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Berlin,Budapest… Have you ever lived in or visited one of these cities? If you have, I’m sure you could feel the motion. These European cities are ahead of the world when it comes to innovation and ideas to build more sustainable cities.

This is not only about infrastructures but people also seem happier! For example, it’s clear that riding a bike to work in a city with fresh air (like in Amsterdam or Copenhagen) is much more pleasant than spending hours in traffic jams in a polluted city!  These cities reflect the necessity of our societies to change. Environmental issues, social and economic crises are currently affecting the world. With a constantly increasing urban population (54% of the population live in urban area, +2% per years)); it’s time for cities to work about tomorrow urban life. Because it’s now clear that we won’t be able to feed, house, provide energy to everyone in the future with our current system.

Hopefully, innovative people are working every day to build better cities. For example, you can visit the Fabcity (“Together we make the city of tomorrow”) in Amsterdam; walking in there feels like a preview of how our future cities will look like… In this little “village” you can find people working on the project of today; for tomorrow, to make sustainable cities. Now that we know that we are running out of many resources, climate change is already here… Urban garden, tiny houses, clean energy, electric cars represent the new face of our cities… Clean and self-sufficient. Moreover, well-being and happiness of the population is at the core of this transition!fabcity house

Besides, to build these new cities, new forms of economy and politic are needed. Today, innovative solutions come more and more from citizens like you and me, innovation is becoming independent from big companies and governments. We can talk about bottom-up initiatives, initiatives that come from citizens or group of citizens and integrate the economy and system then. This gives independence to communities; circular economy is at the core. Economy that produces no waste and pollution, recycle and reuse everything, with a preference for local production and consumption; on their way to become the “new normal”. Soon, we can imagine that cities will become self-sufficient. Are we slowly going away from this globalised system?friendly green production in Fabcity

Visiting this Fabcity was so inspiring and motivating as I felt totally comfortable in this atmosphere: engineers was working next to people building houses or people gardening in the same purpose of making a community live sustainably while I could enjoy drinking a soda in the sun at the “local café”.

In this transition, social ties are more important than before which contribute to the happiness of a society as a reflection of solidarity and mutual aid: peer-to-peer and local consumption tighten link between people. Economic crisis and political distrust make us look at each other to find solutions.

Besides, with solar,wind energy, urban gardening, it’s clear that we are tightening our links with  nature…and maybe those changes was what missing to our modern societies to make the world better. Indeed, that’s maybe something that was forgotten during last centuries, growing individualism made us forget the name of our neighbours and industrialisation with mass consumption made us forget where our food was coming from. And that’s why I felt so comfortable visiting this Fabcity, because we can imagine that in the future it will be like that: people working for their community.

Population is growing fast, climate change is more and more visible, so we have to act now! Hopefully, when we see how fast innovation and technology are evolving, we can only be optimistic about the future of our cities and societies! However, there is still a long way to go before this transition impacts the whole world, but it has to start somewhere!

A long term challenge based on short terms action.

Visit https://citiesintransition.eu/ to stay aware about these European cities in transition.

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