Blog post 9: Smartphone and apps

My Fairphone when i repaired the camera

Beginning of September is busy in Belgium… everyone is back from holidays and school starts… So Belgium is living and working again 😉

I’ve been searching for some eco and fair smartphones and apps; and I decided to share it with you. When I find new “treasures” in the future, I’ll add them to this post. If you know good apps, don’t hesitate to write it in the comments here below!

Smartphone

Apparently, 80% of the carbon footprint of a smartphone is the production… so having a smartphone is not ecological… but it is not possible to all go live in a cave hunting wild animals and eating berries, right? Would be cool for a while, tough 😉

I refused for a long time to have a smartphone, but since my daughter started school 2 years ago, I ‘jumped into technology’…. I wanted to be in the Whatsapp group from the parents from het classroom…

So I bought a “Fairphone. No, don’t laugh, it does exist. I searched the internet and didn’t find another phone claiming itself a fair phone.

Yes, they try to make smartphones as eco and fair as they can. On their website, they describe their phone as follows: “We believe that care for the environment and people should be a natural part of doing business throughout our industry. With suppliers, local communities and the wider industry, we work for fairer materials and more responsible practices – one step at a time. Together we’re disrupting a short-term way of thinking that the world can no longer afford.”

In practice:

  • the minerals in your phone come either from recycling or from mines where no children are working and where workers have relative good working conditions (to the point they can check it of course).
  • you can repair your phone if something is broken (very good explanation on their website). And the technical service is excellent and extremely friendly!
  • You know where your money goes: they show the cost breakdown of their phones. They earn 9 eur for each phone; which they use for unexpected cost or programs with social impact.
  • The Fairphone has a dual-SIM; so it can be convenient if you always walk around with 2 phones or travel a lot (for the foreign SIM-cards).

BUT, let’s be honest here, otherwise you’ll not believe me. Here are some disadvantage:

  • you have to pre-order it: so, by the times it arrives, it isn’t anymore the best of the market.
  • Sometimes orders are delayed. But they always explain you why.
  • The price! 450 eur (for the new fairphone 3) for a phone which is good but not excellent
  • My personal experience: the battery doesn’t last very long (after 1,5 year, it survives a day if you don’t use it too much). And my camera always has problems: I had to change my first phone because it was not possible to repair it…. But it was all free of cost! Now I’ve to screw tighter my camera once in a while otherwise it starts having problems again.

So, you get it… If you buy one, it’s not to have “the best phone of the world”, but to make a statement hoping to force bigger companies to take action for “fairer phones”. And be ready to sometimes ask yourself “Why, oh why did I decided to buy a Fairphone? Why not a better (cheaper) phone?”

So if you don’t want a Fairphone, don’t forget to check for the following when buying a new phone:

  •  Is my phone easy to repair? You can find comparison on internet.
  • Can I easily replace the battery?
  • Do I use a lot of memory? So yes, check if you can add an extra memory card.

Apps

The App-world is infinite… but here is a list of the few I think are worth sharing:

Icones from the apps described below.
From left to right: For Good, Environment Challenge, Good on You, Geocaching
  • For Good: it registers your transportation (bike, car,…), asks you questions about your habits (food, drinks, shopping, transportation) and gives you tips (“why do we ask this?”), you can also bring in your gas and electricity consumption… It calculates everything and give you a weekly estimates of your ecological footprint.I do not register all this anymore (privacy, and battery issues), but I really like the articles and tips they share regularly.
  • Environment Challenge: If you really don’t know how to start, this can help you. It gives you different types of challenges that you can do in few days. But if you are already “advanced” in water saving, waste reduction and ecology-minded, then this app might be to basic for you.
  • Good on You: an App to check if the clothing brand you want to buy is ethical (workers conditions,… but no indication on ecology though). It works for big companies. It only give an indication; for the brands I tried with friends, we did not always agree with them. We came to the conclusion that you can trust the app for the brands scoring excellent or very bad.
  • Geocaching: Do you like to find treasure? If yes, this is for you! Everywhere in the world, many people hided “treasures”. The app works with GPS location. You can try to find them (without that strangers see you of course) and register that you found it. Pro: they are everywhere, so even on holiday you can try to find one; it will brings you to places you would never go. And it motivates kids to walk. Cons: don’t get disappointed; the “treasure” is often just the reward of having found it 😉. Usually it is a very small piece of paper where you have to write your name for the register. And always check in the comments that the “geocache” still exists (that some people found it not too long ago).

Internet browser

And to conclude, I would like to mention the browser “Ecosia”: instead of searching with google, you can use Ecosia. The money they win with the publicity (if many people use Ecosia, companies pay to post publicities) is used to plan trees.

Blog: tips

Blog post 1: How to start?

While trying to write my first post, I’m probably sitting with the same question as you… how to start?

Let me give you an advice: don’t be too enthusiastic! … It sounds a weird advice from someone who wants to inspire you to a more ecological way of living. But yes, keep it in mind.

Take small steps, one by one. Give it time to integrate all those small changes in your live. If something doesn’t work, don’t worry, step back and take another step.

I’ll try to give you some direction. Hopefully, in some months/years, all topics will be covered in this website. If you really miss something, or are interested in a specific topic which I might find relevant, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Pick one of the bullet point here below and think how you could easily adapt your current life.

  • You are a shopping queen? Check for ecological and fair trade brands, exchange clothes with friends, you could even make new clothes from old ones if you can sew.
  • Ready to reorganize your kitchen-cupboard? Maybe you can try to find some zero-waste shop or bio-shops offering packaging-free food. Dry food is very easy. Do you really need 3kg stock of rice, quinoa, pasta, bulgur, lentils…? (because there was 10% off when buying 3 pack). Don’t throw away your plastic boxes, but use them until they are broken. You’ll save place, and money (not wasting expired ingredients).
  • Holidays… a sensitive topic. Yes, we all need a break once in a while. But did you check for alternative instead of the plane? Will you really enjoy more being on a weekend city trip in Spain than going by train in your own country or neighboring country? If yes, go; but at least you’ll have thought about it. 😉
  • Sweets... yes… being ecological doesn’t means no sweets… I love cookies, so I’m baking them myself. Either it become a activity with the girls on a weekend day, or I make them in the evening when they are in bed… it gives me satisfaction to have done something “useful”. And the zero waste shop where we go even have excellent candies!
  • Need place? You probably have 2m² with cleaning products as I did. But you probably can do with a 1/5 of it: laundry powder, “all use cleaning”, hand and dishes soap, dishwasher tablets, and small bag of the ingredients for your home made products (citric acid, soda, soap, vinegar).
  • Kids @ home? This is a difficult one… I must admit. Bake with them, try to make wild animals or other craft with “nature treasure” (of course, you go on treasure hunt before: feathers, nice stones, tree branches of dry leaves, walnut shells, pine cones,…), make self-made salt-based modelling dough, start a small vegetable garden (on your window sill or inside if your don’t have a garden).
  • Smartphone addicted? There a plenty of interesting and motivating apps; making you realize the ecological footprint of your choices (then it’s up to you to decide what to do with it; but at least you know it ;-)). I do have “For Good”. Great app!!! Did you hear about the Fairphone? (I want to make a post on it; all phones should follow their way of thinking… however the phone itself is not (yet) the best on the market).
  • Just bought a house? Renovating it? Do you know that there are ecological alternative for most of the building material?
  • In the bathroom… there are soooo many bottles, tubes, pot, and beauty-day-night-after sun-(…) cream. Often most are unused; and for many of them home-made or zero-waste alternatives are available. But to be honnest, I find this one a difficult one… there a so many alternatives or you need of some time (and ingredients) to make them yourself. Up till today, I save 3/4 of the space of the bathroom closet: hard soap; one bottle filled in with liquid soap and shampoo from the zero-waste shop, palma rosa essential oil instead of deodorant, washable sanitary towels, and the reusable “cup” for menstruation.
  • think LOCAL & veggie: I’m not vegetarian, and I’m not aiming at it. But we are not made to eat food at every meal… if someone in your house (i don’t…) can cook well, you’ll not miss meat in your plate! We also try to eat local and seasonal food: vegetables (including from our own garden of course), once in a while meat from a cow grazing or running in grass fields (not locked inside their entire life) in our own country. Of course we prefer to use biological products, but we also struggle to decide bio strawberries or “normal strawberries” 4 times cheaper…