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Stop! Before Buying a Shiny New Gadget: Read This
Stop! Before Buying a Shiny New Gadget: Read This

Consumer – Or Principled Consumer, Who Do You Want to Be?

With the shiny new iPhone 6 just around the corner and that fancy Apple Watch that Jimmy Kimmel was able to convince passersby was the same as a $20 Casio watch – remember, smartphones aren’t just shiny they’re deadly.

Your smartphone is one of the most dangerous things on the planet. No, not because it might explode at your ear if you use it while charging, nor because you can pop a piece of popcorn if you point enough phones at it and make them ring simultaneously. Those stories are just new urban myths. Your smartphone is one of the most dangerous things on the planet not even because some people are still dumb enough to text and drive. And not even because you are likely to turn into a 21st century zombie because you’re totally addicted to the screen.

Smartphones are causing wars. Rather, the minerals mined to make them are causing wars.

Smart phones are poisoning and killing people. Rather, the toxic chemicals factory workers are forced to handle are poisonous and the working conditions in those mines are unconscionable.

How the Unitarian Universalist Association Promotes Environmental Justice

Even in death, smartphones are just plain bad for the planet. Don’t even get me started on the amount of e-waste we produce every year and the villages in China that are affected when we export that dross for recycling.

But I don’t have to tell you that! You’d have to be hiding under a rock, in the desert, with no wifi to be completely oblivious to the fact that smartphones aren’t the most sustainable product on the planet.

But there’s no turning back. A life without a smartphone is just unthinkable... With what would we launch cardinals with unibrows at unsuspecting piglets?... Just try and take a selfie with this!   We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea. As careful and caring 21st century consumers who are at least conscientious enough to click on this post, my guess is that like me, you have just about HAD it with the burden of knowing you’re pretty much forced to contribute to a massive ecological and environmental problem, causing a growing desire to hide under a rock, in the desert, with no wifi. So, what do we do? Well, the first step is to remember that everything is interdependent (7th principle anyone?). Think about how many hands it took to get that smartphone into yours. Now more than ever our individual actions have a ripple effect that can reach the other side of the world. What we do matters, how we choose matters, what we buy matters. Consider this the first line of immune defense against “green fatigue and eco anxiety.” Amidst paralyzing facts about how we humans are just screwing everything up, it’s important to keep some modicum of hope alive. You’ve got hope, now what? Remember that you are citizen first and consumer second. I really don’t expect you to give up your smartphone or use of any other electronics you have access to in protest of working conditions in iPhone factories. That’s just not realistic, or helpful. As Annie Leonard from the Story of Stuff project says, “We can never shop our way out of this problem.” You have to use your right of conscience and the democratic process in creative ways (eh! Principle Number 5!?). Tell your smartphone manufacturer that you want a product that sustainably sourced, fairly made that will last a long time. In a BBC News article, Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University says "In a world where brand and reputation is so important to companies, your voice can be much more powerful than your dollars." If nothing else, sign a petition! Last, remember that you’re not alone. There are tons of individuals, organizations, lawmakers and companies out there that are thinking the same thing as you – “we just can’t keep keepin’ on like this!” Find them, promote them, align with them, throw money at them! Help them be successful. You may not be called to invest all your time and energy to transforming this dilemma. That’s ok, there are folks out there who are called to do just that. Then again, maybe this is your calling. Maybe you want to look into environmental law, sustainable development or corporate accountability to create the change you hope to see in the world.

About the Author

  • Jennica first joined the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in 2014. She began her ministry with youth as a youth advisor at First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City, her hometown, in 2008. Since then she has served as Youth Program Coordinator and Religious Education...

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David T (not verified) 4 years 10 months ago
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Most of the USA action around conflict minerals has involved laws which are near impossible to comply with, and then fining the tar out of companies who can't figure out how to comply. For a different take on the whole conflict minerals controversy, check out Overlawyered

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