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Smartphone Data Has a Larger Carbon Footprint Than You Might Think

As the experts on the insides of devices, we talk a lot about how repair and repair-friendly hardware are key in slowing down the growing e-waste crisis. But a smartphone’s energy consumption while it’s in use is just as important as what happens when it goes to the landfill. The German start-up and mobile service provider WEtell is tackling that challenge head-on.

In terms of energy consumption, the actual power required to charge smartphones is small. But the infrastructure required to support their usage is voracious: Miles away from the tiny SIM cards in each of our phones, servers run non-stop to enable 25 billion gigabytes of global mobile data traffic. Constant air-conditioning keeps the servers cool. This is the framework required to keep our broadband network running 24/7.

Smartphone data sim cardMaking a one-hour call a day produces up to 1250 kg of CO2 per year—the equivalent of flying from New York to London. The carbon footprint of mobile data will continue to rise, as mobile data traffic is predicted to be 10 times higher in 2022 than it was in 2016. To make our dependence on smartphones more sustainable, we’ll have to think beyond their hardware—by choosing a sustainable mobile provider that uses green electricity.

WEtell is leading that charge. The mobile service provider has partnered with a German supplier of green electricity to produce more renewable energy than their mobile service users will consume. By investing in renewable energy and the construction of new power facilities, they’ll offset some of the unavoidable traditional mobile data energy consumption, like grid operation and data processing.

In addition to running on sustainable energy, WEtell is committed to keeping your data safe and being completely transparent in their contracts. They generate revenue exclusively through the sale of mobile tariffs—not your data.  

In Germany, where 60% of a mobile phone’s energy consumption is used up by network infrastructure, WEtell’s promise is much needed. They’re offering an innovative solution to the environmental costs of mobile data, and we’re excited to share the same mission: making the usage of smartphones more sustainable.