Gentle on nature, hard on Jedi. (More great Eco-Boba pics here.)
Boba Fett was always my favorite Star Wars character.
Here’s your chance to emulate him and become a bounty hunter. Prizes go to the bold.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 125 million cell phones are thrown away each year, which amounts to about 65,000 tons of waste. That’s just in the US.
I have four old phones sitting in a drawer because I want to recycle them but… well, it’s damn inconvenient. Most people are green only when it is more convenient, cheaper, or faster than the alternatives, plain and simple.
But what if recycling a phone were as easy as “throwing it out” in a public mailbox?
The Solution – Hunt Them Down
How do we convince companies, like LG or AT&T, to make good behavior convenient, helping us and the planet? Simple. Call them on it. Literally.
Here are the steps and bounty…
1) Send the proposed “just mail it” solution, prepared by designer Sherwood Forlee, to the CEOs of major telephone manufacturers like Nokia or Samsung, carriers like AT&T and Verizon, or “enabling companies” like major printers (Avery) or shipping organizations (USPS, UPS, DHL, etc.). Use your imagination. The goal with the last group is to get their commitment to help invalidate excuses the phone CEOs will cite for inaction.
Outside of the US? No problem. Contact the CEOs of your largest equivalents, which might be might be O2 or Vodafone, for example.
One step of the “just mail it” solution.
2) Get a committal response from CEOs on why they would or wouldn’t test a solution such as this in 2008/2009. “We’ll take this under review,” “we’re constantly seeking eco-friendly options,” and other vacuous corporate blow-offs don’t cut it. Get the CEO or someone of that level to respond with his or her verdict on the solution and whether or not they’ll test it and when. If there are problems they see, ask them to name them.
Be polite but indicate that answers (or lack thereof) will be published on at least one top-1000 blog in association with their company for the world to see, and that you encourage them to take it seriously.
3) Post the response you receive in the comments here or on the associated posts on Gizmodo or Treehugger.com by June 1st 2008.
Brian, Graham, and I — of Gizmodo, Treehugger, and this blog, respectively — will choose one Grand Prize winner and one Runner-up after that. US Grand Prize is an electric Tres Terra bicycle/motorcycle, courtesy of Susan at The Green Car Co., and runner-up prize is a folding bike from Strida or a brand-new iPod Touch. Shipping is included for any continental US address. If international bounty hunters, the Grand Prize is an iPod Touch, and Runner-up prize is a signed pre-publication copy of The 4-Hour Workweek, which have sold for more than $2,000 on eBay. Sorry about the bike/motorcycle, but shipping a few hundred pounds overseas would be hypocritical for an eco-related contest!
If considered as Grand Prize winner or Runner-up, you’ll need to be able to provide support to prove the email or phone exchanges were real.
Happy hunting! May the Fett be with you.
Here are a few suggestions and resources:
-If using phone, call before 8:30am or after 6pm to avoid gatekeepers and assistants.
-If leaving a voicemail, politely mention that you will be reporting back on responses from each company for a top-1000 (or top-100) blog. Leave your name and contact information at the beginning of all phone messages.
-Be professional and courteous, and to the point. Threatening is verboten.
-If you have it, consider the John Grisham script and other approaches for “finding Yoda” in The 4-Hour Workweek. Finding mentors and contacting CEOs is similar. Same methods, different targets.
Think you need an old boy network to contact famous CEOs? Think again. Here is how one reader contacted the richest man in the world, Warren Buffett.
The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 900 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.
Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration.)
79 Replies to “How to Become an Eco Bounty Hunter”
Luckily I have a wife who is pretty good with these things and my old phones go to charities that will recycle them. Alternatively you there are some websites that will buy your old phone (I just got a new pocket pc phone and sold my old phone for £32)
Slightly of topic but I’ve been getting pre-paid envelopes for http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com/ in all my recent Amazon orders (on books that haven’t been Kindle-ized yet) and have used them all to donate all my old phones. Pretty good promo.
Hi Tim. Big fan. Just the other day I got an envelope in the mail from the USPS that contained a small bag for recycling small electronics. It was a prepaid, mail-back envelope, and, according to the USPS site, it’s an initiative being tried out in select Post Offices. I live in Evanston, IL, outside Chicago. http://www.usps.com/green/recycle.htm
Another option would be to donate your old cell phone. Just google “donate old cell phone” and there are several options. I’ve only heard of them from others and haven’t used them myself, so make sure they’re legitimate first. Also, make sure to delete all personal information from the phone just to be safe.
You nailed it! After the first three words this is exactly what popped into my head.
Well, this is really a great idea! Good post Tim!
Though – how many of your four phones are completely “kaputt”? I mean, when thinking of myself and people around me, i think that the old, dismissed phones are often (not always) working at least fairly well, and have been replaced because of minor defects, taste, want/need for new functions etc.
I think that the best would be if there might be say two boxes on this card. One saying “doesn’t (work)” and one saying “do”. The “dos” could then be donated to either cellphonesforsoldiers as suggested in the post above by Jason, or – and I’ve been thinking of this before – donated to third world (does that expression even exist anymore? anyway) countries.
Many cell phone producers are today working on cheaper products for the African market etc. This is good, for sure, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to use “all” cell phones until they’re really finished? The thought of the capcity wasted by collecting functional cell phones and destroying them…
Too bad I’m Swedish, that bike would really have been something…^^
Jason, hats off to you.
Unfortunately, I agree with Tim that most people won’t do what you did because it’s not cheaper or faster than the alternative of throwing the cell phone away.
Tim, this is a great promo. Way to use your influence in an effective way. Surely your readers will collectively be more convincing than you alone.
I think Jason is on the right track – how can we help organizations that already provide this service get the word out?
I have another one to mention http://www.UsedCellPhones.com/
This organization recycles, does fund raisers and provides emergency phones for the elderly, women, and children at risk.
sidenote: A shout out to bobaflower artists Eileen, Ben, Adryenn & Raina http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/bobaflower/
At least we know why now 🙂
Hey Tim! I work in entertainment and my company was just discussing pairing with a company that recycles cell phones on spot at concerts in return for “swag bucks.” Here’s an example – http://rotrgogreen.prodege.com/?cmd=fw-home. It’s a really cool idea and I hope we get to see more initiatives such as this come to life!
Have you heard of Chris Jordan the artist?
Check this photo he took – http://www.chrisjordan.com/current_set2.php
(scroll down to: Cell Phones, 2007)
The image depicts 426,000 cell phones, equal to the number of cell phones retired in the US every day.
We have a local womens’ abuse shelter that takes used donated phones to give to women in dangerous situations to have as an emergency phone that her abuser or anyone else doesn’t know about. I’m sure there are shelters all over the US that use similar donation programs and could use more help.
Who knows, your donation may save someone’s life.
Good idea! This reminded me that I’d seen a “Recycle” mark on my Sidekick LX behind the battery. I called the number: 1-800-822-8837, listened to “Al from Home Improvement” tell me how important it is to recycle, typed in my zip code and it told me I could drop off the phone at the Home Depot up the street. That’s sounds dead easy. It looks like Sharp who make the phone are already into recycling them.
The USPS Post office by my house – the one where I currently drop off my muse’s order shipments 😉 – has a display with pre-paid envelopes for recycling electronics like cellphones. According to a USPS release (http://www.usps.com/communications/newsroom/2008/pr08_028.htm) the program is back by Clover Technologies Group. Definitely a cool idea.
I suggest going one huge step forward with one giant step backwards. Why do the phone service providers and cellphone manufacturers recommend, suggest and promote that you need to upgrade your phone when your “contract” expires.
I have a cell phone that serves me just fine and has more capabilities than I use. I received a phone call from the service provider to stop by the local shop. When I did the sales rep spun into high mode to “sell” me a new phone. I didn’t want a new phone. What I had was fine. So, let’s first stop the insane concept that we need to upgrade our phones every few years.
Two, let us work within our own local communities to increase or start our recycling efforts on a community-focus scale.
And now, a question for you…what is the size of your ecologically footprint?
Here in Australia most mobile phone stores have a bin in them exactly for this purpose! And there are hundreds of them within a half hour of anyone in a city.
Suprised you guys haven’t caught up over there yet!
Why not get the National Postal company to just collect them for the bomail boxs, hold them at mail sorting centres and align yourself with them to pick them up and recycle them yourself. [or your business].
There has got to be pleanty of copper, plastic, aluminium, gold etc in hundreds of phones to make it worth while??
should have checked my spelling, sorry. D
Whole foods and T-Mobile take old phones but still not as convenient.
I don’t know how I got a plastic mail bag postage paid, but I received a bag to give my old phone to the troops so they could call home. I just sent it in the mail, that was easy.
Tim great idea to rally the Ferrissites to get involved in the consciousness of cell phone recycling.
Am I wrong in what I have read that some components of cell phones and computers use parts from countries in Africa that are sadly run by warlords or corrupt countries? That I am sure is a bigger political and world problem. Concerned Buddhist Hippy! Right lively hood is difficult if everything is tainted.
My old company, an evil empire small publisher (which shall remain nameless) wouldn’t even recycle it’s paper. My girlfriend and me would take as much used paper that we could carry. I have to say she did most of it as I too am inherently motivated by convenience. Sorry Good Earth! I do recycle at home always.
Again, great post I will put my thinking cap on and scour the globe for CEOs to influence. Trying to take over the world. Bah-bahahaha
Love and Hugs,
At my son’s last birthday party, I asked guests to bring donations to a local woman’s shelter in lieu of gifts. When I dropped off the items I noticed there was a huge barrel full of old cell phones, and I said “guess you don’t need more cell phones” and the answer was “no, we always need cell phones”.
I guess, as long as you still have a good battery and a wall charger, a good idea is to donate it to a shelter.
However, great idea, Tim, we need to recycle more responsibly for sure!
Good idea…not sure how well it translates to the UK though, since I think all the major mobile networks (& the Carphone Warehouse – major independant retailer) already actually give you a discount on your new handset when you go in store to buy a new one, or a discount on your tariff if you decide to keep your existing handset when you renew your contract.
Not as convenient as post, but on the other hand, I’d expect the fact that people actually get some monetary value in exchange for it mitigates that. There are of course some people who just call their network to buy, & have them post a new handset to them. But still, I don’t know anyone who’s actually just thrown their phone in the bin…I personally have kept one as backup, & bequeathed others to older relatives who tend to just be holding on to the 5 year old handset they last got given from someone.
You also often find refurbished handsets for sale as cheap pay-as-you-go phones at many of the larger stores the networks have.
It would be interesting to see how/if this idea could be expanded though, to include PDAs, and other consumer electronics…even larger items (though the logistics would obviously have to be different, perhaps to the point of an entirely different model being required)…
Really it’s not too hard to recycle a phone, hardly requires a national mobilization. Maybe all this effort should be expended for something that hasn’t already been “invented.” This might also be a good time for a reminder about the reduce/reuse part of the equation as well.
(The list below has been around for a while, might be good to check it’s still current):
Here’s a list of national stores that have cell phone take-back programs. Stores will take back all cell phones – no matter where they were purchased. Some stores are not listed because they have store-by-store recycling policies as opposed to company-wide policies.
Alltel Sam’s Club
AT&T Wireless Sprint Wireless
Best Buy Staples
The Body Shop T-Mobile
Circuit City Target
Costco US Cellular
FedEx Kinko’s Verizon Wireless
Office Depot Virgin Mobile
Am I missing something here? (It wouldn’t be the first time…)
So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that cellphone companies and the like agree to take back the old phones for recycling.
But then what happens to them? Do the materials actually get recycled, or are we just shuffling off the responsibility to someone else who’s going to toss them in the landfill?
Where I live, most plastic materials go in blue bins for recycling. But there are actually only a small number of types of plastic that actually get recycled… the rest go on a boat to some far-off land and end up filling up someone else’s landfill. Not really much point in that, is there?
Here’s an idea: Keep your old cellphone. So it may not be as sexy or as small or in such neato colours or give you high-def display and all the rest of the doodads. Will your life suffer if you don’t have the latest, greatest, fanciest and heavily marketed gizmo?
The first R of the three Rs is REDUCE. So reduce consumption and the landfill problem is lessened.
Great ideas all! My company manufactures IED training aids to better prepare troops for deployments overseas. Many of the IED’s are triggered by cell phones and LRCT’s (long range cordless telephones).
I will take all I can get to use them for demonstration purposes for military, law enforcement and first responders.
All of those can be used as static displays as part of the unit’s permanent collection and thus not being improperly disposed.
I absolutely agree with Marvin on this one. I mean watching “Living with Ed” on HGTV this weekend taught me that there are only certain plastics that recycling companies will actually take whether in the states or in Canada (where I live). I am now more conscious about the environment not only as a citizen of this planet but also as a person with a pet (one of which keeps trying to nibble on almost everything she sees on the ground).
Furthermore, as mentioned in my previous responses, I work in a bank. This particular branch or rather the city/plaza it is situated in refuses to set up any means of recycling. In this high tech age our branch generates more paper waste in a day than my entire household does in 2-3 months…and that’s including junk mail like flyers and newspapers. I am now in talks with our branch management to somehow introduce a recycling plan. However, the security sensitive information on some of the papers makes for a very fragile situation. I’ll keep on trying my best and my have to resort to taking home the non-sensitive recyclable paper and use my grey bin (that’s our recycling bin for paper only).
But I totally agree that we should first investigate what the cell phone companies will do to the phones once they receive them. Let’s be proactive, but let’s make sure that we — as Marvin puts it — just don’t pass the buck.
Another great resource for doing something useful with your old electronics is Second Rotation (http://www.secondrotation.com/).
yup, like CS Thompson in Austrlaia, here in New Zealand we have the “recycle” bins in all the phone retailers… About as convenient as popping out to the shops…
But, as Marvine points out – I’m pretty sure that just speeds up the transfer of the phones to landfill. They may well be better off siiting in the top drawer of your side uint for decades to come – much harder to pollute waterways and soil tables when they’re not stored en masse.
Tim – doesn’t your book say that there’s no point making a process more efficient if it’s not effective? – So, I think you need to address the effective side of your challenge – “to make good behavior convenient, helping us and the planet” doesn’t go nearly far enough…..
So, what we really need to address is:
1] reduction of harmful materials going into phones in the first place
2] reduction of demand (marvin’s idea)
3] for phones that do still need to be recycled – not just convenient (efficient) but real (effective) – whatever that is?
That’s the real bounty.
Not sure if this is what you are looking for, but I received a plastic bag in the mail one day with the url http://www.cellphonesforsoldiers.com. I have one phone to send in -they can be in any condition. Used for the troops to “Phone Home”.
Mr. Ferriss, be reasonable. Not everyone graduated from colleges, like Princeton, that have access to the “good ole’ boy network” (which is made of men and women these days). Demonstrate someone who graduated from a community college, or Ju Co., in B.F.E that has ever actually obtained the ear of a Fortune 500 CEO’s ear without help.
Thanks for the comment. Please take a look at the comments of other people on previous posts like this one on contacting George Bush or the CEO of Google:
Plenty of people do this if they do it the right way.
All the best,
Looks like Nokia is already doing it: http://www.nokiausa.com/A4761433
Just fill in your info and you can print a postage-paid return label to send your phone back. I’ve just done mine!
Great resources everyone is listing! Love the Blog, Tim!
I too, am a huge fan of the reduce and reuse approach. We have two cell phones in the house, five and eight years old. Both work great. I think the latter hasn’t got long, but it certainly paid for itself a few times over. When they do finally give out, we have an electronics recycling program here that will take them. And then I’ll be free to go shop for some slick jazzy thing the size of a toothpick that I’ll have trouble finding before the voice mail kicks in… which could be good since I’m not supposed to be answering calls anyway! 🙂
Not to rain on your parade, but in my little New York town, you can bring old cell phones to the Stop ‘N Shop grocery store, Staples and several times a year, the local government collects old electronics, tires, and any antifreeze or other substances that should NOT be put in a landfill. These events are run in different parts of the county to make easy for residents to unload these sticky wickets.
Could it be any easier?
Love your blog & book, KT
So the goal of the being Boba Fett is to pressure the cell phone companies to recycle using the easy drop off bag design? Correct?
Couple of comments-
1) Shouldn’t the Ewoks be taking care of this? I mean they live in the forest and are really more effected by landfills than the rest of us.
2) Boba Fett is the coolest character EVER, well besides Han Solo. But as I think about these guys, I realize that they both did things because they were being paid. Umm.
3) I have a hard time believing that the cell phone companies will spend millions to start recycling their old phones. That’s like saying Leia enjoyed hanging out with Jabba.
4) Enter the Entrepreneur. Ah yes, the Han Solo’s of the world (or universe) looking for a need to fill. Recycling is that need. I am not a treehugger but I love efficiency. And truthfully landfills are not efficient, so let’s get some start-ups going to take care of this. I will start today to Han Solo the Recycling Industry. 🙂
5) Did they recycle on the Death Star. By the looks of the Storm Trooper’s uniforms, I think they did….
In the UK Carphone warehouse (as an earlier commenter noted) take phones in on a part exchange basis and the phones are refurbished and sold to 2nd and 3rd world countries.
We also have a charity scheme in place whereby you collect a prepaid envelope from a grocery store, post office or charity shop. Inside this envelope you put your phone and then you just put the package in the nearest mailbox. Easy peasy. The company that receives the phones donates £1/$2 per phone it receives to the charity that distributed the envelope. The scheme seems pretty well established in the UK by http://www.shpsolutions.com/main/charity_partners.asp. Perhaps this is something that could be modelled in the US? Seems like lucrative business opportunity also.
In Europe I believe it is law that manufacturers have to offer facilities for end users for goods to be disposed of safely and where possible recycled.
eBay is a good way to recycle your old phone, with eBay for charity: http://pages.ebay.co.uk/community/charity/ you can donate up to 100% of the sale price to the charities involved in the scheme.
I thought of the same thing Soren did when I read your post. Second Rotation.
Second Rotation is a website that allows consumers to sell electronics and gadgets online, such as an old cell-phone. By answering a few questions about the condition of an item, someone can instantly see what Second Rotation will pay them for their item. If the offer is accepted, they provide free shipping. Once the item arrives, payment is sent to the seller via a secure payment method like paypal.
More importantly, they also impact the problem of electronic waste. By buying unwanted gadgets and putting them into the hands of people who still value them, they help extend the useful life of items that would otherwise end up in landfills.
If an item has no market value, Second Rotation will ensure it is recycled responsibly. Cell phones, laptops, gaming consoles, cameras, mp3 players – all of them are acceptable. Just use the site’s pricing guide to estimate the value of your gadget, pack it up and ship it off for free (Second Rotation supplies printable postage) and you’ll get a check or PayPal payment after they inspect the item. And if your electronic has little or no market value, Second Rotation will make sure it gets recycled properly.
Sounds like a win win to me!
Funny that you posted this discussion because just today I was reading about how Nokia and like companies are working on Sustainable designs. It is of course after the fact, but positive non-the-less. Check out this post from UXNet: http://tinyurl.com/5pb6lc
A fan of your webiste contacted me after reading your article and found our business, http://www.usedcellphones.com to advise me to contact you regarding our service.
We resell ONLY used or refurbished cell phones to help recycle perfectly good technology. We keep our prices as low as possible to afford everyone the opportunity of owning an inexpensive means of communication. People can also donate their old cell phones and we will make certain they are reused or recycled to keep toxins out of landfills.
Why is it most companies talk recycling on the surface but don’t put their resources behind recycling efforts by using recycled cell phones? To maintain unit volume, cell phone carriers used to discourage users from substituting used cell phones if they broke their phone before their contract was up. Some carriers wouldn’t let a large company sell their phones to anyone unless the company promises not resell them in the USA to keep them out of the recycled stock.
How many companies out there would be willing to buy a used cell phone for their employees to help reduce the demand on new phones? Based on our experience it is not very many. Maybe your readers can put pressure on their employers to consider better recycling efforts to help sustain businesses like ours (I haven’t been able to take a paycheck in 5 years!) rather than giving lip service to recycling efforts.
It almost seems a bit pointless and disheartening, doesn’t it?
I mean, I go out of my way to separate and recycle and have decreased the amount of junk that goes into the landfill by a substantial amount.
Then I read of the situation in which N.D. finds himself in at his work: a tremendous amount of waste, no attempt at recycling and no real motivation to do so.
Am I the only one that feels like it’s a bit pointless in trying to lessen the amount of stuff I discard, when large organizations continue their wasteful ways? What difference can a single person make in a world of prodigious waste-creation?
As another example, I have reduced my commute by working from home when I can, and when I do commute I take my motorcycle when possible because it’s far more efficient on fuel. (More fun too!) Then, when I am out on the road, I see huge trucks hauling empty trailers, belching smoke and CO2 into the air. My reduction in emissions is completely negated by the wastefulness of poorly-tuned transport trucks, empty buses belching diesel grime into the air, power plants delivering electricity to lights ablaze in empty buildings and computers running overnight, cars idling at poorly timed stoplights, etc. etc.
Even if every person goes out of their way to reduce their carbon emissions and amount of waste, what good will that do in a world driven by industrialization and the extraordinary amount of pollution and waste created by industry?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against industry or commerce – I’m as much of a capitalist as the next guy – but there HAS to be a better way. Isn’t there?
Is it not time to dispense with the idea of “baby steps,” and instead look at large-scale, massive steps?
Tim–I bought a new Blackberry through T-mobile earlier this year and included in the box was a postage-paid envelope for sending back my old equipment….not sure if it was instigated by T-mobile or RIM, but kudos to both.
Wired online has a new article out about the £5 (or $10USD) phone. Wired figures they are marketing it to drug dealers since the spokesman says “You can just grab one off the shelf, use it once and throw it away if you wanted […] It’s great for people whose regular mobile phone is perhaps broken or they want a back up, or those who have come to this country for just a few weeks.”
If that is the way things are going, we need recycling centres in all the places these cell phones are purchased.
Great post as usual. Many cell phone companies are getting the message and are getting with the program. My latest phone from Virgin Mobile (prepaid, no less) comes with a small envelope and instructions on how to send the phone back to them if you purchase a new one (transfering your # to a new phone is easy) or if your just tired of it and are getting a different phone/plan/provider. I think it is a great idea whose time has come. These phones have hazardous materials that should not be just tossed out. T.V.’s and computers as well.
Have a great day!
Yikes. The more I think about this, I have to say, I don’t really like the idea of mailing anything to be recycled. We should concentrate more on local solutions – and trying to “reduce and reuse” before recycling. How about we badger the CEOs to collect the old cell phones at the point of sale? I agree it then would be up to them to do the right thing, and at the end of the day they will only recycle what is economically feasible (I have been reading a lot about how much plastic we *think* is being recycled just ends up in the landfill anyway, or shipped off to another country – along with other garbage – to be incinerated). Something about using the mail to recycle does not make sense – it equals more CO2 emissions – right?
I’m on the fence right now about recycling in light of water conservation and global warming – debate to be continued…
And LOL @ Dana, great post! I don’t think the Death Star recycled much, remember the trash compactor scene in Star Wars and the subsequent scene where the millenium falcon is ejected with the rest of the trash from the Death Star into space?
On that subject, I kind of think, like the dinosaurs did for us, perhaps all the stuff we are putting into the ground will help the new ‘species’ power their spaceships into the new frontier, after we make the Earth uninhabitable.
All the cell phone carriers have these boxes in their stores.
The way to make it easier.. Have the garbage companies put one of these boxes in their truck. So put the phone/batteries in a separate plastic baggy with your garbage. Because we all take out the trash.
My 1st suggestion would be to collect all the great ideas into a summary follow-up post.
My 2cents to add is that when I asked around, I was told that my local police station collects used phones for homeless shelters – that is real close to my home, but the post office is closer (by 3 doors) and more friendly to visit, so I will be tempted to check that out.
Of course, having an old working spare is useful until you get a couple.
Also, my church has set up a collection for local women’s shelters (again the need to have a separate number that an abusive person unable to harass at is key).
Along the similar lines, the last two times I was standing in the Lowe’s return line waiting (reading the signs and not seeing the matching ‘customer focus’ or opening a new register when I was 4th in line), I noticed a collection for used batteries, including a spot for larger batteries.
One can always use http://www.CellForCash.com and get paid for recycling their unused cell phone. This site purchases over 700 models and offers free recycling for any phone not listed on the site. It certainly does everyone’s planet a world of good!
Hi – great post. I have also received the envelope that has been mentioned in other comments with my amazon orders.
But, here’s another idea… why not have the companies who are providing these envelopes give them to the schools for the teachers to pass out to their students to bring home. They could even promote a contest on the class who brings back the most envelopes with old phones by a certain day gets a ‘pizza’ reward… or something like that.
My son’s school has these types of things frequently and the kids love to compete with the other classes and they will bug parents (too death…ha) about giving them their old phones to take in so their class will win.
Just a thought…keep the ideas coming! Great blog by the way…loved the book too 🙂
Don’t the mobile phone retail shops all have dump bins for depositing old phones? These shops seem to be everywhere, but I grant you post (mail) boxes are even more everywhere… But I sold two old broken phones on eBay for a little money, but that involved time and effort.
Timothy, I would Like to bring your ideas to ARGENTINA. I want you to make a translation in spanish of your book, A friend of mine sent me your book in english, although I can read not a everybody does and it´s interesting, you will sell a bunch of them
Ya viene! It’s being published through Editorial Planeta in Argentina, but they’ve told me nothing. Me gustaria saber cuanda va a ser publicado, de verdad 🙂
All the best y un abrazo enorme,
So by the looks of everyones post. None of us are going to call the CEO’s. Sorry Tim, I guess you will just have to do it yourself. 🙂 This brings up a couple of interesting thoughts to me –
1) Are people lazy or do we just think that someone else will do it? I think it is the latter. Most people have posted that they have already seen other solutions to this problem. I think most people have a sense that others are good and will do the right thing. Which is what we are finding.
2) If the goal is to reduce the “time and effort” for returning something you bought, then we all know who is being lazy!!! 🙂 I have a hard time thinking it is the responsibility of the cell phone company to make your life easier for wanting a new phone every 10 minutes.
Marcie – Great point about the recycling on the Death Star. I forgot that they were “space dumping”. I checked on Chewbaccas blog, AlienHairPeace.com, to see if he discussed the space dumping incident. No luck….
I just brought your book in Urmuqi,XinJiang,China.
You are a suprise & super man,haha.
Thanks for shareing experence to us.
Thanks for the great comments and observations. Many of the suggestions are totally valid, but — alas — I believe will not get wide adoption as most of us (speaking for Americans, at least) are just plain lazy and unwilling to even go to a separate location to drop off a phone. I hope people prove me wrong.
Thank you all for pointing out the alternatives, many of which will help, even with small followings.
We’ll see if we get any ambitious readers to call the CEOs. Reread my Princeton challenge in the book if you’re thinking “Ah… too much competition…” 🙂
All the best,
I recycled my old cell phone as an alarm clock, it might not get signal anymore, but since it keep track of time even when switched off it works as a really efficient alarm clock
Tim, there are companies that export scrap to poor countries, where they’re stripped for materials (aka recycled). I used to work with one, Coasin, in Chile and Argentina, no doubt they exist in the US as well.
If you publicized their names, I’m sure they’d be thrilled if people mailed in their used phones (from their perspective it’s free money!). I know, people don’t want to pay to mail the scrap, but then when one “pressures” a company to take back old scrap, you still pay for it (at time of purchase), but it’s hidden and mandatory rather than voluntary.
I’d have thought that’d be the very first thing you’d hit on – outsourcing your recycling!
EPA has a great website on recycling cell phones at http://www.epa.gov/cellphones. It has information on which cell phone companies have cell phone recycling (AT&T, Sprint, LG, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, T-Mobile, Verizon, Staples, Samsung, Motorolla, Best Buy. Office Depot) and how to recycle with those companies. It also has information on clearing information off your phone and why recycling is important for the environment. There is also a great video called the “Secret Life of a Cell Phone” that you should check out at http://www.secret-life.org/
I know it’s a bit late in the game, but I’m going to give it a try. 🙂
I hate it that people think they can’t make a difference so they’re not even bothering. It seems like a lot of commenters think that talking to a corporate CEO is somehow “minor” compared to other things they could (but won’t) do to help. Or, alternatively, they think that sending a well-worded email is such a major undertaking that they are doomed to failure.
Come on! Have a little faith in yourselves!
Having said all that, I plan to win. 😀
I know it’s a bit late in the game, but I’m going to give it a try. 🙂
I hate it that people think they can’t make a difference so they’re not even bothering. It seems like a lot of commenters think that talking to a corporate CEO is somehow “minor” compared to other things they could (but won’t) do to help. Or, alternatively, they think that sending a well-worded email is such a major undertaking that they are doomed to failure.
Come on! Have a little faith in yourselves!
Having said all that, I plan to win. 😀
PS to Tim: I’m having a helacious time posting comments!
I’ve been busy trying to get in contact with several phone carriers and phone manufacturers. So far I got one possible response from Motorola…more on that next week.
I didn’t want to post anything up for fear of creating more competition for myself but I was curious as to what is the most effective way to get a hold of someone like the CEO or VP of a big corporation. So far my strategy has been to use the media contacts to get them to forward my request to someone in corporate. I also tried asking the operator to forward me to the office of the CEO or VP, but I keep getting the runaround. Any advice/tips?
Here is response I got from the External Communications person in Motorola, apparently the U.S Postal Service is already offering a similar program in the post office in city:
Thank you for forwarding this concept to Motorola. It’s interesting!
Motorola supports all opportunities that make it convenient for
consumers to recycle their phones. That’s why we provide and participate
so many varied options — prepaid labels, incentives, collection
containers, charity programs, government programs, community collection
events and more. You may be interested a new e-cycling program the U.S.
Postal Service is piloting: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5750.
As long as we are on the “eco” front, everyone should check out CoolPeopleCare.org – the one-stop shop for changing the world with whatever time you have.
Tim, I can put you in touch with Sam Davidson, the founder of CoolPeopleCare.org. I think you would thoroughly enjoy the revolution he is creating…
Finally! Someone not only thinking in the right direction but also putting out a plan of action that others can follow. We need more! We need more!!! Keep em coming, please! The more detail the better.
Here is also a thought, how do we create more awareness for environmental issues and at the same time develop a sense of urgency? And also do this in a very effective and meaningful way. One that people take seriously and one that will drill down into their conscious awareness levels, which will make them change their “bad” habits.
What if…..or who can..….bringing the “necessary” people together and make this happen: If someone would bring the top 5 mass media outlets per category, e.g., TV, print, radio, newspaper, etc. together so that they together run simultaneously an “Our only Planet” program over 5 to 7 weeks. Every day at the same time all TV channels, during prime time, would show the same show, e.g., Inconvenient Truth, or the 11th Hour, or a DIY show showing how to recycle, etc. In print they would run the same articles and ads, also dedicate 50% of their cover to the subject. And this every day/week/month for the duration of the program. Radio the same, Internet sites and bolgs the same, etc. And the government would subsidies part of this – yes them too. Corporate sponsorship will also help, and donations, etc. And if any other media outlet wants to participate they can do so too. The more the better! Just imagine the reach, what message this would send and what this would scale to – just imagine! Just imagine this going international – just imagine. Who can broker something like this? Who?
Improving Multimedia: Windows Mobile
by Jamie Lendino
• Add bookmarks fast
Quickly bookmark sites in Internet Explorer Mobile by pressing Menu, then D.
• Know when to quit
Windows Mobile doesn’t quit programs, so you’ll want to do that periodically whenever the handset seems slow. Fire up the Task Manager—in WM6 Professional it’s located at Start | Settings | System Tab (at bottom) | Task Manager | Running Programs. Now click Stop All. (On Windows Mobile 6 Standard, the Task Manager has its own Start menu icon.)
• The point is a better UI
Have iPhone envy? Power up your handset’s user interface with the free PointUI Beta (www.pointui.com); it’s not only more attractive, but also lets you navigate with your fingers instead of having to take out the stylus all the time.
• Improve your home décor
If you prefer your phone’s stock UI, you can still make it more attractive. Go to Start | Settings | Home Screen. From there, you can adjust its layout, color scheme, and background image.
• Pull a fast one on Bill
Windows Mobile 6 Standard devices can view and edit Microsoft Office documents but not create them. So fool the OS by transferring blank Word and Excel documents from your PC. Then open one and resave it with a different name each time you need a new document.
• Upgrade and conquer
Some Windows Mobile 5 devices—including the AT&T BlackJack, the Palm Treo 750, and the T-Mobile Dash—can be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6. Visit http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/6 and click the Upgrades tab for details.
• Teach your phone to share
Your Windows Mobile handheld makes a great cellular modem for your laptop, particularly if it’s on a carrier with a 3G network (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon). Search for “modem tethering” at http://www.smartdevicecentral.com for step-by-step instructions for each carrier as well as an OS X-specific how-to.
• Synchronize the important stuff
If you’re a Vista user, you should grab the latest version of Windows Mobile Device Center (www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/devicecenter.mspx) for synchronizing your handset with your PC. If you’re running XP, check Microsoft’s Web site for the latest iteration of ActiveSync, version 4.5.
• Know where you’re going
Download a free copy of Google Maps for Mobile at http://www.google.com/gmm. It gives you road-map and satellite views, plus turn-by-turn directions—and will even work with your Windows Mobile handset’s built-in GPS radio, if it has one. (Works with Palm OS, too.)
• 500 channels and nothing’s on?
Why pay monthly fees for mobile TV? If you have a Slingbox, the $29.99 SlingPlayer Mobile app lets you watch cable TV or recorded DVR programs—often near 30 fps—right on your handset. Head to http://www.slingmedia.com/go/spm for details. (There’s also a Palm OS version.)
sorry – wrong paste. GRRRR – feel free to delete previous post
“• Get rid of old phones
Don’t just leave your old cell phone in a drawer. You can recycle it at any Sprint store or at http://www.racetorecycle.com, donate it to a good cause at http://www.exphone.org, sell it on eBay, or get cash for it at http://www.cellforcash.com.”
With some humility and lessons learned, I write here to report the result of my eco-bounty hunting. I do not have a CEO response to post, but NOT for a lack of trying. My contact list included:
– Rodney Lanthorne (CEO Kyocera Wireless) If you dial 1-858-882-2000, you will reach Kyocera. Choose the option for their digital directory, which will allow you to search employees by typing in first few letters of their last name. Type L-A-N-T-H and it will ring the desk of Mr. Lanthorne. I left three voice messages following my script (below).
– Michael Ahn (CEO LG North America) Calls were made both to the corporate office 858-693-0101 and to Ms. Clara Chang (201-816-2011), the media contact. First, I aksed to speak with Scott Ahn, President of LG Mobile, but she informed me he was in Korea. Then I asked about Michael Ahn. Ms. Chang asked for an email and said she would pass it along to Mr. Ahn. I sent it twice (email@example.com) and followed up via phone to no avail (see email template below).
– Dan Hesse (CEO Sprint) A call made to their corporate office (they could not pass me to Mr. Hesse for some silly company policy reason…psh). Then I tried the hopeless but amusing email to firstname.lastname@example.org (the email address they show at the end of their new Sprint commercial). It replies with a nice little Tim Ferriss-esque auto-responder saying that they will read my email and respond within a week. 2 weeks later- nothing. I don’t like your service anyway Sprint and I’m switching as soon as I can.
– Greg Brown (CEO Motorola) I contacted Mr. Brown through Jennifer Erickson (email@example.com), the Media Head. Again, Jennifer promised a response. Yep, you guessed it. Notta. Nothing. Zilch.
– Veli Sundback (Nokia Head of Corporate Relations and Responsibility) I thought he would be eager to discuss the Just Mail It idea being head of Corporate Responsibility, but I think its just a cool title they give somebody to look progressive. Plus, the time difference from here to Scandinavia didn’t help in making contact with anyone at Nokia.
– Hideki (Dick) Komiyami (CEO of Sony Ericsson) Submitted a media request with email template via their website, but no response from two weeks ago….
Phone Call Script: Hello, My name is ______. I’m calling as an advocate for the Just Mail It! Cell Phone Recycling Program as well as assisting author Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling 4HWW and top-100 blog (name drop and credibility).
Could you assist me in speaking with ______ for 3 min? (Or sending him/her a brief email?)
Voicemail Script: Similar to the above, but requesting them to email me or return the call if they have a chance (I know they don’t) and also letting them know I’ll be giving them another call (an incentive to deal with me now instead of pestering them forever).
Email Script: Hello, Thank you in advance for your time and I hope this finds you having a great day! I will be brief.
As you know, over 125 million cell phones are thrown away each year. So, I commend your company on its commitment to sustainability and its paralleled success.
If possible, could you provide a committal response from ______ about testing a convenient and sustainable cell phone recycling program, Just Mail It. Just Mail It proposes to include a return mailing label behind the battery of every cell phone and offers the user THE most convenient method for mailing their old cell phone to be recycled. No more LG phones in landfills! It is featured here: http://www.core77.com/competitions/GreenerGadgets/projects/4529/
1) Is your company willing to test this solution in 2008/2009?
2) Will this solution work? Why or why not?
3) If yes, what are the problems that will keep you from testing this solution?
Respectfully, your CEO’s response will be published on at least 1 top-100 blog in association with your company and placed side by side with other cell phone companies’ responses. Your participation reflects greatly on your company’s commitment to a better world and for that, I thank you.
If possible, could you get back with us by Monday, May 26th. Please respond to: XXXXXXXXXX@gmail.com or 555-555-XXXX
Feel free to use any of the above templates, scripts, and/or contact info to try to reach some of these people.
Despite coming up short (thus no chance of winning the bounty hunt), I wanted to share these examples with fellow readers. But also, I wanted to take Tim’s challenge. I think what Tim wanted us to take away from this was the experience and lessons learned- and I know that the next time I need to contact somebody important (or time-crunched), I have the guts and wherewithal to do so. I await the next bounty-hunt.
I Also tried the above method, but the only way I was able to get ahold of anyone was to #1 leave a voicemail, #2 send email, #3 call again an ask why no reply to email…said she had eyed my email on her mailbox but didn’t open/reply to it ( couldn’t help but make me laugh).
I know I didn’t get a response from a CEO but at least I learnt to be organized enough to call a complete list of strangers, follow up with them, and try to pitch the idea of he Just Mail It Solution to them and even get a response(albeit a rather generic one from a Motorola Executive)….even if I don’t win any prizes( though I secretly hope I do) I will at least get the satisfaction that I am actually becomming more effective at doign things and trying to acheive something positive(win-win)…..a nice electric bycicle for me ( I love bike riding) and helping promote enviormental consciousness
Thanks for your reply! Is there any way that I could get either an executive from Motorola or the recycling/environmental department to specifically comment on the Just Mail It Solution and why they would or would not consider taking on this program in 2008-2009? The only reason I ask is because the designer of the Just Mail It Solution is curious as to whether he can improve or modify his idea so that other phone providers can adopt it.
Thanks in advance!
On May 23 8:59 AM, XXXXX wrote:
> Hi Cristhian:
> Thank you for forwarding this concept to Motorola. It’s interesting!
> Motorola supports all opportunities that make it convenient for
> consumers to recycle their phones. That’s why we provide and participate
> so many varied options — prepaid labels, incentives, collection
> containers, charity programs, government programs, community collection
> events and more. You may be interested a new e-cycling program the U.S.
> Postal Service is piloting: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5750.
> Best regards,
> Tama McWhinney
> External Communication
> —–Original Message—–
> From: XXXXXXXXXXXX
> Sent: Friday, May 16, 2008 2:03 PM
> To: Mc Whinney Tama-atm022
> Subject: Motorolas Phone Recycling Program
> Hi Tama,
> Thanks for taking time away from your busy schedule to respond to my
> phone call about the Just Mail It Solution for phone recycling. I know
> Motorola is commited to enviormental protection, and I would like to
> a response a committal response from the CEO or someone on the same
> level on why they would or wouldn’t test a solution such as this in
> 2008/2009. For your convience I attached two files that give a quick
> description of the Just Mail It Solution for phone recycling, more
> details about this solution can be found at
> I am also calling various other phone manufacturing companies such as
> Nokia, LG, and Samsung and posting their as well as Motorolas response
> or lack thereof on a few top tech blogs and cell phone blogs like
So did anyone end up winning the contest?!? I kind if have been waiting to see if there is any winners…anyone have any idea?
Weird. Just saw this. I’m actually working with Nokia to do a very similar idea. We’re trying to redesign all their packaging so that you can flip the box inside-out, put your old mobile / cell-phone inside and drop it in the mail. It will be pre-addressed and postage-paid to go to a recycling or refurbishing facility. If anyone calls Nokia please ask them to support this idea which is floating around internally already. Thanks.
William Burks Spencer
The winner announcements are coming! As soon as I get back to the US — in about 24 hours — we will be choosing the winner and runner-up.
Adrian, you win the grand prize for the competition. Chris (Motorola response), you are the runner-up. I will explain the outcomes in a future post, but in the meantime, please see your inboxes for the email addresses you used to comment.
Congratulations and thanks to all for contributing 🙂
Great insights and solutions.
We need this kind of THINKING modeled out in our education system, notice a problem and possibility, and envision a solution.
That’s why so many people have a 80 hour work week, they don’t know how to observe and think.
One more place to send cell phones, inkjets, and lasers (yes, I mean lightsaber): http://www.ecyclegroup.com
I completely agree that this is a great idea. People can be quite lazy and if we want to make a difference, the methods need to be as simple and easy as possible like chucking it in the mail. I know of a company in the UK which is doing the exact same thing, just to make it easier for people to recycle. It’s shocking to think that 125 million cell phones are thrown away each year, it’d definitely make a striking picture.
Useful information. Lucky me I found your site accidentally, and I am stunned why this twist of fate didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.
Would be interesting to hear if there was any follow up on this. A lot has come up in the market in this space in the last 6 years but I wonder how much was because of this article or what Brian, Graham, and you think of the solutions that exist. Also, I wonder what the equivalent now would be.