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169065_villager_boy_3 04/21/16 Ulises accepted this challenge, reducing CO2 by 94 lbs.
169065_villager_boy_3 04/21/16 Ulises accepted this challenge, reducing CO2 by 94 lbs.
169065_villager_boy_3 04/21/16 Ulises accepted this challenge, reducing CO2 by 94 lbs.
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164481_shadow-lugia-pokemon-13780965-225-150-gif 05/06/15 dragoon accepted this challenge, reducing CO2 by 94 lbs.

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Ringtone Revival Featured on Sep 09, 2008


Do you have an old cell phone you're no longer using? Reduce CO2 by giving it a new life. Pass it on!

Individual Result

By selling, donating, or recycling one cell phone, you will eliminate an average of 94.1 lbs of CO2.

Rally Impact

3781 people have reduced CO2 emissions by 177.9 tons by completing this challenge so far. That's equal to turning off the electricity of 237 homes for about 1 month!

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Challenge Details

Last weekend, my young son was running around our yard, flipping open an old cell phone and pretending that he was speaking to Spy Control. It wasn’t more than a year or two ago when that phone was my toy. It was new and shiny and it did lots of things my old cell phone couldn’t. Eventually it got replaced by something even newer. Now, here it was being used to relay information about my neighbor’s “nefarious” and “highly-suspicious” weekend gardening to some imaginary spy master (who presumably doesn’t trust mulch or weed whackers). The phone before that wasn’t even cool enough to be used in a game. It is still sitting in a drawer beneath the checkbook and envelopes. How long before old cell phones filled every nook-and-cranny of my house? And what should I do to foil this fiendish plot? I needed a plan. Maybe you do, too.

This Featured Challenge is based on a suggestion made by V-square. To date, V-square’s suggestion has received 13 positive votes in our Challenge Workshop. V-square is a member of the Green Glory team.

The Carbon Connection
A cell phone doesn’t have a combustion engine. It doesn’t burn gasoline and release carbon dioxide as waste. Yes, it does use electricity to charge its battery when it’s being used and that electricity comes from power plants that probably burn fossil fuels and release CO2. But the biggest problem with cell phones is that they have become semi-disposable. The creation and disposal of all those phones accounts for a great deal of energy used and carbon released. So, it’s important that we use them as long as we can stand it, resell or donate them if they still have useful life, and recycle them responsibly otherwise.

Let’s look at the life cycle of a cell phone. The life of the cell phone starts with the extraction of raw materials from Earth to make each of the components in the phone. For example, the copper wire in the phone starts as copper ore mined from the ground. Next, the raw materials must be processed to make them into a form that can be used. The copper ore must be smelted and refined into copper. That process requires energy. Next the processed materials must be manufactured into parts. Those parts must be made into components and those components eventually made into the entire assembled cell phone. Next the finished cell phone is packaged and transported from factory to retailer. At each step, energy is used and carbon dioxide is released.

The energy and CO2 debt racked up by a cell phone doesn’t end there or even with the electricity needed to charge the phone’s battery. Eventually, the phone is no longer wanted. Then energy is needed to recycle or dispose of the cell phone when it is no longer in use. (If you haven’t already, be sure to read our introduction to Life Cycle Analysis in the Carbonrally blog.)

According to the EPA’s publication, The Life Cycle of a Cell Phone, “Just as living things are born, get older, and die, products also complete a life cycle. Each stage of a product’s life cycle can affect the environment in different ways. Some products, such as cell phones, have many different components, each of which has its own life cycle in addition to the life cycle of the composite product.” The cell phone and its components represent energy that has been used to create that phone. Anything that can be done to prolong that phone’s useful life reduces or postpones the need to use energy to create a new cell phone. And the less energy used, the less carbon is released into Earth’s atmosphere. With worldwide cell phone sales projected to top 1 billion per year in 2009, any effort to reduce those numbers could yield large energy and environmental savings.

Getting It Done
Even with steady improvement, fewer than 1 in 10 U.S. cell phones was recycled or reused in the last quarter of 2007. According to a study by iSupply’s ConsumerTrak, almost 37% of obsolete cell phones were simply stored away in drawers and closets by consumers during the last quarter of 2007.

This Challenge is for you to make sure your old cell phones aren’t the ones gathering dust or being tossed in the trash. Here are a few suggestions about how to make that happen:

  • By some estimates, more than 85% of old cell phones are not at the end of their life cycle when consumers decide to get a replacement. Those phones can be reused by new owners, either here or overseas. You might consider passing it on to a friend or relative – or selling it to a relative stranger. If they use your old phone, that means they don’t need to buy a new one which, in effect, prevents (or postpones) one more phone from being manufactured. ebay and Craig’s List are a good place to start. Or you can turn to specialist sites such as, that will pay you cash for your old cell phone and then resell the phone to someone new. Phones that they cannot sell are sent for recycling.
  • A second choice is to donate your old cell phone. Some charities gather old cell phones and send them overseas for use in developing countries. The Secure the Call program takes donated phones and turns them into dedicated 911 phones which they distribute to the elderly, school crossing guards, survivors of domestic abuse, and others who might not otherwise have access to a cell phone when they need to call 911. You may find that local schools, churches, and other organizations often take donated cell phones, sell them, and use the proceeds to fund their own programs. Whether you sell or donate your old phone, the next user would appreciate any of the original packaging, manuals, chargers, accessories, etc., that you happen to still have.
  • The third choice is to recycle your old cell phone. Recycling an old cell phone means that many of the precious metals, copper, and even plastic that make up the phone are captured and reused instead of winding up in landfills. Recycling those materials saves money and energy when the materials are reused. For example, the metals in the phone can be reused with less energy cost than having to “start from scratch” by mining new metal ore, refining it, etc. According to EPA estimates, if Americans had recycled all of the 100 million cell phones they stopped using in 2006, the energy saved would have been enough to power nearly 200,000 U.S. homes for one year. (Not to mention the recovery of 3.4 metric tons of gold, 1600 metric tons of copper, and 35 metric tons of silver!) Many cell phone manufacturers and retailers collect old cell phones for recycling and are listed by the EPA as partners in EPA’s Plug-In to eCycling program.
  • But before you do anything with your old phone, you should make certain that you have erased all of your personal data from the phone. (This is hard to do if the phone has been in your bills drawer for a year or two. So try to remember to “scrub” your phone as soon as you decide to stop using it.) If your old phone has a SIM card, swapping the SIM card from the old phone into a new one brings much of your personal data, such as your directory, etc. If you aren’t switching to a new phone, remove and destroy the SIM card. Don’t forget to remove or delete photos or videos as well before either selling or donating your phone. (Most phone resale companies and charities promise to clean off the phones, but it seems safer for you to do it yourself, if you can.) For “cleaning” instructions specific to your particular brand and model phone, check out ReCellular’s Data Eraser database.
  • Perhaps the biggest thing you can do to save energy, reduce carbon dioxide associated with cell phone production, and prevent cell phone waste is to change how often you upgrade your existing cell phone. According to the EPA, the average cell phone in the U.S. is replaced after just 18 months. Try lengthening your own cell phone upgrade cycle to 2 years instead of 18 months. Americans buy over 100 million cell phones per year. If everyone added that extra 6 months to their own phone’s life cycle, it would translate into 25 million fewer phones produced and sold in the U.S. each year. That would mean 13,000 fewer tons of cell-phone waste produced each year. Putting off your cell phone upgrade could also save you money. Like any hot techno gadget, the price of the latest smart phones falls a few months after they are first introduced on the market. For example, the price of the first Apple iPhones dropped by $200 in a little over two months.

Go check out how many old cell phones you have. Were you surprised? What are you going to do with them? Share your thoughts, stories, and suggestions with your fellow Rallyers in the Challenge forum section below.

Rules of the Challenge
This Challenge simply asks that you pass on one of your old cell phones instead of throwing it away or letting it sit in a drawer somewhere. Sell it. Donate it for reuse. Drop it off for recycling. For each old cell phone you get out of your house or dorm, we will credit you with 94.1 lbs of CO2 emissions. This Challenge is repeatable up to 3 times, so you may take it more than once if you are passing on more than one cell phone.

Learn More
EPA: The Life Cycle of a Cell Phone
EPA: Recycle Your Cell Phone. It’s An Easy Call.
Yahoo Green: Bluetooth? iPhone? Don’t just ditch the old phone

See the Math
Let’s see how much energy-related carbon dioxide you can save by reducing the need for additional cell phone production. Here are the known or estimated numbers being used for this Challenge:

  • After many hours of poking around, we have decided to go with a set of calculations put together by Fat Knowledge and based on work originally presented in the International Journal of Life Cycle Analysis. According to Fat Knowledge’s calculations, the manufacturing and subsequent use for one year of one cell phone produces 132 pounds of carbon dioxide. Put another way, that one cell phone is responsible for emitting as much carbon dioxide as burning 6.8 gallons of
    gasoline.  source
  • The above numbers include both the energy needed to manufacture and transport one cell phone, as well as the energy needed to operate that cell phone for one year. For this Challenge, we are only interested in the savings associated with manufacturing the phone. So we are going to take 5% off to remove the CO2 associated with yearly operation.
  • We are going to introduce an additional 20% adjustment to our numbers. Cell phone manufacturers are making smaller phones that use fewer toxic materials and more recycled or recyclable materials. This 20% adjustment reflects advances made by the manufacturers in the years since the life cycle analysis cited above was written. This adjustment also helps to account for the CO2 associated with transporting your old phone to a new owner or to a recycler.
  • We started with 132 pounds of CO2 per cell phone. The total adjustment to our original number is 25%. Reducing 132 pounds of CO2 by 25% gives us a savings of 99 pounds of CO2 per cell phone.
  • Finally, we want to account for the phones that will be recycled instead of reused. Let’s say that 10% of the cell phones in this Challenge are recycled. We will count those as saving 50% as much CO2 as the cell phones that get reused; this takes into account energy needed in the recycling process. So those cell phones amount to 49.5 pounds of CO2 instead of 99 pounds.
  • Applying a weighted average, we get a final savings of 94.1 pounds of CO2 per cell phone.

So there you have it. Repurposing your cell phone instead of dropping it into a box in the closet saves energy and reduces the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Recycling your phone instead of throwing it away keeps hazardous substances out of our landfills and saves energy by recovering precious metals. It’s time to clean house, Rallyers! Send those extra cell phones packing.

Discussion 80 comments so far

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BlueTrane over 5 years ago
I gave away two cell phones. One intentionally - it was subsequently lost or stolen. But I'd had no need for it for a long time. The second one I loaned out - to someone who hadn't been able to pay their own cell phone bill. That one disappeared, later to reappear in crushed, un-usable form. Now I have one inexpensive cell phone, few bells and whistles, and I will keep it til I die.
rallyer43314 almost 6 years ago
If you want to make a difference and some cash, recycle your cell phone when you get a new one. Last month paid an average of $50 for each used cell phone we bought and paid as much as $245 for a 32 GB iPhone 3Gs. That's a lot of green for being green!
Christinenpyro about 6 years ago
We usually pass old phones along to someone who needs/wants it, but for some reason we still have 7 old & broken phones in the house. Does anyone know where to take them to be recycled in South Africa?
rallyer33644 about 6 years ago
Recycled three cell phones at Best Buy! They had a bin right near the entrance. Just dropped them in, no sweat!
RallyJoy over 6 years ago
You can also donate it to Cell Phones for Soldiers:
Punkpoemprose over 6 years ago
I have two old phones I can donate ^_^ no sweat!!
Nune over 6 years ago
siqqa didi dooooooooo
serenadalton over 6 years ago
Took 3 older version smartphones to a recycler....hated to see them go. But, someone needs them. They still work great. Had been using them for back ups when mine was "in the shop".
CoolioG almost 7 years ago
I have always donated my old phones to the troops in Iraq or givin them to a family member but I have never threw them in the trash.
birdman (Carbonrally) about 7 years ago
This is cool: "eco-ATM for used cell phones":
Administrator about 7 years ago
Hi Kaorup. Thanks for your comment on the CO2 analysis. Unfortunately, our research did not uncover a precise energy-savings value for cell phones that are dismantled for component recycling. If you are aware a better assumption, please post it here (with a source) so we can add it to our calculation.
kaorup about 7 years ago
How do you figure " We will count those as saving 50% as much CO2 as the cell phones that get reused; this takes into account energy needed in the recycling process."?? Did you do any calculations to make sure this is a reasonable assumption?
Ashley over 7 years ago
I've got a ton of phones at home, i know Best Buy recycles them :)
tv_mom over 7 years ago
The Fort Worth Zoo accepts old cell phones and electronics for recycling.
cupcake140 over 7 years ago
Consider it done...
StrawberryKiss26 over 7 years ago
well, I have like 5 phones in my house somewhere and nobody uses those... :) Good :)
lmhentz_21015 over 7 years ago
Question: We have a couple cell phones in our house that we would like to donate, however, the batteries in all of them are dead so we can't erase info/pics/#s saved on them. Is there any way to get that stuff off?
Jersey Devil over 7 years ago
Im donating my phones to send to the soldiers to get calling cards to call home!
Krystal over 7 years ago
I am going to give away my beloved nokia as I dont use it anymore
Caterpillar1485 over 7 years ago
O yah!! i saw a cell phone drive 1 time at da bank!
daphodill over 7 years ago
im going to send in my old cell phone, as soon as i find it!
ViviL over 7 years ago
wow, i found 8 old cell phones around my house. I'm going to mail it to secure the call tomorrow ^^ and i plan on asking my friends too! :)
ahunnycut over 7 years ago
i sent one of my old cells into and they ask you what phone you have, what condition its in, and they send you money for it after a month
birdman (Carbonrally) over 7 years ago
I just read that April 6 is EPA's "National Cellphone Recycling Week":
ame over 7 years ago
I have 3 old cell phones that were just sitting around my house! I'm going to sell them! :]
dancinthrulife over 7 years ago
My family and I searched our entire house for all our old, outdated, unused cellphones to recycle. We found some real dinosaurs. This was also a fun way to see how far technology has really come! When doing good is this much fun, it should be easy to get everyone in on it.
gogreenwithenvy1678 over 7 years ago
I just got a new phone, and I have other old ones laying around. So I'll donate them.
woahhxohello over 7 years ago is a website I found in Seventeen, I plan to mail my phone sometime this week. :D
clar-ughhh :] over 7 years ago
:] im gonna go recycle mine locally sometime. i have like four useless ones, :)
softball_track_xo13 over 7 years ago
i donated 1:]
LilSweetPea over 7 years ago
Cell Phones for Soldiers, the recycle bins at OfficeMax/Staples/etc. (you can even get small credits at OfficeMax, for donating an old cellphone), and donating to battered womens' shelters are all great programs! I have mailed in phones to the Cell Phones for Soldiers.
jrox13 over 7 years ago
I get a new phone like every 6 months! Im going 2 craigslist 2 cell them!
TreeHugger1127 over 7 years ago
I have a blackberry and a razr from t-mobile that I'm recycling tomorrow!
Reid Hill over 7 years ago
Sold an old LG phone to Gazelle just today! Carbonrally has some very cool ideas for improving our environment, some of which I will be taking part in very soon.....
lalbee over 7 years ago
hay its lalbee
ayeshab91 over 7 years ago
i am going to send 3 phones to gazelle to recycle!
magdavlow over 7 years ago
i am going to donate 2 cellphones
freethepeace over 7 years ago
i just got a new phone and so did my friend and so now we are sending them to sprint for them to recycle them!
yeooxkid over 7 years ago
One of my friend's are very eco-friendly. And her cell phone was broken. I had just got a new one and gave her my old phone. Now, she uses it ALL THE TIME :)
ellafundoox3 over 7 years ago
Instead of throwing my two old cellphones away, I gave them to my cousin and my mother and they are really enjoying them =]
mia over 7 years ago
i donated 3 cell phones to a police department. :p
GoGreen over 7 years ago
When my cell phones brake, i donate them to a shelter for abused women and children and the cell phone companys fix them for free so they can use them!!!
FIGURESK8R! over 7 years ago
i have recycled all of my phones and kept them longer than 3 years, instead of 1 year. i used it until it broke and then i recycled it at my grocery store Cell phone recycler box!
samesta1 over 7 years ago
mutelli over 7 years ago
I sold my LG rumor to for &34.08 cents. I was doing something good while gtting cash!
celticsfan17 over 7 years ago
Cell Phones for Soldiers
heyleah over 7 years ago
I used, and it was really great. Free shippig for everything, and they'll plant a tree for a cell phone if they can't use it.
CLT0609 over 7 years ago
I used Gazelle to recycle my cell phones. I had six all from family members, my boyfriend and myself. All total we recieved $30. Not as much as the cell phone originally cost, but it gave us a head start on spring cleaning and we feel great knowing that our old phones aren't just toxic waste in a dump.
BenP almost 8 years ago
I couldn't believe how quickly I could save so much carbon. It took me like 5 minutes to get the phone to the person who needed it, and I saved a lot of carbon.
megmcd almost 8 years ago
I gave my old cellphone to They gave me $30!
EyeloveMetal almost 8 years ago
Just upgraded to a BlackBerry Storm, verizon wiped my old phone and recycled it for me, such an easy challenge if you're upgrading..
ricci almost 8 years ago
why only 3 phones
kumar almost 8 years ago
my last phone was not working and was in my bag for 5-6 months, now i have thrown it for recycle
rallyer13390 almost 8 years ago
I have donated 2 cellphones in the past month
rallyer5983 almost 8 years ago
just upgraded my phone by taking over my sister in law's rather than buying a new one! My old one went to a friend who didn't have one.
MissNatalieClay almost 8 years ago
I have already donated 15 of my cell phones even my last blackberry. I remember my first cell phone from 7th grade..oh those were the days. Gazzelle is, easy and they even send you the postage!! woo
chrisbee13 almost 8 years ago
I went to the Verizon store and donated my old cell phone to a batterd women's charity. you should check out if your store does it. it helps the environment and helps women.
sukristie almost 8 years ago
I dontated my family's cell phones to soldiers in Iraq
speedy almost 8 years ago
I finally dropped off the old cell phone at the fire station to be reprogrammed as a 911 dial only phone.
GreenMan almost 8 years ago
Great, easy challenge that will help
Fernanda about 8 years ago
We donated 3 cell phones to a school for a fundraising project. It was great to think that these phones we no longer used could be re-used!
rallyer2008 about 8 years ago
i had upgrade my cell phone and i am going to donate the old phone to people who need it for emergency and important calls
DAK about 8 years ago
Found 3 old cell phones in the center console of my car, so i donated them in the drop box at my University's Library. They donate them to battered women's shelters so that in case of emergency, they can contact the proper authorities.
staceman0109 about 8 years ago
The library close to my home takes used cell phones and distrutes them to battered women's shelters.
isabella about 8 years ago
I'm using a old cell phone, it used to belon to my aunt. So she reduces C02 by 94 lbs.
SAVEourEARTH about 8 years ago
We donate ours to the school. It has the Cell Phones for Soldiers thing, and my mom said she donated some to one of the places that gives them to battered women so they can call 911
pghinaudo1_78217 about 8 years ago
In December I will have 3 more to donate unless our new company can just switch and let us use our old phones when we switch. Then I will only have 1 to pass on.
Tree-NAhugger about 8 years ago
Wow, I was going to give my little sister my old cell phone to play with, but that would be kind of pointless because she would only be able to call 911 with it. :D
brooklynrallyer about 8 years ago
my sister is going through a very tough time financially and needed a cell phone (her plan lets her have four phones) so I sent her mine ... she is a 57-year-old mother of three kids (one of whom is in her second year at Berkeley) and she works as a neonatal nurse (the sole breadwinner in the family) ... if anyone else has Verizon-compatible phones, she could use two more! my email is ... hope it's ok to make a pitch like this ...
Ame Ai about 8 years ago
i had 3 cell phones sitting around so i donated them to my friends who needed them, and i felt really good about it
Blossom about 8 years ago
I have given away a few phones to people who have requested them. If felt very good to donate something I have disposed off to accommodate a good cause. I believed that this is just as good as recycle.
jsedwards about 8 years ago
Many communities have senior centers which actively solicit old cell phones to be used by senior citizens in the event of an emergency. The phones are given free to a needy senior and the phone is connected diretly to emergency numbers. We have given three phones to our local Senior Center. It is the right thing to do for those in need, and the environmental benefit is a great match.
medb_of_light about 8 years ago
When I upgrade my cell phones, I send my old ones off to be recycled and used by the troops.
Hall Family about 8 years ago
Old cell phones donated for poor people to call 911 sounds good but in reality is a very bad idea. These phones often don’t work reliably or at all for longer than it takes to get them home. The batteries may not hold a charge and sometimes the charger isn’t even included. This false sense of security can be very, very dangerous. Even if the phone works to complete a call to 911, the 911 center CAN NOT determine the location of the phone as they can with an activated phone. Also, these deactivated phones can not be called back or traced to who placed the call or who is responsible for the phone. Oh, yea, and one last potential trouble… if you have one of the older GSM phones the phone can appear to the network as if it is your new phone. In this case you could find yourself sitting in jail for a couple of months, like the guy in Buffalo, NY, while the police figure out that it wasn’t you that called in all of those bomb threats. Send your old cell phone oversees, to one of the companies that disassemble and recycle it, or put it in a drawer until the FCC mandates that the cell providers change the way deactivated cell phones are handled by the cellular networks. Your friendly 911 Coordinator
birdman (Carbonrally) about 8 years ago
I just found this nice offer from Ripmobile & Terrapass. You can send your phone to them in exchange for CO2 offset credits for your car. Double down!
soccerman about 8 years ago
We are going to donate one of ours to the school to recycle.
Sadangel13 about 8 years ago
I have actually had two cell phones that I have done that with. There is a really good program here at the YWCA where they take the phones that people donate and give them to battered women who don't have phones so they can call 911 if they need it.
dmmoore about 8 years ago
I generally remove the sim card from our phones when we upgrade or change providers then donate them to the local police department. They generally give them to people, mostly women, in battered partner shelters and such. That way they have a phone to use for 911
fitgirl2007 about 8 years ago
We have sold our "old" cell phones and collected my mother in laws old cell phone to be used as a phone that can only dial 911.
Cougar about 8 years ago
So cool... I'm going to Gazelle 3 cellphones!