what’s the carbon footprint of my smartphone?

Aug 25, 2020 | sustainability, tech for good

It’s impossible to imagine a world without mobile phones, but it’s easy to overlook the impact that using your smartphone is having on our planet. 

We’ve taken a look at the carbon impact of owning a few different phones over their lifetime.

The carbon footprint of smartphones is broken into two main areas:

  1. Manufacture of the phone
  2. Using and charging the phone

1. the carbon footprint of manufacturing a phone

There are a few different elements that make up the carbon footprint of manufacturing a handset. We need to consider the materials used (such as rare earth metals), the energy used to run the factory and the transportation of components, packaging and the final products.

what does this look like over our lifetime?

Based on these values, let’s assume the carbon footprint of the average mobile phone is 70 Kg of CO2 each year.  

The average person in the UK is expected to live to the age of 81, and the average child gets their first phone at the age of 10. So, the average Brit has a phone for about 71 years which equates to 4,970kg of CO2. That’s equivalent to flying from London to New York 7.5 times.

This doesn’t sound too bad, but remember, there are over 5 billion mobile users worldwide. 

2. the carbon footprint of using and charging your phone

Using your phone each day has a bigger impact on the environment than just manufacturing it. There’s a lot of energy needed to run the data centres and infrastructure that let you make video calls, post selfies, and stream TV. 

A one minute mobile-to-mobile call produces 0.1g of CO2, sending a text message (SMS) produces 0.014g of CO2 and using 1GB of data uses 0.3kg of CO2.

An average user with Honest Mobile generates approximately 16.7kg of CO2 /year through usage (calls, messages and data) and charging. This equates to approximately 25% of your smartphones carbon footprint.

Smartphone carbon footprint pie chart

 As a carbon negative company we offset all of these emissions twice over – so your phone is carbon negative overall. This means that you’re removing CO2 from the atmosphere when you’re using your phone as opposed to adding more.

To find out more about what it means to be a carbon negative mobile network read our blog here. We were the first mobile network in the UK to become carbon neutral and are now the only carbon negative one too.

In addition to our carbon negative commitments, we also plant trees for each of our customers to help them offset their personal carbon footprints. If you’re interested in reducing your carbon footprint, here are some simple and easy ways to make a difference.

Apple is becoming carbon neutral too 👍

Apple recently announced its commitment to become 100% carbon neutral by 2030. This means that by 2030 all Apple products sold will have a net-zero climate impact. At Honest Mobile, we’re already proud to be a carbon negative company so we’re offsetting double the emissions associated with the manufacture of all our customers’ phones.  

An even better option is to consider a refurbished phone. Most of the time, you can’t tell the difference, they’re cheaper, and better for the environment. Here are 6 places we recommend getting a refurbished handset.

what about android?

Not everyone uses an iPhone, but Samsung and the other big Android manufacturers don’t currently produce device by device analysis of their environmental footprint. However Fairphone produces Android phones which are repairable, have a low impact and they’re also a B Corp, just like us.

carbon negative mobile network

Want to reduce the carbon footprint of your smartphone? Switch to Honest Mobile today. As the UK’s only carbon negative mobile network we offset double the CO2 emissions associated with your phone and everything we do at Honest HQ. Read more about our offsetting portfolio and our work with 1% for the Planet here.


How Bad Are Bananas? Mike Berners-Lee