Thursday, July 10, 2014

How green are my Apples? My new iPhone

I recently tweeted the line about my hopes that one day I’d live to see a cellphone tower constructed entirely out of old cellphones. 

It bugs me that our phones have become like e-Kleenex. We use them momentarily and then discard them.

So I’m feeling especially guilty this week since both my daughter and I got new iPhones. Josie’s earbud portal on her 8-month-old phone was busted and they chucked her a new one. Just like that.

Me, I succumbed to lazy convenience marketing.

My old phone was a 4-year-old 3G — anymore a truly “old” phone. I didn’t really need the new one. It still performed its primary function of reliably connecting me with area pizza joints, but the GPS was becoming increasingly erratic and that can be troublesome.

That was on my mind as I entered the South Hills Village Apple store yesterday to have an unrelated computer issue resolved.

My MacBook Pro is five years old, by the way. I consider my eagerness to possess material goods long after their commercial trendiness has passed to be a virtue.

But there I was in the Apple store, that great pagan temple of wanton consumerism, and I had a fresh $100 in my pocket. I’d had a successful lunch presentation at the Bethel Park Rotary and sold 10 books to 14 people and I was feeling prosperous. 

So while we’re waiting for the computer to reboot, I asked what a new phone would run me.

“It’s free,” he said. “Yours is so old you’re entitled to a free upgrade.”

Free? Well, what would the next version cost?

“It’d be the $99 5c.”

What’s the difference?

“Better features, much faster and you can choose between five different colors. What do you use your phone for?”

I told him President Obama asked me to store the nuclear launch codes on it and that once in a while I like to send pictures of my weiner to my wife in the hopes it’ll make her horny next time we dump the kids off for a day at the pool.

But I hadn’t bought a new phone in four years, the price was right and I had the dough. Plus, I had $21 on a gift card from a previous exchange. Really, I couldn’t afford NOT to get a new phone.

Sold! I got the blue one.

For the sake of environmental irony, I guess I should have snagged the green one. 

These are truly remarkable devices, ones that we all take for granted.

It is said — and, remember, just because it’s said doesn’t make it so — the average human uses just 10 percent of his or her brain.

If that’s true, then I’ll bet we use just less than 2 percent of the typical smartphone’s potential.

That’s why I felt kind of bad saying goodbye to the old one. It’s been a useful and faithful servant for many years. I used it to receive and convey so much good news since 2010. I took happy pictures of my children and selfies of me enjoying many soulful adventures.

I felt like I should have given the phone a little retirement party.

Instead I just stood there while another Apple tech transferred all its contents to the new one. I asked her what would happen to it.

“Oh, Apple’s an industry leader in recycling,” she said. “The parts will be broken down and re-used or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.”

The only way she could make it sound more soothing is if she said the process was overseen by gossamer-winged fairies.

To me, it’s the environmental equivalent of a placebo, something she says to make those of us who care about the environment feel better without really doing anything substantial.

If Apple and other companies really cared about the environment they would design devices meant to last more than 18 months rather than devoting so much time to agitating our impulse to buy each shiny new version.

Maybe I’m cynical because I remember seeing a “60 Minutes” report about what happens to all our “recycled” electronic devices.

They’re shipped overseas for incineration in impoverished Third World villages where poor children breath in the toxic fumes.

I can only hope the air from all these concentrated smart phones will somehow make these children super-intelligent and that they’ll one day find truly green solutions to problems that come from all our parasitic behaviors.

The breakthrough will earn them millions.

I’ll be green with envy.

That’s fine with me. I guy like me can never be too green.

Related . . .


Joe Potts said...

Thought-provoking and guilt-inducing. I also recently got a new IPhone. The old one is sitting in a drawer. Nice job of mixing humor into the serious.

Chris Rodell said...

Thanks, Joe! Always flattered to have you read and comment.