How to Become an Eco Bounty Hunter

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Tim Ferriss, author of The Four Hour Workweek, has a really cool idea and TreeHugger is helping to spread the word; it's a contest to help enable more effective electronics recycling, with the help of the big-time companies who design and manufacture the phones, provide cell service, or help both ship these phones around the world. Stay tuned for more; for now, take it away, Tim!

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 U.S.


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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?

How do we convince companies, like Nokia or AT&T;, to make good behavior convenient, helping us and the planet? Simple. Call them on it. Literally.


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The process, and the bounty:

1) Send the proposed "just mail it" solution, prepared by designer Sherwood Forlee (for the Greener Gadgets design competition, pictured above), 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.

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 my blog by June 1st 2008.

Brian, Graham, and I — of Gizmodo, TreeHugger, and my own 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 (which you can hang in your closet) or a brand-new iPod Touch. Shipping is included for any continental US address. If international bounty hunters come out on top, 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. More at ::Gizmodo and ::Four Hour Work Week blog

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.

More Greener Gadgets coverage here at TreeHugger
GREEN DEETS 013 Greener Gadgets Wrap Video
Video: Greener Gadgets Design Competition Winners
Greener Gadgets Design Competition Starts Today!
Quote of the Day: Chris Jordan on Greener Gadgets