6 Ways to Do Good With Your Old Cell Phone

CC BY 2.0. CannedTuna

Yesterday, I wrote about the true impact of not recycling our electronics. The materials in our gadgets are harmful to human health and the environment if left to leach into the earth at a landfill and we could be saving a staggering amount of energy by recycling our e-waste. Luckily, there are ways you can enjoy your smartphones and other devices while still looking out for Mother Earth.

The best thing you can do is buy fewer electronics and use the ones you have for longer. Once you've gotten all you can from the device, the right course of action is to donate or recycle it.

Many readers left comments saying that they were neither throwing out nor recycling their old gadgets, particularly old phones, instead they had thrown them into drawers or closets.

The EPA says that the vast majority of electronics that are thrown out still have life left in them and it's very likely that all of those stashed away cell phones do too. So, what can you do? Pull those old cell phones out, dust them off and donate them to one of these great causes.

You'll get rid of clutter, the environment won't suffer from devices winding up in a landfill and you can help out important causes in your community and around the world.

Give Your Phone to Domestic Violence Organizations

Two major domestic violence charities accept cell phone and electronics donations: the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and Shelter Alliance.

These organizations raise money through selling and recycling old phones and donate the funds to domestic violence shelters around the country. The Shelter Alliance has a zero-landfill policy, so even if your device can't be resold, it will be fully recycled with no parts winding up at the landfill.

If you have a local shelter you want to support, give them a call. Many shelters take electronics donations directly.

Save the Gorillas

lowland gorilla

James Hopkirk/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Many zoos around the U.S. and Canada, including Zoo Atlanta, the Toronto Zoo, Phoenix Zoo, Oakland Zoo and others, accept cell phone donations on site, as well as by mail. The money made by the recycling of the phones goes to several charities that support endangered great apes and their habitats. Each zoo's website has information on how to donate your phone in person or from far away.

Recycling cell phones is particularly important in the fight to save gorillas because the areas of the Congo where these primates live are the same areas where the rare mineral Coltan is mined, an operation that puts gorillas in danger and destroys their habitat. Coltan is used to produce the element tantalum, an integral element in the capacitors that are used in almost all cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices. Recycling your cell phone allows the tantalum to be recovered and reused so that new Coltan doesn't have to be mined.

Choose a Charity to Raise Funds For

Phones4Charity is an organization that works with a variety of charities like the American Red Cross, the National Wildlife Federation, Feed the Children and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation to raise funds through cell phone recycling. Donors can choose from large organizations like those or they also have the option of choosing a favorite local charity to support with their donations. There are several affiliated charities around the U.S., so check here to find a drop-off spot near you.

Donate It to Support Healthcare Workers

hope phones global healthcare

© Hope Phones

Hope Phones is a campaign that raises money to outfit healthcare workers in developing regions with new phones and communication equipment through cell phone recycling. You can organize a phone drive in your community or simply send in your own old phones. They provide the free shipping label.

The campaign supports Medic Mobile, a non-profit organization that works with healthcare workers around the globe. Hope Phones says that if they can recycle 1% of the world's discarded phones each year, they can outfit 1 million healthcare workers and improve the lives of 50 million people seeking care.

Help Schools in Your Community

A program called Funding Factory helps schools set up electronics recycling fund drives. Any school or non-profit can sign up to host a drive and 100% of the profits of selling and recycling old phones, tablets and printer cartridges goes back to the school or organization.

Schools can use the money for new technology or any needed resources. Businesses can simply donate old devices and choose local schools to support with the profits without hosting a drive.

Connect Soldiers to Their Families at Home

Cell Phones for Soldiers is an organization that uses the profits from recycling donated phones to provide free calling cards to deployed U.S. soldiers so that they can connect with family back home. The program also works to provide free resources to veterans when they return home and need help transitioning back into everyday life.

It's one of the most popular cell phone donation programs and has prevented over 11.6 million phones from going to landfills in the decade since it started.