By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
Global Green USA, the American organization that spun off Soviet President Gorbachev’s Green Cross International,
held its 12th annual Sustainable Design Awards dinner last night, honoring celebrities, groups and products that are driving green design changes.
So here’s a nod to Entertainment and Design Award winner Adrian Grenier, best known for his role on Entourage, and who co-founded SHFT.com, which promotes eco-friendly but stylish living.
And to other winners:
- Corporate Design Award—Henrik Fisker, Fisker Automotive CEO, for the Fisker Karma car, which is helping drive electric car innovation.
- Green Building Design Award—Arthur Rubinfeld, Starbucks President of Global Development for pushing LEED design for Starbucks stores.
- Bill McKibben & May Boeve, Co-Founders of 350.org, for the groundbreaking “design” of global protests against climate change. (Well, deserved, they enlist groups around the globe in massive efforts to raise awareness of carbon pollution.)
- Steve Elfman, Sprint President of Network Operations and Wholesale , in honor of Sprint’s featuring Samsung’s Replenish phone.
Now, a word about that phone. This Android smart phone could help lead the way out of the woods for the woefully green-lagging cell phone industry. It’s not the only green phone out there, but let’s take a look at this 2011 effort: It’s made largely from recycled plastic and features an add-on solar panel to charge your battery. It’s also free of toxics, such as polyvinyl chloride, beryllium and brominated flame retardants.
PC World chortled that no one knows what those chemicals are. Really?
It’s well-known in science circles that brominated flame retardants, for example, have been found to cause disruption to the endocrine system, specifically the thyroid. This type of health effect can lead to cancer in humans or it can cause developmental problems with children. Know anyone with thyroid cancer? It’s a fast-growing disease, and one possible contributor is flame retardants.
These flame retardants are often thick in foam cushions in furniture, where they are released over time as dust or in a billow of smoke should a house fire occur. This is why some firefighters have argued against dousing furniture with flame retardants, which create toxic fumes when released.
These chemicals are found in many consumer products, including the casings of electronics, where they may not migrate out as readily as from a foam cushion, but are nonetheless present in the product, wafting around the factory floor and invading the environment.
Here’s a warning from the Environmental Working Group about brominated flame retardants in electronics:
Prevent young children from touching and especially mouthing fire-retardant items as much as possible (especially your cell phone or remote!), and wash their hands prior to eating.
So PC World, these chemicals, which the Samsung Replenish has removed, do make a difference in our environment.
As far as the other features of electronics go, we’ll defer to PC World’s review, because they do know gadgets, if not chemistry. Their full review gives the Replenish mediocre marks, unfortunately.
PC World cited inadequate picture taking and periodic freeze-ups.
But there is still much promise here. The Replenish phone is affordable at $50 from Sprint, mimics the Blackberry experience, looks OK (why be picky?) and with some of the kinks worked out could prove to be a leading eco-phone, offering Sprint customers a product that they, and their toddlers, can safely handle.
A phone’s environmental profile is important, which is why the Underwriters Laboratory Environment gave this phone, the first ever in the United States, its top platinum certification.
(Global Green campaigns against climate change and for a more sustainable future through green jobs and improving public health. It has helped green $20 billion in new school and affordable housing construction, and responded to natural disasters. Based in Southern California, it has offices in New Orleans and Washington D.C..)
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