Earth Day, the Environment and Mobile Phones: A Round-Up

Posted by AnneryanHeatwole on Apr 22, 2010

Today is the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a global celebration that raises awareness about the enivronment.  To do our part to celebrate this day, we’ve put together a look at some of the mobile tools and organizations we’ve covered recently that are doing their part to help the Earth. If you have any suggestions about tools or organizations that are doing great environmental work with mobiles, please leave a comment and let us know – and have a good Earth Day!

Water Quality

We recently covered the Water Quality Reporter, a program in South Africa that uses mobiles to test the health of water supplies. The program allows field workers to use mobile forms or SMSs to cheaply and effectively transfer data about water quality to a centralized database, while receiving feedback about how to handle local water problems.

Hailing from South Africa is SASSI, the Southern African Sustainable Seafood Initiative. Participants can text the name of a fish to a phone number and within seconds, he or she receives  information via a short text message with information on whether the fish is legally and environmentally harvested. This allows shoppers to make smarter, more environmentally sound choices about which kinds of fish to purchase.

Amphibious Architecture at the Living Architecture Lab at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation is a program that allowed users to text message a number for information about the water quality of the East and Bronx Rivers in New York in the United States. Passerbys could interact with the wildlife in those habitats through interactive light sensors in the water and informative texts sent back to participants.

Environmental Awareness

Greenpeace's first use of SMS in India is part of a campaign to raise environmental awareness. The campaign encouraged people to plant trees; to do so, Greenpeace India sent out text messages offering free saplings. They found that the SMS campaign raised much greater interest than on-the-street campaigns.

Climate Change

The United Nations Environment Programme recently released a study on managing e-waste for developing countries, and we reviewed it here. The report focuses one three major points: the market potential of e-waste recycling, encouraging the adoption of the UNEP’s guidelines to foster innovation in e-waste recycling technologies, and identifying places in which e-waste recycling is thriving. 

Before the U.N. Climate Treaty vote in Copenhagen last December, used cell phones to gather worldwide support for passing regulations to lower carbon emissions. The group used SMS and Twitter to organize meetings around the world to show the universal support for lower carbon emissions. In October, we covered the organization’s work and why they chose mobiles to spread their environmental message.

Another organization that has used mobiles to raise awareness about climate change talks was They used phone alarms, and subsequent phone calls, to draw attention to climate change legislation on the eve of the United Nations Climate Summit last September. At each event, a flashmob of people all set their phone alarms for 12:18, held their phones above their heads when the alarms went off and then found the other participants.  Flash-mobbers then used their phones to take pictures, and called government offices. There were about 1500 flashmob events in 130 countries.


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