Posts Tagged ‘android’

conflict-free smartphone

Between signing up for a two-century-long cell contract and buying a smartphone, it seems as though purchasing a mobile device is laden with guilt. Many contain metals from conflict areas and are assembled where working conditions are poor, so looking for a green and socially conscious alternative can seem like an epic quest into researching each step along the supply chain. Now, an international team of developers have created the Fairphone, the world’s first open-source, conflict-free smartphone.

The Fairphone runs on the Android Jellybean 4.2 platform and contains dual SIM cards, a Mediatexk 6589 chipset, and possesses 16 GB of internal memory. Dragontrail glass keeps the touch screen free of scratches, and two 8MP cameras are able to take pictures from the front and rear. As an open-source device, the phone can be programmed by those who are familiar with Firefox and Ubuntu code. Even more importantly, Fairphone works with organizations in Rwanda, Indonesia, and Zambia. They have partnered with groups such as Solutions for Hope, the Conflict-Free Tin Initiative, Action Aid, and Friends of the Earth. Each comes with a Bill of Materials that lets the consumer know where each material has come from. The units are assembled in China at a factory where a fund has been created to improve worker wages and comply with environmental regulations.

The company’s ultimate goal is to have a phone that is made completely from recycled materials. Until that day, they have committed to reclaiming old, obsolete devices. Each Fairphone can either be donated or sold back, and for every one purchased the company contributes €3 to removing waste from Ghana. The Fairphone costs €325, and although it is currently only available for sale in Europe, its success could set a new standard for tech giants around the globe. Of the 20,000 machines already built, half have already been claimed. In a world where e-waste, social welfare, and environmental health challenge even the most well-intentioned of consumers, it is heartening to see a group of people willing to create a product that cares for both people and the planet.

There are plenty of reasons for concerned citizens to be wary of companies like Monsanto and Koch Industries. Between pollution, public deception, and political manipulation, these are corporations that have permeated our society with their GMO’s, chemicals, and corrupt policies. As consumers, we tend to believe that we can at least choose not to purchase the goods they are peddling. However, identifying the makers behind popular foods and cleaning supplies are nearly impossible at the grocery store without having to do a multi-hour internet search beforehand.

Instead of lugging around your own compendium of brands to avoid, you can turn to a much more manageable smartphone app called, “Buycott“. Invented by 26-year-old Ivan Pardo, the program scans the barcode of a product, determines its manufacturer, and cross-checks the item against campaigns you have joined to see if it conflicts with your principles. The campaigns you can join either choose to avoid or promote certain goods or causes. The application already has a large database, but users can contribute information for those items that Buycott does not recognize.

So far, Buycott has experienced a rush of new users, speaking to the concerns of communities across the nation. Although these businesses are massive and influential, this may be the first grassroots step in the effort to topple their hegemony.

Bamboo sounds like a great idea for the music industry. It’s cheap, sustainable, and a great way to amplify vibration. Just take a look at the cheekily-named “loudbasstard“, a zero energy amp made for iPhones, iTouch, and later version Android smartphones. Created by Koh Onozawa and Franz Ignacio, each pair is cut and dyed by hand in Cebu Philippines. Both a way to promote environmentally friendly design and empower the Philippine community, the loudbasstard takes advantage of native craftsmanship and materials to project your favorite tunes.

A simpler, more rustic version of the node speaker is also available through ibamboo. Open at both ends, the cylinder creates a “pseudo-stereo” effect for Apple phones and devices. Rough-hewn and with a black or natural finish, the grass with its own carrying case and recyclable box. Originally began as a Kickstarter campaign, the product has been so successful that it has been featured in the New York Times and is temporarily out of stock.

On a similar note, the iBam 2 combines high quality bamboo with efficient design. With a waterproof carrying case and carved box, the speaker is a perfect low-tech device to take on beach trips or anywhere it might be difficult to find an outlet. As an added bonus, every purchase helps workers and the reforestation effort in Southeast Asia.

 

Sadly, you can’t win ’em all, and this past election cycle California’s Prop 37 to label GMO’s went the way of so many rotten tomatoes. However, all is not lost, and there are ways that you can avoid genetically modified foods with a little research, vigilance, and by asking the right questions.

Go organic: Anything certified organic is also free of genetically modified materials. Look for the label on processed foods, at your farmers markets, and opt for heritage breeds of fruits and veggies where you can find them.

Label it yourself: The website labelityourself.org is a decentralized, grassroots campaign that uses #LIY to show fellow consumers what contains GMO ingredients via the web. The site allows you to download and print your own labels, and encourages activists to stick them on products, snap a photo, and upload it to their Tumblr account.

Use your phone: For a little help identifying GMO’s, use your smartphone and the True Food Shopper’s Guide for android and iPhone, brought to you by The Center for Food Safety. The application is constantly updated to bring you the newest list of GM foods, activist campaigns, and tips on how to buy healthy, non-manipulated foods. Other programs include ShopNoGMO, and the Non-GMO Project Shopping Guide.

Buy whole, local foods: When you can, take a trip to your local farmers markets and buy whole, local produce.  Make sure that the produce is grown to your standards, and do not be afraid to ask a couple of questions. We put our trust in Jerry Rutiz and the Rutiz Family Farms in Oceano.  One of the best ways to avoid hidden GMO’s in processed foods is to bypass the frozen dinners altogether, and cook with fresh ingredients.  Tastier, more nutritious, and supporting your local economy, opting for local fare is a healthy choice all around!

 

 

 

Walking along the beaches of the Central Coast, it is common to marvel at the breathtaking scenery, be delighted by the crash of the waves and smell of the salt air, and also be utterly confused as to what the heck you are looking at washed up on the sand.  Even as an avid naturalist and beachcomber, there have been a number of times when I have been puzzled as to what I have seen lying helpless and stranded just above the water line.  More often than not these mystery creatures are organisms that are unfamiliar, but there have also been instances where trash and other man made debris littered the shore.  How do you know what you are staring at, and whether it is normal or a result of climate change, natural disaster, or human disturbance?

Jellywatch-  With shifts in climate and human influences changing to composition of our oceans, there have been substantial changes in jellyfish populations.  Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Jellywatch Android App can help you identify, track, and report what your ocean-side observations.  The application congregates data on squid, jellyfish, red tide, and animal sightings along with photographs.  All information is added to Google maps and displays graphic information on the heath of the sea.

Marine Debris Tracker- When you see trash on the beach, it may be difficult to know from whence it came.  Ocean currents sweep debris far away from their points of origin and deposit them sometimes thousands of miles from their homes on land.  University of Georgia researchers and UGA computer systems have joined forces to keep tabs on our massive amounts of floating refuse.  Using the built-in GPS technology of smartphones, the Marine Debris Tracker app for Android and iPhones allows users to log information and add it to an ever growing database run by the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative and the NOAA Marine Debris Division.

Project Noah- Launched out of NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Program, Project Noah aims to educate and reconnect people with nature through technology using mobile applications.  Android and iPhone users can become citizen scientists by snapping photos of wildlife, identifying what they encounter, and providing critical information to scientists across the globe.  Gorgeous, detailed maps display the participant community’s sightings, provide field stats and background info on the animal, join local missions and conservation efforts, and talk with other nature enthusiasts.

Let your smartphone be a power for good!  Download these free, educational apps today!

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