Household Sustainability
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Household Sustainability

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt

The authors engage critically, and constructively, with the proposition that households are a key scale of action on climate change. They confront dilemmas of practice and circumstance, and cultural norms of lifestyle and consumerism that are linked to troublesome environmental problems – and question whether they can be easily unsettled. The work also illuminates the informal and often unheralded work by households – frequently the poorest – in reducing their environmental burden. This important book is critical to understanding both the barriers to household sustainability and the ‘unsung’ sustainability work carried out by householders.
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Chapter 14: Mobile phones

Challenges and Dilemmas in Everyday Life

Chris Gibson, Carol Farbotko, Nicholas Gill, Lesley Head and Gordon Waitt


Mobile phones have become the world’s most ubiquitous electronic product. They are rapidly increasing in use, especially in developing countries which account for the bulk of subscriptions (Ongondo and Williams 2011). According to the New York Times it took 20 years to sell the first billion phones, four years to sell the second billion, and two years to sell the third billion (Corbett 2008). In 2011, global penetration of mobile phones was 87 per cent in the global north and 79 per cent in the global south (ITU 2011) and 5 billion of the world’s 6.5 billion people were mobile phone users. Total users are expected to reach 6 billion during 2013 (Zadok and Puustinen 2010). The first part of the twenty-first century could thus be characterized as ‘the era of mobile communication’ (Katz 2011, xi). There are many benefits to mobile phone use, not least of which has been the improved, relatively low cost, and flexible communications, including in developing countries. Such benefits, however, have come with environmental costs associated with manufacturing, using and disposing of mobile phones. With the growing number of users and increasing rates of phone replacement, the number of ‘retired’ phones has increased faster than other forms of e-waste (Geyer and Blass 2010), despite a thriving second-hand market in the global south and profitable reuse and recycling markets.

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