1. Action name
Our action is to look into the possibility of IES offering cell phone service through a rental company in order to reduce the number of cell phones which are thrown away every semester by IES Barcelona students. Cell phone rental programs offer students who are studying abroad the use of a phone for the months in which they are abroad, with competitive price rates. The phone is sent to the student prior to their departure from the States and is returned to the company following their return. I would like to make more information available to incoming students about these programs so that more students know they exists, and offer them the information needed in order to make their own, informed decision about if this type of program is right for them.
Since IES requires students to have a phone, and every student wants a phone while abroad, why not provide a more sustainable program?
Each semester, most students who attend IES Barcelona will purchase a cell phone when they get to Barcelona for use during their time here but will throw it away when they leave and/or never use it again. Obviously, this is a very wasteful action which can easily be avoided if students were to rent their cell phones instead of purchasing.
Reducing the amount of cell phones which are bought and thrown away months later by study abroad students reduces the amount of electronic waste ("e-waste") which is put into the environment. E-waste is defined as "any unwanted electronic device...which frequently contains hazardous material, predominantly lead and mercury, and is produced by households, businesses, governments and industries" (CADTSC)
There are many environmental and social problems related to e-waste. Cell phones and other electronics contain metals and substances which are hazardous to the environment. Although this may not be an issue that a lot of us from the developed work consider when purchasing a new electronic and disposing of the new one, e-waste has serious implications for the health of people where these products are disposed. Much of the e-waste that we get rid of every year is shipped to Asia, so it is out of sight and out of mind. In Asia, the electronics are taken apart in order to reuse some of their parts. Workers associated with these practices experience "severe health consequences" (Massey 16). The disposal of cell phones also releases large amount of lead, nickel and cadmium (a human carcinogen) into the environment which has huge environmental consequences and human health consequences for more people than just the workers who dispose these products (Earth911).
The reduction in the amount of e-waste produced by IES Barcelona and a decrease in the amount of cell phones thrown away each semester will also means IES Barcelona is doing a small part in promoting de-growth and right sizing which is defined as the continuation of a high quality of life "while reducing the ecological impact" (Flip and Schneider 318).
Reducing the amount of cell phones which are purchases and thrown away months later, will reduce the ecological footprint of IES Barcelona, and implementing such programs will give students an opportunity to be more informed about the issue of e-waste and ways we can promote change.
By offering more information about cell phone rental programs and benefits related to these programs, we believe that students will see that it is a feasible option for them.
1.2.1. Potential Benefits
An immediate effect which this would bring about is that it would reduce the number of cell phones bought and thrown away each semester. Even if a small number of students were to rent instead of buy their cell phone, that would still have some sort of positive effect on the amount of e-waste produced by IES Barcelona each semester which will have positive environmental and social benefits over time.
In the long term, the amount of phones which are recycled instead of thrown away through this system could be substantial, since there are so many abroad students every year and IES Barcelona could feel good about doing their part to increase sustainability, and awareness about electronic waste.
In the short term, it may create awareness during each abroad session about how our current throw away society is not sustainable and the negative impacts it has on different places and people. It could instill a new attitude in abroad students that there is an alternative to purchasing a phone and throwing it away.
Also, by raising awareness of these types of programs which rent cell phones, these programs will hopefully become more and more popular every semester and we hope that they become the norm in the future.
1.2.2. Potential Costs
There is no monetary cost related to this action other than adding some information to the information sent home to students, However, since this information is sent to students anyways, it would only mean adding some new information which is done each semester anyways.
Additionally, there is no time or human resource cost, other than the work done by this group, as long as we ensure that the information is added to the literature sent home to students.
Potential risks involve lack of understanding on the part of future students as to why these programs are better than purchasing their cell phone in Barcelona. Another risk is that incoming students simply will fail to want to purchase a cell phone prior to their arrival in Barcelona, thus decreasing the chances these programs will be taken advantage of by future students and made more popular from semester to semester.
The work done by past IES Barcelona students in regard to cell phones was focused on collecting cell phones at the end of the semester in order to resell them to next semesters students, with money being contributed to the sustainability fund. From what I have learned from IES staff, is that only two cell phones were collected through this effort, most likely due to the fact that students need their cell phones up until the day that they depart for home, thus making it difficult to contribute their cell phone to the fund before leaving Barcelona. The past group has compiled a lot of useful information regarding why it is important to recycle cell phones and reduce the e-waste which is produced each semester by IES Barcelona. Cell phone rental programs, and cell phone recycling both have the same end goals, however our action has different means for getting to that goal. Although the original idea is good in theory and helps contribute to the sustainability fund, I believe that if IES were to encourage students to rent their phones prior to coming to Barcelona, we would have a better chance at actually decreasing e-waste produced by IES Barcelona students. Cell phone rental programs are more feasible than cell phone recycling at IES Barcelona.
According to conversations with Ferran, who is in charge of cell phone programs which IES Barcelona recommends to students, IES has provided information about companies in the past which have rental services. However, IES Barcelona has not explicitly provided information on rental services, nor provided adequate information about such services.
After further conversations with Ferran, we have learned that IES only recommends cell phone programs in order to allow students to explore various options and purchase the program which best suites their individual needs. IES Barcelona recommends programs which offer special student rates, and have in the past recommended both Apelcom and Piccell which both have rental options, but are not explicitly rental companies. Additionally, Ferran stated that we could compile some information about the benefits of rental companies and where to find more information about them to be added to the literature sent home to accepted IES Barcelona students. Thus, we have written a short paragraph which we will be given to Ferran to hopefully be included in the information sent home to students so that incoming students can read the information and hopefully be curious about such programs and refer to the websites we will include and hopefully decide that it is the best option for them.
In a perfect world however, we would hope that IES Barcelona would require all students to order a rented phone prior to their departure to Barcelona so that every student would be contributing to an increase in sustainability at IES Barcelona. However, we realize that this could take some time over the course of many semesters to become reality and understand that we will have to start small in order for these types of programs to become more popular.
Below is the link to our proposed additions to the information available on cell phone program.
Existing information about cell phones given to students:
Since IES Abroad is first and foremost committed to student safety and security, we require you to have a cellular phone while enrolled in our programs. Throughout the program’s entirety, you will be required to have your cell phone turned on, charged, and with you at all times to enable IES Abroad staff and/or family to reach you in the event of an emergency. IES Abroad staff members use students’ cell phone numbers to broadcast text messages with instructions during emergency situations.
IES Abroad gives you the option of obtaining a cell phone while still in the U.S. or once you arrive at your program location. You choose your own cell phone provider and negotiate the best terms and conditions for the cellular service you choose. Once admitted to an IES abroad program, you will receive further information about acquiring your cell phone.
Additional information we propose to add:
When considering your cell phone options for your time aboard, please consider cell phone rental programs. These programs allow for you to order and obtain your cell phone while still in the U.S. and allow you to “rent” a used cell phone for your time aboard. Please refer to the following websites in order to obtain current pricing information. Remember, this is your most sustainable option!
1.4. References & Links
Companies offering potential products:
- Massey, Rachel. "Environmental Justice: Income, Race and Health"
- California Department of Toxic Substances Control (CADTSC). <http://www.dtsc.ca.gov/HazardousWaste/EWaste/> 2007
- Earth911.org. <http://earth911.com/recycling/electronics/e-waste-harmful-materials/> 2011
- Fall 2009 IES Barcelona Students, "Recycle/Reuse Cell Phone and Electronics"
1.5. Students involved in this action
Eliose Smith- Completed research relating to programs which offer cell phone rentals as well as helped research about electronic waste
Ryan Waingortin- Helped speak with Ferran about the current situation of IES Barcelona and cell phone programs
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