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Buzz About Sustainability

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Cell Phone Drawer.jpg Time for a confession. I’m a treasure hunter. Large or small, I love hunting for undiscovered or hidden value. Yes. On more than one occasion, I’ve checked the couch cushions to see if any coins have found their way down the cracks, along with the stray marble, hair clips and Goldfish crackers. Last fall, I had a real hay day when I took the dryer apart to fix it. Cleared almost $2 in change.

I could even regale you with a geocaching adventure on which I embarked with the kids. It rivaled a scene right out of Raiders of the Lost Ark – giant spiders and all. The pay-off was plastic jar with a screwtop lid that contained a rubber lizard, a pocket bible and a postcard of the union station in Chanute, Kansas, but for the adventure that we had, it may as well have been pure gold to me.

The point is hidden value is fun to find and often worth the search. And, let’s face it. If your household is anything like mine, times are tight. Any opportunity to save some money is a welcome one. Monday, April 5, marks the beginning of National Cell Phone Recycling Week. And this is an opportune time, to remind you that there’s dollars in them drawers.

Most of us have cell phones tucked away in drawers at home. Last night, a friend of mine shared that he had six unused phones lying around that he could recycle. You may not have that many, but let’s look at what your drawers might yield. If you rummaged around and found the following, you could get a combined $90 of value from the Sprint Buyback program today (April 5, 2010) – for example, if you found a Motorola RAZR V3M ($9) and Sidekick LX PV250 ($31) lying around, plus the Blackberry Curve 8350i ($50) that you’re now carrying.

Head into any of the more than 2,400 participating Sprint retail stores across the country and receive that amount in instant savings to put toward new products and accessories when you buy or upgrade to a new phone. The Sprint Buyback program accepts eligible cell phones and data cards from any carrier. Existing Sprint customers also can receive that value online in the form of an account credit to your monthly bills. Even if your wireless device is ineligible for our “buy back” program, you can still recycle it for free with Sprint Project Connect. Sprint will donate the net proceeds from the sale of the equipment to fund and promote Internet safety for kids.

Find out how easy and rewarding Sprint can make it to free up drawer space and recycle your old phones in this video featuring Sprint CEO Dan Hesse. Then share the love and the savings. Forward a link to your family and friends.

Darren Beck
Sprint Corp Responsibility
Twitter @DarrenBeck

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reclaim_main.jpgThis morning Sprint CEO Dan Hesse announced the August 16th release of the Samsung Reclaim™. Speaking with the media from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum in New York City where the Nature Conservancy’s Design for a Living World exhibit is on display, Hesse introduced the new device – a messaging phone that offers environmentally conscious consumers a perfect blend of responsibility without sacrificing speed, style or must-have features.

With a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, One Click access to Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube, Sprint Navigation, 2 megapixel camera/camcorder, and more all at a rockin’ price of $49.99 after rebates and with a two-year service agreement, this is a great phone. Add the Reclaim’s green attributes, and what you’ve got is the most feature-rich, eco-friendly phone available in the U.S.

The Reclaim is constructed from bio-plastic material (40 percent of the Reclaim’s outer casing is derived from corn). It’s RoHS compliant and free of potentially hazardous materials like polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and phthalates, and nearly free of brominated flame retardants (BFR). It comes with an ENERGY STAR-approved charger that uses 12 times less power than the standard for standby power consumption. The typical thick paper user manual has been replaced by a virtual user manual. The packaging is 100% recyclable material, made with a high percentage of post-consumer waste content, and printed using soy inks. And, $2 from every Reclaim purchased from Sprint through the end of this year will benefit the Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program in the U.S.

While introducing the Reclaim marks another significant step on Sprint’s path toward sustainability, it also represents a change in the way we’re doing business. Sustainability is frequently quoted as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Today Sprint committed to just such a concept, becoming the first U.S. wireless carrier to establish a set of environmental design criteria for future devices and accessories. We will work with our suppliers to design and provide products that:

  • Reduce the use of potentially hazardous materials,
  • Are energy efficient,
  • Include standardized audio and charging interfaces,
  • Are more recyclable, and
  • Have more sustainable packaging including standardized sizes, reduced weight, increased recyclability rate, and increased recycled content.

We’ll also work with our suppliers to measure and report on the environmental impact of their manufacturing processes. Combine this focus on more sustainable product development with our leading position on wireless reuse and recycling, and a new vision begins to take form – one that begins to address the full lifecycle of our products and their relationship with the environment.

It feels great to share this with you, to see the direction in which the company is heading and to feel the momentum that we’re gaining every day. I’d like to know your take on this news, though. What do you think? Is the Reclaim for you? Are we on the right track? What steps would you like to see Sprint take next? Look forward to reading your comments.

Darren Beck
Manager, Resource Stewardship
Sprint Corp Social Responsibility
Twitter @DarrenBeck

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Seems that the Brits' interest in recycling phones is increasing much faster than the Yanks'. A recent analysis by Hitwise, an internet traffic monitor, showed that U.K. internet searches for mobile phone recycling almost tripled over the last year. Search terms - such as "recycle mobile phones", "mobile phone recycling" and "phone recycling" - increased by 189% between the week ending 5/17/08 and the week ending 5/16/09.

 

Despite the proliferation of organizations in the U.S. that are ready to accept your old cell phone for recycling, action and interest among U.S. wireless consumers remains low. According to the EPA, only 10% of retired cell phones in the U.S. are being recycled. And whether it's due to lack of awareness or apathy, interest in the U.S. has yet to take off.

 

In a comparative analysis of internet searches for mobile phone recycling terms conducted by Google, U.S. interest pales in contrast to that of Great Britain. Based on an index of 100 in January 2006, Great Britain has experienced the following year-over-year increases in queries: 241% - 2007-2006, 134% - 2008-2007, 163% - 2009 YTD. In comparison, year-over-year growth in the number of U.S. queries has been relatively flat: 71% - 2007-2006, 34% - 2008-2007, -9% - 2009 YTD.

 

GB vs. US Mobile Phone Recycling Queries

 

So where does that leave us? Hopefully, inspired. The message is catching on. Phone recycling is gaining traction in the U.K. Phone recycling rates in Japan are already at twice the level of the U.S. These countries are demonstrating what's possible. We can increase interest and inspire action, as well. It all starts with a simple premise... getting the word out.

 

Sprint's made that even easier. We recently produced a brief video with Outpost Worldwide. This PSA entitled, "Wireless Recycling Video", can be viewed online. In under two minutes it frames the issue, illustrates how phones can reused and recycled, and shows how easy it is to take action. It can be found at http://www.sprint.com/recycle. Forwarding a link of this video to friends and family and encouraging them to do the same would be a great way to help raise awareness. Nearly everyone has one or more unused cell phones sitting around. With your help we can get the word out and increase recycling several fold right here in the good ol' US of A.

 

Darren Beck

Sprint Corp Social Responsibility

Follow me on Twitter @DarrenBeck

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I’m a “24” person myself. Rarely do I miss an episode and if I do, it’s hulu.com to the rescue. It’s the first thing I discuss with my Sprint colleagues (after sustainability issues, of course) on Tuesday mornings, and I even have a group of “24” chat friends online. But apparently there’s another prime time drama that gets a pretty loyal following called “Desperate Housewives.” Well I suppose there needs to be a little something for everyone. And to its credit, one of the show’s stars will appear in a newly produced 30-second commercial encouraging consumers to become more environmentally conscious.

 

The more the merrier … and greener … I say. Sprint has initiated numerous sustainability initiatives throughout our organization, including an aggressive recycle program. In fact, Sprint’s desire to provide employees opportunities to recycle personal items is growing.

 

In addition to our personal document shredding service at the Overland Park, KS headquarters, employees are now provided an outdoor recycle bin at a centrally located loading doc here on campus. Associates are able to bring plastic bottles and aluminum cans from home and deposit them in the blue recycle container. Many communities where our employees live do not offer curbside recycling for these items. In other municipalities, waste management companies have stopped the collection as a result of economic changes.

 

So thanks, Ms. Longoria-Parker, for the environmental cheerleading. I hope her endorsement encourages Sprint employees, and all of our neighbors, to clean up our communities.

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It's been a quiet commute to work the past few mornings. And not just because it's dark and cold again thanks to the forced spring forward in time. There's a certain hush in my vehicle because my carpool buddy has been unable to share a ride recently. We both work at the Overland Park, KS facility but may have never joined GHG reduction forces without the aid of the Sprint Smart Commute Program.

 

As a 2008 recipient of the Mid America Regional Council's (MARC) Academy for Sustainable Communities award, the Sprint Smart Commute Program has been recognized for greening the planet. Working in partnership with the MARC, a team of volunteers from the Overland Park, KS headquarters worked to incorporate various commuting options for employees and provide a resource for education, information, incentives and feedback.

 

The new program was officially rolled out in July of 2008 and by the end of the year Sprint employees had reduced more than 500,000 miles of travel and more than 22,000 gallons of gas. The number of participants has ranged between 400-900 commuters utilizing alternative methods of getting to work: bike, walk, carpool, telecommute or flex work.Other components of the ongoing program include Green Parking (preferred parking spots for carpoolers or alternative fuel vehicles), Green Bikers (bicycles owned by Sprint that employees can use to get to meeting on campus, or to ride during lunch or breaks), Bicycle Incentive (employees who bike to work 10 or more times per month get a partial credit on their fitness-center fees back on their paychecks), drawings for gas cards, food certificates, and much more. The objectives of the program are to establish an official, internal alternative transportation program for Sprint employees, educate Sprint associates on alternative commute options, help Sprint associates reduce commute costs, establish grassroots support for Sprint Green Initiatives, and be a one-stop-shop for information and resources. The volunteer committee met as often as twice a week to ensure the seamless rollout of the new program. Additional volunteers, known as Green Ambassadors, assisted in the critical task of dispersing information about the program to Sprint associates, in the form of information covered chocolate bars. Who says saving money and resources can’t be fun?

 

As for my own Smart Commute experience, I've saved gas, wear and tear on my vehicle, greened up my little part of the planet, and made a friend (importance not necessarily in that order). If you're interested in finding out about setting up a ride share program at your place of business, visit http://www.marc.org.

  

 

Message Edited by AmyS on 03-11-2009 12:05 PM

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When we flush medications down drains or send them to landfills, they make their way into rivers and even drinking water. Proper disposal is just what the doctor ordered, and the benefits are numerous.

 

For starters, more than 80% of rivers recently sampled tested positive for medications like antibiotics, hormones, and antidepressants. In addition, trace amounts of pharmaceuticals end up in our water because most treatment plants aren’t designed to filter them out.  drug fish

 

Taking your unused medications to a local pharmacy is a simple solution. Next time you’re picking up a prescription, ask your pharmacist if they participate in The The Starfish Project which takes donations of certain meds by mail and distributes them to people in Africa. Or they may participate in programs that will take your drugs and redistribute them to people who can’t afford them here in the United States.

 

If your local pharmacy is not a good redistribution option, ask if they participate in safe drug disposal programs. Or, consider checking with your local Department of Health or Board of Pharmacy. They may be able to put you in contact with drug repository programs.

 

If you’re inspired to find ways to “recycle” medications, check out Earth911. Not only does it provide information on safe disposal of pharmaceuticals, but an incredible array of other items as well.

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“Of all the wonders of nature, a tree in summer is perhaps the most remarkable; with the possible exception of a moose singing 'Embraceable You' in spats.” – Woody Allen

  

It may not be the first thing you notice as you drive on to Sprint’s headquarters in Overland Park, KS, but right here at the tail end of winter there’s new landscaping adorning our main entrance. To date, nearly 40 trees have been replanted along the edge of our largest campus lake. And thought it’s not easy being brown (in the winter … in the Midwest) don’t let their humble appearance fool you. These trees are survivors, replanted from our in-house tree farm.

 

The tree farm was originally set up to heal trees damaged in a 2002 ice storm. Dozens of trees became damaged or too unsightly to leave in the campus landscape. Those trees were dug up and placed in 300 gallon pots where they could heal through pruning and other natural means. Over time, other trees were added to the farm and allowed to mature. As trees die through attrition, disease, or storm damage, they are replaced with these home grown beauties.

 

This spring, as the saved trees mature, their value will become more visually obvious. But their inherent value is never lost on those involved with environmental stewardship. Replanting these trees not only creates a natural habitat for birds and other wildlife, but advances Sprint’s sustainability as well.

 

The remainder of the previously potted plants will be in their new location in early April, weather permitting, and as long as the moose keep their show on the road.

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Sprint’s Enterprise Real Estate Team, based in Overland Park, KS initiated a partnership in the summer of 2008 with Missouri Organic Recycling (MOR) to collect all biodegradable food waste at the Overland Park Headquarters’ dining cafes. MOR is a local, family owned and operated company that specializes in composting food waste. Together, Missouri Organics is helping us divert the maximum amount of unused cafeteria product waste from community landfills.

 

Discard is collected from prep areas, dirty plates and perishable unsold items. Paper napkins also go in the food waste collection along with paper cups. But the program doesn’t end there. We’re also putting waste back into the usable stream of landscape materials that literally enrich the earth and its vegetation, soil, and trees.

 

Missouri Organic’s award winning compost program kept 3,100 tons of waste out of landfills in 2005 alone. Most of the compost products sold by MOR, and purchased by Sprint for the Overland Park campus landscaping, are made from waste that might otherwise be burned, put in a landfill or dumped illegally.

 

And we’re pleased to say that our efforts are not totally unique. Radical cafeteria changes are under way at other green-minded companies like Microsoft. Check out their dramatic dining difference and learn a whole new way to clean your plate.

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Looks like AT&T may soon be taking a page from Sprint's playbook. According to the Boy Genius Report, it's rumored that AT&T is looking to launch a “Phone Trade-In” program for subscribers.

 

While the following has yet to be confirmed, Engadget nets it out this way: "any phone traded in must be less than two years old and in relatively good shape, and the new phone you're after won't have any subsidies attached; your trade-in value is the discount. Oh, and regardless of how awesome that shiny new whatever is, the maximum value of any trade is capped at $200."

 

It's worthy to note that Sprint Nextel has been rewarding customers with a "buy back" option since 2001. Here are some key advantages that Sprint customers receive through the Sprint Buyback program versus the program that AT&T is said to be considering for its customers:

 

  1. Customers can sell their phones to Sprint Buyback at any time; not just as part of a trade-in / upgrade transaction
  2. The account credit customers receive from Sprint Buyback can be added to the advertised subsidies on any upgrade
  3. Some models more than two years old are still eligible through Sprint Buyback (as of today, the Samsung Blade A900M will net you an account credit of $25)

 

At Sprint, we plan to continue enhancing the Sprint Buyback program. Look for even more features in the near future. In the meantime, if you've used the Sprint Buyback program, we'd love to know more about your experience. How did it go? What, if anything, would you like to see us change?

 

Darren Beck | Sprint | Manager, Resource Stewardship
darren.d.beck@sprint.com | Twitter: @DarrenBeck

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Recently Sprint announced a 10-year recycling goal. By 2017, we intend to be collecting nine phones for reuse and recycling for every 10 phones that we sell a 90% collection rate. This is ambitious goal. No wireless retailer, carrier or manufacturer is achieving a collection rate that high today. At Sprint, our collection rate was 34% in 2008. While this was up from a collection rate of 22% in 2007, it still leaves a gap of 56% for us to cover by 2017.

 

Here are a few more statistics to ponder. There are more than 270 million wireless subscribers in the U.S. today that includes you, me and just about everyone else in the country. On average, we're going to use our cell phones for 18 months before we retire them. At that rate by mid-2010, those 270 million cell phones would be candidates for reuse and recycling. Add those to the surplus of old phones sitting in drawers and storage that have yet to be recycled or thrown away, and we're talking about a pool of several hundred million phones.

 

With this enormous surplus of phones, why is hard for some to believe that Sprint can achieve this 90% goal? Kevin Ferguson notes on InformationWeek’s Green Computing Blog that "a 90% rate seems to be disconnected from reality". Is it? Let's play this out. Even if Sprint's annual sales were 20 million phones for a given year, meeting the goal would only entail collecting 18 million phones. Given the surplus that exists, it would be feasible to meet a goal of 200%, 300% or more for years to come.

 

The real challenge, as Mr. Ferguson adeptly points out, is human nature. Since only about 10% of cell phones that are retired in the U.S. today get recycled, it's hard to argue that point. Here are three things that he sees which are working against increased collections: 1) Laziness - "There are people like me: well-intentioned layabouts who would just as soon shove the old phone in the bottom drawer as print out a label and mail it in."; 2) Giving proceeds to charity is not sufficient incentive - "Now, I am charitable. But, as we've discussed, I'm lazy. And for some reason, scrounging around my closet for donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters seems easier."; and 3) We're not forced to do it - "Few states require consumers or manufacturers to recycle their phones."

 

Let's bring this home. Until I stepped into my current position at Sprint about three years ago, why was it that I hadn't recycled my unused cell phones. I probably had three floating around the house two that my kids were using as "play" phones. In my case, I wasn't aware that they could be recycled. Also, there was always the possibility that I might need one of them as a spare. Turns out that I was in the same boat as most Americans. Those are two of the primary reasons that most have for not recycling  along with not knowing how to save data (contacts, photos, text messages, etc.) or erase the data from cell phones, and a general feeling that recycling a cell phone falls low on the list of life's priorities. These add up. They contribute to that significant uphill climb to which Mr. Ferguson alludes.

 

What are your thoughts? Do you have unused cell phones, batteries, accessories and data cards at home or at the office? If so, what would have to happen for you to recycle them? What could Sprint do make that that experience more convenient or rewarding for you? Your opinion matters to us, and we'd love to receive your feedback.

 

Darren Beck | Sprint | Manager, Resource Stewardship

darren.d.beck@sprint.com | Twitter: @DarrenBeck

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Did you know that nine out of 10 Sprint customers have at least one unused phone at home? Some have five or more. Many of those phones are destined for landfills since most are unaware that the devices can be reused and recycled.

 

Sprint offers two free and easy options for reuse and recycling. Sprint Buyback offers customers up to $50 in account credit per phone for select models. Sprint Project Connect accepts all wireless phones, batteries, accessories and data cards and generates net proceeds from the equipment to support Internet safety for kids. This is good stuff, but less than a third of customers know these programs exist. Once they learn about them though, six out of 10 surveyed say they're more likely to recommend Sprint to others.

 

Sprint communicates the programs in several ways: through postage-paid envelopes in the box with new phones, in our retail stores, on Sprint’s web site, and even through public events like “American Consumerism: Through the Lens” held last November in Kansas City (click here for a video excerpt featuring Chris Jordan, environmental artist and advocate for social change). However, one of most effective ways to let people know is by “word of mouth”.

 

Will you help spread the word? It’s easy. Just let friends and family know that Sprint offers recycling. Encourage them to visit www.sprint.com/recycle for details. Having that brief conversation can help safeguard the environment. All of the equipment Sprint collects is kept out of the waste stream, which alleviates the risk of toxins entering our water and air through landfills and waste incinerators. And, since reuses more than 90% of the phones collected are reused, it conserves energy and resources that would otherwise be used to manufacture more phones.

 

Darren Beck | Sprint | Manager, Resource Stewardship

darren.d.beck@sprint.com | Twitter: @DarrenBeck