How to Become an Eco Bounty Hunter


Gentle on nature, hard on Jedi. (More great Eco-Boba pics here.)

Boba Fett was always my favorite Star Wars character.

Here’s your chance to emulate him and become a bounty hunter. Prizes go to the bold.

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), more than 125 million cell phones are thrown away each year, which amounts to about 65,000 tons of waste. That’s just in the US.

I have four old phones sitting in a drawer because I want to recycle them but… well, it’s damn inconvenient. Most people are green only when it is more convenient, cheaper, or faster than the alternatives, plain and simple.

But what if recycling a phone were as easy as “throwing it out” in a public mailbox?

The Solution – Hunt Them Down

How do we convince companies, like LG or AT&T, to make good behavior convenient, helping us and the planet? Simple. Call them on it. Literally.

Here are the steps and bounty…

1) Send the proposed “just mail it” solution, prepared by designer Sherwood Forlee, to the CEOs of major telephone manufacturers like Nokia or Samsung, carriers like AT&T and Verizon, or “enabling companies” like major printers (Avery) or shipping organizations (USPS, UPS, DHL, etc.). Use your imagination. The goal with the last group is to get their commitment to help invalidate excuses the phone CEOs will cite for inaction.

Outside of the US? No problem. Contact the CEOs of your largest equivalents, which might be might be O2 or Vodafone, for example.

One step of the “just mail it” solution.

2) Get a committal response from CEOs on why they would or wouldn’t test a solution such as this in 2008/2009. “We’ll take this under review,” “we’re constantly seeking eco-friendly options,” and other vacuous corporate blow-offs don’t cut it. Get the CEO or someone of that level to respond with his or her verdict on the solution and whether or not they’ll test it and when. If there are problems they see, ask them to name them.

Be polite but indicate that answers (or lack thereof) will be published on at least one top-1000 blog in association with their company for the world to see, and that you encourage them to take it seriously.

3) Post the response you receive in the comments here or on the associated posts on Gizmodo or by June 1st 2008.

Brian, Graham, and I — of Gizmodo, Treehugger, and this blog, respectively — will choose one Grand Prize winner and one Runner-up after that. US Grand Prize is an electric Tres Terra bicycle/motorcycle, courtesy of Susan at The Green Car Co., and runner-up prize is a folding bike from Strida or a brand-new iPod Touch. Shipping is included for any continental US address. If international bounty hunters, the Grand Prize is an iPod Touch, and Runner-up prize is a signed pre-publication copy of The 4-Hour Workweek, which have sold for more than $2,000 on eBay. Sorry about the bike/motorcycle, but shipping a few hundred pounds overseas would be hypocritical for an eco-related contest!

If considered as Grand Prize winner or Runner-up, you’ll need to be able to provide support to prove the email or phone exchanges were real.

Happy hunting! May the Fett be with you.


Here are a few suggestions and resources:

-If using phone, call before 8:30am or after 6pm to avoid gatekeepers and assistants.
-If leaving a voicemail, politely mention that you will be reporting back on responses from each company for a top-1000 (or top-100) blog. Leave your name and contact information at the beginning of all phone messages.
-Be professional and courteous, and to the point. Threatening is verboten.
-If you have it, consider the John Grisham script and other approaches for “finding Yoda” in The 4-Hour Workweek. Finding mentors and contacting CEOs is similar. Same methods, different targets.

Think you need an old boy network to contact famous CEOs? Think again. Here is how one reader contacted the richest man in the world, Warren Buffett.

Posted on: April 29, 2008.

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Comment Rules: Remember what Fonzie was like? Cool. That’s how we’re gonna be — cool. Critical is fine, but if you’re rude, we’ll delete your stuff. Please do not put your URL in the comment text and please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name, as the latter comes off like spam. Have fun and thanks for adding to the conversation! (Thanks to Brian Oberkirch for the inspiration)

78 comments on “How to Become an Eco Bounty Hunter

  1. Hi Tim. Big fan. Just the other day I got an envelope in the mail from the USPS that contained a small bag for recycling small electronics. It was a prepaid, mail-back envelope, and, according to the USPS site, it’s an initiative being tried out in select Post Offices. I live in Evanston, IL, outside Chicago.


  2. Another option would be to donate your old cell phone. Just google “donate old cell phone” and there are several options. I’ve only heard of them from others and haven’t used them myself, so make sure they’re legitimate first. Also, make sure to delete all personal information from the phone just to be safe.


  3. Well, this is really a great idea! Good post Tim!

    Though – how many of your four phones are completely “kaputt”? I mean, when thinking of myself and people around me, i think that the old, dismissed phones are often (not always) working at least fairly well, and have been replaced because of minor defects, taste, want/need for new functions etc.

    I think that the best would be if there might be say two boxes on this card. One saying “doesn’t (work)” and one saying “do”. The “dos” could then be donated to either cellphonesforsoldiers as suggested in the post above by Jason, or – and I’ve been thinking of this before – donated to third world (does that expression even exist anymore? anyway) countries.

    Many cell phone producers are today working on cheaper products for the African market etc. This is good, for sure, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to use “all” cell phones until they’re really finished? The thought of the capcity wasted by collecting functional cell phones and destroying them…

    Too bad I’m Swedish, that bike would really have been something…^^

    Take care!



  4. Jason, hats off to you.

    Unfortunately, I agree with Tim that most people won’t do what you did because it’s not cheaper or faster than the alternative of throwing the cell phone away.

    Tim, this is a great promo. Way to use your influence in an effective way. Surely your readers will collectively be more convincing than you alone.


  5. I think Jason is on the right track – how can we help organizations that already provide this service get the word out?

    I have another one to mention
    This organization recycles, does fund raisers and provides emergency phones for the elderly, women, and children at risk.

    sidenote: A shout out to bobaflower artists Eileen, Ben, Adryenn & Raina
    At least we know why now :)


  6. We have a local womens’ abuse shelter that takes used donated phones to give to women in dangerous situations to have as an emergency phone that her abuser or anyone else doesn’t know about. I’m sure there are shelters all over the US that use similar donation programs and could use more help.

    Who knows, your donation may save someone’s life.


  7. Good idea! This reminded me that I’d seen a “Recycle” mark on my Sidekick LX behind the battery. I called the number: 1-800-822-8837, listened to “Al from Home Improvement” tell me how important it is to recycle, typed in my zip code and it told me I could drop off the phone at the Home Depot up the street. That’s sounds dead easy. It looks like Sharp who make the phone are already into recycling them.


  8. Tim,
    I suggest going one huge step forward with one giant step backwards. Why do the phone service providers and cellphone manufacturers recommend, suggest and promote that you need to upgrade your phone when your “contract” expires.

    I have a cell phone that serves me just fine and has more capabilities than I use. I received a phone call from the service provider to stop by the local shop. When I did the sales rep spun into high mode to “sell” me a new phone. I didn’t want a new phone. What I had was fine. So, let’s first stop the insane concept that we need to upgrade our phones every few years.

    Two, let us work within our own local communities to increase or start our recycling efforts on a community-focus scale.

    And now, a question for you…what is the size of your ecologically footprint?


  9. Here in Australia most mobile phone stores have a bin in them exactly for this purpose! And there are hundreds of them within a half hour of anyone in a city.

    Suprised you guys haven’t caught up over there yet!


  10. Australia again,
    Why not get the National Postal company to just collect them for the bomail boxs, hold them at mail sorting centres and align yourself with them to pick them up and recycle them yourself. [or your business].
    There has got to be pleanty of copper, plastic, aluminium, gold etc in hundreds of phones to make it worth while??


  11. Whole foods and T-Mobile take old phones but still not as convenient.
    I don’t know how I got a plastic mail bag postage paid, but I received a bag to give my old phone to the troops so they could call home. I just sent it in the mail, that was easy.

    Tim great idea to rally the Ferrissites to get involved in the consciousness of cell phone recycling.

    Am I wrong in what I have read that some components of cell phones and computers use parts from countries in Africa that are sadly run by warlords or corrupt countries? That I am sure is a bigger political and world problem. Concerned Buddhist Hippy! Right lively hood is difficult if everything is tainted.

    My old company, an evil empire small publisher (which shall remain nameless) wouldn’t even recycle it’s paper. My girlfriend and me would take as much used paper that we could carry. I have to say she did most of it as I too am inherently motivated by convenience. Sorry Good Earth! I do recycle at home always.

    Again, great post I will put my thinking cap on and scour the globe for CEOs to influence. Trying to take over the world. Bah-bahahaha

    Love and Hugs,


  12. At my son’s last birthday party, I asked guests to bring donations to a local woman’s shelter in lieu of gifts. When I dropped off the items I noticed there was a huge barrel full of old cell phones, and I said “guess you don’t need more cell phones” and the answer was “no, we always need cell phones”.

    I guess, as long as you still have a good battery and a wall charger, a good idea is to donate it to a shelter.

    However, great idea, Tim, we need to recycle more responsibly for sure!