How to Become an Eco Bounty Hunter

78 Comments


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 Treehugger.com 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.

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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. I just brought your book in Urmuqi,XinJiang,China.
    You are a suprise & super man,haha.
    Thanks for shareing experence to us.
    Happy everyday!

  2. Hi All!

    Thanks for the great comments and observations. Many of the suggestions are totally valid, but — alas — I believe will not get wide adoption as most of us (speaking for Americans, at least) are just plain lazy and unwilling to even go to a separate location to drop off a phone. I hope people prove me wrong.

    Thank you all for pointing out the alternatives, many of which will help, even with small followings.

    We’ll see if we get any ambitious readers to call the CEOs. Reread my Princeton challenge in the book if you’re thinking “Ah… too much competition…” :)

    All the best,

    Tim

  3. I recycled my old cell phone as an alarm clock, it might not get signal anymore, but since it keep track of time even when switched off it works as a really efficient alarm clock

  4. Tim, there are companies that export scrap to poor countries, where they’re stripped for materials (aka recycled). I used to work with one, Coasin, in Chile and Argentina, no doubt they exist in the US as well.

    If you publicized their names, I’m sure they’d be thrilled if people mailed in their used phones (from their perspective it’s free money!). I know, people don’t want to pay to mail the scrap, but then when one “pressures” a company to take back old scrap, you still pay for it (at time of purchase), but it’s hidden and mandatory rather than voluntary.

    I’d have thought that’d be the very first thing you’d hit on – outsourcing your recycling!

  5. EPA has a great website on recycling cell phones at http://www.epa.gov/cellphones. It has information on which cell phone companies have cell phone recycling (AT&T, Sprint, LG, Sony Ericsson, Nokia, T-Mobile, Verizon, Staples, Samsung, Motorolla, Best Buy. Office Depot) and how to recycle with those companies. It also has information on clearing information off your phone and why recycling is important for the environment. There is also a great video called the “Secret Life of a Cell Phone” that you should check out at http://www.secret-life.org/

  6. I know it’s a bit late in the game, but I’m going to give it a try. :)

    I hate it that people think they can’t make a difference so they’re not even bothering. It seems like a lot of commenters think that talking to a corporate CEO is somehow “minor” compared to other things they could (but won’t) do to help. Or, alternatively, they think that sending a well-worded email is such a major undertaking that they are doomed to failure.

    Come on! Have a little faith in yourselves!

    Having said all that, I plan to win. :D

  7. I know it’s a bit late in the game, but I’m going to give it a try. :)

    I hate it that people think they can’t make a difference so they’re not even bothering. It seems like a lot of commenters think that talking to a corporate CEO is somehow “minor” compared to other things they could (but won’t) do to help. Or, alternatively, they think that sending a well-worded email is such a major undertaking that they are doomed to failure.

    Come on! Have a little faith in yourselves!

    Having said all that, I plan to win. :D

    PS to Tim: I’m having a helacious time posting comments!

  8. Hey Tim,

    I’ve been busy trying to get in contact with several phone carriers and phone manufacturers. So far I got one possible response from Motorola…more on that next week.
    Question:
    I didn’t want to post anything up for fear of creating more competition for myself but I was curious as to what is the most effective way to get a hold of someone like the CEO or VP of a big corporation. So far my strategy has been to use the media contacts to get them to forward my request to someone in corporate. I also tried asking the operator to forward me to the office of the CEO or VP, but I keep getting the runaround. Any advice/tips?

  9. Here is response I got from the External Communications person in Motorola, apparently the U.S Postal Service is already offering a similar program in the post office in city:

    Hi Cristhian:
    Thank you for forwarding this concept to Motorola. It’s interesting!
    Motorola supports all opportunities that make it convenient for
    consumers to recycle their phones. That’s why we provide and participate
    so many varied options — prepaid labels, incentives, collection
    containers, charity programs, government programs, community collection
    events and more. You may be interested a new e-cycling program the U.S.
    Postal Service is piloting: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5750.
    Best regards,
    Tama McWhinney
    External Communication
    Motorola

  10. As long as we are on the “eco” front, everyone should check out CoolPeopleCare.org – the one-stop shop for changing the world with whatever time you have.

    Tim, I can put you in touch with Sam Davidson, the founder of CoolPeopleCare.org. I think you would thoroughly enjoy the revolution he is creating…

    Adrian

  11. Finally! Someone not only thinking in the right direction but also putting out a plan of action that others can follow. We need more! We need more!!! Keep em coming, please! The more detail the better.

    Here is also a thought, how do we create more awareness for environmental issues and at the same time develop a sense of urgency? And also do this in a very effective and meaningful way. One that people take seriously and one that will drill down into their conscious awareness levels, which will make them change their “bad” habits.

    What if…..or who can..….bringing the “necessary” people together and make this happen: If someone would bring the top 5 mass media outlets per category, e.g., TV, print, radio, newspaper, etc. together so that they together run simultaneously an “Our only Planet” program over 5 to 7 weeks. Every day at the same time all TV channels, during prime time, would show the same show, e.g., Inconvenient Truth, or the 11th Hour, or a DIY show showing how to recycle, etc. In print they would run the same articles and ads, also dedicate 50% of their cover to the subject. And this every day/week/month for the duration of the program. Radio the same, Internet sites and bolgs the same, etc. And the government would subsidies part of this – yes them too. Corporate sponsorship will also help, and donations, etc. And if any other media outlet wants to participate they can do so too. The more the better! Just imagine the reach, what message this would send and what this would scale to – just imagine! Just imagine this going international – just imagine. Who can broker something like this? Who?

  12. Improving Multimedia: Windows Mobile
    by Jamie Lendino

    HOW-TO
    • Add bookmarks fast
    Quickly bookmark sites in Internet Explorer Mobile by pressing Menu, then D.

    • Know when to quit
    Windows Mobile doesn’t quit programs, so you’ll want to do that periodically whenever the handset seems slow. Fire up the Task Manager—in WM6 Professional it’s located at Start | Settings | System Tab (at bottom) | Task Manager | Running Programs. Now click Stop All. (On Windows Mobile 6 Standard, the Task Manager has its own Start menu icon.)

    • The point is a better UI
    Have iPhone envy? Power up your handset’s user interface with the free PointUI Beta (www.pointui.com); it’s not only more attractive, but also lets you navigate with your fingers instead of having to take out the stylus all the time.

    • Improve your home décor
    If you prefer your phone’s stock UI, you can still make it more attractive. Go to Start | Settings | Home Screen. From there, you can adjust its layout, color scheme, and background image.

    HACK
    • Pull a fast one on Bill
    Windows Mobile 6 Standard devices can view and edit Microsoft Office documents but not create them. So fool the OS by transferring blank Word and Excel documents from your PC. Then open one and resave it with a different name each time you need a new document.

    • Upgrade and conquer
    Some Windows Mobile 5 devices—including the AT&T BlackJack, the Palm Treo 750, and the T-Mobile Dash—can be upgraded to Windows Mobile 6. Visit http://www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/6 and click the Upgrades tab for details.

    • Teach your phone to share
    Your Windows Mobile handheld makes a great cellular modem for your laptop, particularly if it’s on a carrier with a 3G network (AT&T, Sprint, or Verizon). Search for “modem tethering” at http://www.smartdevicecentral.com for step-by-step instructions for each carrier as well as an OS X-specific how-to.

    ADD-ON
    • Synchronize the important stuff
    If you’re a Vista user, you should grab the latest version of Windows Mobile Device Center (www.microsoft.com/windowsmobile/devicecenter.mspx) for synchronizing your handset with your PC. If you’re running XP, check Microsoft’s Web site for the latest iteration of ActiveSync, version 4.5.

    • Know where you’re going
    Download a free copy of Google Maps for Mobile at http://www.google.com/gmm. It gives you road-map and satellite views, plus turn-by-turn directions—and will even work with your Windows Mobile handset’s built-in GPS radio, if it has one. (Works with Palm OS, too.)

    • 500 channels and nothing’s on?
    Why pay monthly fees for mobile TV? If you have a Slingbox, the $29.99 SlingPlayer Mobile app lets you watch cable TV or recorded DVR programs—often near 30 fps—right on your handset. Head to http://www.slingmedia.com/go/spm for details. (There’s also a Palm OS version.)

    < Back

  13. Hello all,

    With some humility and lessons learned, I write here to report the result of my eco-bounty hunting. I do not have a CEO response to post, but NOT for a lack of trying. My contact list included:

    - Rodney Lanthorne (CEO Kyocera Wireless) If you dial 1-858-882-2000, you will reach Kyocera. Choose the option for their digital directory, which will allow you to search employees by typing in first few letters of their last name. Type L-A-N-T-H and it will ring the desk of Mr. Lanthorne. I left three voice messages following my script (below).

    - Michael Ahn (CEO LG North America) Calls were made both to the corporate office 858-693-0101 and to Ms. Clara Chang (201-816-2011), the media contact. First, I aksed to speak with Scott Ahn, President of LG Mobile, but she informed me he was in Korea. Then I asked about Michael Ahn. Ms. Chang asked for an email and said she would pass it along to Mr. Ahn. I sent it twice (clarachang@lge.com) and followed up via phone to no avail (see email template below).

    - Dan Hesse (CEO Sprint) A call made to their corporate office (they could not pass me to Mr. Hesse for some silly company policy reason…psh). Then I tried the hopeless but amusing email to dan@sprint.com (the email address they show at the end of their new Sprint commercial). It replies with a nice little Tim Ferriss-esque auto-responder saying that they will read my email and respond within a week. 2 weeks later- nothing. I don’t like your service anyway Sprint and I’m switching as soon as I can.

    - Greg Brown (CEO Motorola) I contacted Mr. Brown through Jennifer Erickson (jennifer.erickson@motorola.com), the Media Head. Again, Jennifer promised a response. Yep, you guessed it. Notta. Nothing. Zilch.

    - Veli Sundback (Nokia Head of Corporate Relations and Responsibility) I thought he would be eager to discuss the Just Mail It idea being head of Corporate Responsibility, but I think its just a cool title they give somebody to look progressive. Plus, the time difference from here to Scandinavia didn’t help in making contact with anyone at Nokia.

    - Hideki (Dick) Komiyami (CEO of Sony Ericsson) Submitted a media request with email template via their website, but no response from two weeks ago….

    Phone Call Script: Hello, My name is ______. I’m calling as an advocate for the Just Mail It! Cell Phone Recycling Program as well as assisting author Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling 4HWW and top-100 blog (name drop and credibility).

    Could you assist me in speaking with ______ for 3 min? (Or sending him/her a brief email?)

    Voicemail Script: Similar to the above, but requesting them to email me or return the call if they have a chance (I know they don’t) and also letting them know I’ll be giving them another call (an incentive to deal with me now instead of pestering them forever).

    Email Script: Hello, Thank you in advance for your time and I hope this finds you having a great day! I will be brief.

    As you know, over 125 million cell phones are thrown away each year. So, I commend your company on its commitment to sustainability and its paralleled success.

    If possible, could you provide a committal response from ______ about testing a convenient and sustainable cell phone recycling program, Just Mail It. Just Mail It proposes to include a return mailing label behind the battery of every cell phone and offers the user THE most convenient method for mailing their old cell phone to be recycled. No more LG phones in landfills! It is featured here: http://www.core77.com/competitions/GreenerGadgets/projects/4529/

    1) Is your company willing to test this solution in 2008/2009?
    2) Will this solution work? Why or why not?
    3) If yes, what are the problems that will keep you from testing this solution?

    Respectfully, your CEO’s response will be published on at least 1 top-100 blog in association with your company and placed side by side with other cell phone companies’ responses. Your participation reflects greatly on your company’s commitment to a better world and for that, I thank you.

    If possible, could you get back with us by Monday, May 26th. Please respond to: XXXXXXXXXX@gmail.com or 555-555-XXXX

    Sincerely yours.

    Feel free to use any of the above templates, scripts, and/or contact info to try to reach some of these people.

    Despite coming up short (thus no chance of winning the bounty hunt), I wanted to share these examples with fellow readers. But also, I wanted to take Tim’s challenge. I think what Tim wanted us to take away from this was the experience and lessons learned- and I know that the next time I need to contact somebody important (or time-crunched), I have the guts and wherewithal to do so. I await the next bounty-hunt.

    Adrian

  14. Hello all,

    I Also tried the above method, but the only way I was able to get ahold of anyone was to #1 leave a voicemail, #2 send email, #3 call again an ask why no reply to email…said she had eyed my email on her mailbox but didn’t open/reply to it ( couldn’t help but make me laugh).

    I know I didn’t get a response from a CEO but at least I learnt to be organized enough to call a complete list of strangers, follow up with them, and try to pitch the idea of he Just Mail It Solution to them and even get a response(albeit a rather generic one from a Motorola Executive)….even if I don’t win any prizes( though I secretly hope I do) I will at least get the satisfaction that I am actually becomming more effective at doign things and trying to acheive something positive(win-win)…..a nice electric bycicle for me ( I love bike riding) and helping promote enviormental consciousness

  15. Hi Tama,

    Thanks for your reply! Is there any way that I could get either an executive from Motorola or the recycling/environmental department to specifically comment on the Just Mail It Solution and why they would or would not consider taking on this program in 2008-2009? The only reason I ask is because the designer of the Just Mail It Solution is curious as to whether he can improve or modify his idea so that other phone providers can adopt it.
    Thanks in advance!

    On May 23 8:59 AM, XXXXX wrote:

    > Hi Cristhian:
    > Thank you for forwarding this concept to Motorola. It’s interesting!
    > Motorola supports all opportunities that make it convenient for
    > consumers to recycle their phones. That’s why we provide and participate
    > so many varied options — prepaid labels, incentives, collection
    > containers, charity programs, government programs, community collection
    > events and more. You may be interested a new e-cycling program the U.S.
    > Postal Service is piloting: http://www.worldwatch.org/node/5750.
    > Best regards,
    > Tama McWhinney
    > External Communication
    > Motorola
    >
    > —–Original Message—–
    > From: XXXXXXXXXXXX
    > Sent: Friday, May 16, 2008 2:03 PM
    > To: Mc Whinney Tama-atm022
    > Subject: Motorolas Phone Recycling Program
    >
    > Hi Tama,
    >
    > Thanks for taking time away from your busy schedule to respond to my
    > phone call about the Just Mail It Solution for phone recycling. I know
    > Motorola is commited to enviormental protection, and I would like to
    > get
    > a response a committal response from the CEO or someone on the same
    > level on why they would or wouldn’t test a solution such as this in
    > 2008/2009. For your convience I attached two files that give a quick
    > description of the Just Mail It Solution for phone recycling, more
    > details about this solution can be found at
    > http://www.core77.com/competitions/GreenerGadgets/projects/4529/
    > I am also calling various other phone manufacturing companies such as
    > Nokia, LG, and Samsung and posting their as well as Motorolas response
    > or lack thereof on a few top tech blogs and cell phone blogs like
    > TechDigest.

  16. So did anyone end up winning the contest?!? I kind if have been waiting to see if there is any winners…anyone have any idea?

  17. Weird. Just saw this. I’m actually working with Nokia to do a very similar idea. We’re trying to redesign all their packaging so that you can flip the box inside-out, put your old mobile / cell-phone inside and drop it in the mail. It will be pre-addressed and postage-paid to go to a recycling or refurbishing facility. If anyone calls Nokia please ask them to support this idea which is floating around internally already. Thanks.

    William Burks Spencer

  18. Hi All,

    The winner announcements are coming! As soon as I get back to the US — in about 24 hours — we will be choosing the winner and runner-up.

    Thanks!

    Tim

  19. Hi All!

    Adrian, you win the grand prize for the competition. Chris (Motorola response), you are the runner-up. I will explain the outcomes in a future post, but in the meantime, please see your inboxes for the email addresses you used to comment.

    Congratulations and thanks to all for contributing :)

    Tim

  20. Tim,

    Great insights and solutions.

    We need this kind of THINKING modeled out in our education system, notice a problem and possibility, and envision a solution.

    That’s why so many people have a 80 hour work week, they don’t know how to observe and think.

    Blessings mate,

    Twenty Twenty

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  22. I completely agree that this is a great idea. People can be quite lazy and if we want to make a difference, the methods need to be as simple and easy as possible like chucking it in the mail. I know of a company in the UK which is doing the exact same thing, just to make it easier for people to recycle. It’s shocking to think that 125 million cell phones are thrown away each year, it’d definitely make a striking picture.