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Chances are that you’re reading this article on your smartphone. It’s amazing to think how these devices connect us to each other and the entire world. But the way your smartphone is made also connects you to the world. Your smartphone has a carbon footprint associated with its manufacturing, packaging, transport and disposal.

In addition, there are at least 30 different minerals in every smartphone. What’s more, those minerals often come from conflict zones, where many mines are controlled by armed groups that use the profits to bankroll battles.

Fairphone, a Dutch social enterprise that has produced the world’s first smartphone that puts environmental and social issues first, brought that message to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bonn yesterday.

At a special event organized by the UN Climate Change secretariat’s Momentum for Change initiative, Laura Gerritsen, Fairphone’s Project/Operations Manager, explained how her organization created a smartphone with sustainability in mind.

Fairphone addresses the full lifespan of its phones, including use, reuse and safe recycling. Fairphone is designed for longevity by being durable and containing parts that can easily be replaced by the user if something breaks. Fairphone sells spare parts and offers repair tutorials to help make the phone useful for as long as possible, plus adding features like dual SIM to make the phones more attractive on the secondhand marketplace. Together, all of this helps reduce the overall toll on the environment.

In addition to Fairphone, yesterday’s event brought together two other winners of the Momentum for Change Awards. Representatives from Redavia and Earth Roofs in the Sahel spoke at the event, showing that climate action is creating green jobs, improving lives and fostering partnerships that lead to creative ideas that are scalable, innovative and replicable.

Solar panels often require a significant up-front investment, so what if you could rent them instead? Redavia has pioneered this game-changing idea – and now rents cost-effective, convenient and clean solar farms, which are installed in remote locations.

Elisabeth Schallhart, Sales and Marketing Manager with Redavia, said the company has grown “on every level” since winning a Momentum for Change Award in 2013.

“In 2013 we had one project in Tanzania,” she said. “Now we have six.”

Technologies don’t need to be new to address climate change. In sub-Saharan Africa, millions of people lack decent and affordable housing. Deforestation has led to a scarcity of timber for the construction of roofs, meaning families must buy expensive imported timber and sheet metal.

The Earth Roofs in the Sahel Program recognized this problem, and reintroduced an age-old technique known as Nubian Vault. This traditional, low-carbon building technique uses only renewable and locally available materials. The project supports the training of local builders, creating a sustainable and autonomous Nubian Vault market.

Cécilia Rinaudo, Development Director for Earth Roofs in the Sahel, said since winning a Momentum for Change Award in 2014, the Nubian Vault building technique has been included in the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of Burkina Faso and Senegal.

“This is really a big achievement for us,” she said. “More and more, we are working with big political actors. Thanks to Momentum for Change, that is much easier now.”

The process to select the 2016 Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities is now underway. Winning activities will be recognized and celebrated during a series of special events in November at the UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakech, Morocco. 

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