Rainforest Connection uses recycled smartphones to stop illegal logging


According to the World Wildlife Fund, about 17% of greenhouse gas emissions come from deforestation. Furthermore, a study by Interpol revealed that between 50% to 90% of logging is illegal. Rainforest Connection has created a unique approach to combating this problem. Recycled smartphones, powered by solar panels and resting high in trees, listen for the sounds of logging and then report the location to rangers patrolling the forests.

Topher White, co-founder of Rainforest Connection, explained their operations to TechRepublic recently:

“We wanted to avoid building new things and focus on things that already work [and] focus on things that can scale,” White said.

The first tests have only used Android phones (some that are up to five years old) but White said they plan to use others in the near future. Through the Rainforest Connection website, people can find out how to send in their old smartphones. The team will retrofit it and use it for the cause.

Re-using smartphones was an easy decision since so many are available to be repurposed:

More than 150 million [smartphones] are thrown away in the US each year, destined to pile up in landfills around the world, leaking toxins and polluting the environment. Most of these rainforests, no matter how remote they may be, have phone service — or at least, enough to send data into the cloud and to the village nearby. And mobile technology as a whole is very robust and durable, so it offers a reliable solution for this problem.

Rainforest Connection’s initial project was crowdfunded through a Kickstarter campaign. Along with rethinking how we repurpose technology, the group is reshaping how individuals can impact global environmental issues.

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