This One Man Is Putting Old Cellphones To Use In Ways You Never Thought Possible

If you’re like most cellphone users, you’re never quite sure what to do with your old phone after an upgrade. Should you try to sell it, or offer it to a friend?

For most of us, our unwanted phones just end up sitting in a drawer collecting dust — but Rainforest Connection has a better use for those old cellphones: helping to save tropical forests from illegal logging operations.

Cell phones help combat deforestation
Photo Credit: Rainforest Connection via

The Problem

Illegal logging is a serious problem in rainforests around the world. The 2015 National Geographic Emerging Explorer, Topher White, states that deforestation creates more carbon emissions than all transportation worldwide, and that illegal logging makes up 50 to 90 percent of all rainforest logging. Stopping illegal rainforest logging reduces climate change while preventing the extinction of plants and animals.

Topher White installing his anti-tree poaching device
Photo Credit: Scott Davis Images via Facebook

The Solution

That’s why White founded Rainforest Connection, an organization that takes used cellphones, wipes them clean, and installs special software to monitor sounds in the rainforest. The phones are fitted to an array of solar panels for power, and installed at the tops of trees in rainforests that are particularly vulnerable to illegal logging.

The special application installed on the phones uses the built-in microphone to listen for chainsaws. When noises associated with logging are detected, the phone sends a signal to nearby monitors. Law enforcement officials can use the phone’s GPS data to approximately locate the loggers, then follow the sounds of the saws to quickly put the illegal operation to an end.

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Used cell phone being repurposed
Photo Credit: Scott Davis Images via Facebook

How You Can Help

Rainforest Connection accepts used cellphones in good condition through the mail at its headquarters in San Francisco. It recommends removing personal information and any non-essential data before sending in your phone. Each retrofitted phone is capable of monitoring about a square mile of forest area to keep it free from illegal logging.

While Rainforest Connection’s innovative use of software and old phones is helping increase support for the protection of rainforests around the world, there is still more to be done. To find out about more ways that you can protect rainforest habitats, visit The Rainforest Site.

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