How can your old mobile phone help to save the rainforest?

AI saving forests

People change mobile phones quite frequently in today’s world. Next time when you are planning to replace your old cell phone, remember it can help in conservation of forest and wildlife. So, rather than discarding your old phone or putting it inside the wardrobe, you can use it for forest conservation. Yes, your old but functional cell phone can really help save the rainforest.

Rainforest Connection is a non-profit start-up started by Topher White. It collects old cell phones and uses them to guard and protect the rain forests across the globe from illegal logging.


Why is forest conservation important?

  • Rainforests help lower the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and reduce global warming. 
  • As per a UN report, nearly 90 percent of the logging activities that are being carried out in tropical rainforests are illegal.
  • In the last five decades, climate change and illegal logging has destroyed nearly 17 percent of the Amazon rainforest.
  • The percentage is really high and this is a huge loss to the indigenous tribal communities who are living there. They are deprived of their homes in the forest.
  • Also, illegal logging leads to destruction and extinction of several species of flora and fauna. The entire ecosystem is under threat.
  • In order to protect the local tribes and the wildlife, forest conservation is vital.

Your discarded phones have become the guardians of the rainforests globally.


How did the idea of using old cell phones for forest conversation came into existence?

  • Topher White has spent several hours just walking through different forests around the world.
  • During this journey, he found that deforestation is one of the biggest contributors of climate change that is happening globally. 
  • Illegal logging happening in rainforests is mainly responsible for this.
  • According to Topher White, it is extremely difficult for the government and local tribal communities to identify where exactly illegal logging is happening in a vast stretch of area such as the Amazon rainforest. Also, the team of forest rangers cannot be present everywhere in the large rainforests.
  • Detecting the chainsaw sound in a rainforest is not an easy task as there are a mixture of different sounds in the forest.
  • This is when White got the idea of using old smartphones to listen to the sound of chainsaw in the rainforest and spot the location of loggers.


How are the Guardian phones from Rainforest Connection helping to save the rainforest?

  • The cell phones are attached to solar panels with a powerful microphone and an extra antenna.
  • These Guardian phones are then placed in the canopy of rainforest.
  • Being attached to the trees, they listen to the sounds of vehicles or logging activity nearby up to an area of 1 km.
  • If any noise of chainsaw is detected, they send out an alert message to the nearby local authorities.
  • Data analysis helps the cell phone to differentiate between the sound of chainsaw and other sounds in the forest.
  • The forest rangers can then reach the location where the illegal logging is happening to catch the loggers.

The guardian phones are already being used by tribal communities in rainforests in Sumatra, Ecuador, Cameroon, and Brazil.


Challenge in powering the Guardians

  • The major challenge in any rainforest lies in powering the Guardians.
  • They have to be carefully positioned on the trees such that they can make use of the small amount of sunlight that passes through the tree canopy.
  • Powering the Guardians is a major challenge as they function on solar panels. In case of dense rainforests, sunlight hardly passes through the canopy.
  • If any tree branch comes in the way of the solar panels, the power reduces by almost 90 percent.

Any type of mobile phone (not just smartphone) can be donated to Rainforest Connection. After receiving the phones from Rainforest Connection, the tribal communities in each rainforest can take care of their own Guardian devices and function independently. By donating your old phones, people can make their small contribution towards forest conservation.