Jill Fehrenbacher

WIND-UP ECO BAMBOO PHONE: Charged by whirling!

by , 03/15/08

bamboo mobile phone, bamboo phone, eco phone, green phone, kinetic energy, kinetic phone, wind-up phone, wind up phone, Gert-Jan van Breugel, 2008 Greener Gadgets, Greener Gadgets Design Competition, Greener Gadgets, Core77, sustainable mobile phone, eco cellphone, handcrank cellphone, hand crank cell phone

Here’s a great idea for a cell-phone that is thoroughly green in every way: from its biodegradable bamboo materials, to its thoughtfully considered lifecycle, to its ingenious use of kinetic human power to charge the battery with renewable energy. The ‘Bamboo’ phone, by Dutch designer Gert-Jan van Breugel was one of the finalists shortlisted at this year’s 2008 Greener Gadgets Design Competition (and Jill’s personal favorite). Although this design didn’t end up winning one of the coveted top three prizes in the competition, it certainly caught our kinetic-energy-loving eye.


Despite our obvious infatuation with bamboo on this website (just look at our masthead), it wasn’t the bamboo in this phone that got us so excited. After all, anything can be made from bamboo, and that fact alone doesn’t necessarily have a huge impact on the environment and global warming. Instead it is the kinetic energy generation of this phone that we find so exciting. It’s not just any type of kinetic energy generation — but an engaging, whirling, rotational ratchet motion that conjures up fond memories of running around the house as children, tormenting everyone with New Year’s noisemaker rattles. (Does anyone remember these things?)

The biggest appeal of this phone, for me as a judge of the Greener Gadgets Competition, was the user interaction element of the kinetic energy generation. This phone just looks like so much fun to charge – who wouldn’t want to play with it every day? And that’s the thing about product design; when its interactive, fun, tactile and ENGAGING – people will form emotional attachments to their products and not want to dispose of them easily. What’s more sustainable than high quality, long-lasting, emotionally resonant products?

The Bamboo Phone’s case uses two materials: a bio-plastic which is derived from renewable raw materials such as corn, and bamboo, a grass which grows at such a fast rate, makes it vastly more sustainable than a material such as hardwood. According to van Breugel, three minutes of cranking will provide enough energy for one phone call, though the length of the call was not mentioned. A monochrome display is also included to maximize energy efficiency.

The lifecycle of the Bamboo Phone is also very carefully thought out. After removing the phone’s battery, antenna and printboard, the phone can be thrown on the compost heap to biodegrade in a matter of weeks. The judges weren’t so sure about van Breugel’s suggestion for it to contain seeds to allow a bamboo thicket to run riot, but it’s an idea that might appeal to children and the less technologically-focussed customer.

The phone was designed in response to the one billion new handsets being produced every year, with only 10% being recycled. The average mobile customer replaces their phone once every 18 months, causing 36kg of carbon dioxide to be released in the manufacture of a 90 gram phone. Now all this phone needs is a sleeker-looking casing, and we can see this getting snapped up by Nokia or Samsung in a flash. Nokia, please check this out and get in touch with Gert-Jan van Breugel!

+ Bamboo Phone
+ Greener Gadgets Competition video
+ Core77 Roundup of Greener Gadgets Competition Finalists

+ Gert-Jan va Breugel

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18 Comments

  1. Quin Malone July 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm

    Um can you text using this phona and could you use a sim card ?

  2. ROSSSEEEE333 April 13, 2009 at 2:02 am

    how do i buy this???????????
    i love eco friendly stuff
    and ive been searching FOR HOURS on where to purchase this.
    please somebody expplain this to me.
    that would be GREAT!

  3. cindy April 17, 2008 at 3:35 am

    i love bamboo so go me

  4. Inhabitat » New H... March 17, 2008 at 11:00 am

    [...] love our kinetic energy here at Inhabitat, and we are excited to announce inventive use of human kinetic power: The brandnew 2 [...]

  5. WIND-UP ECO BAMBOO PHON... March 16, 2008 at 7:44 pm

    [...] videos wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt Here’s a great idea for a cell-phone that is thoroughly green in every way: from its biodegradable bamboo materials, to its thoughtfully considered lifecycle, to its ingenious use of kinetic human power to charge the battery with renewable energy. The ‘Bamboo’ phone, by Dutch designer Gert-Jan van Breugel was one of the finalists shortlisted at this year’s 2008 Greener Gadgets Design Competition (and Jill’s personal favorite). Although this design didn’t end up winning one of the coveted top [...]

  6. Come Hear Me Talk Green... March 15, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    [...] be up early in Austin, speaking on a panel about new green gadgets and online tools, like this bamboo phone with a hand-powered whirling charger, which is a finalist in Inhabitat’s Greener Gadgets Design [...]

  7. lichud March 11, 2008 at 8:52 am

    …and incoming calls i receive only when i charge? give a string to pull, and at least u charge faster…

  8. ' + title + ' - ' + bas... March 9, 2008 at 12:29 pm

    [...] so check this out. I hit on this piece of eco-news yesterday on Inhabitat and I’ll explain it to you here in simple terms. This mobile phone, a finalist at the 2008 [...]

  9. Erik van Lennep March 9, 2008 at 6:24 am

    I think bamboo seeds are very short-lived anyway. Certainly when you can find them for purchase, they won’t germinate unless very fresh. But point taken. If the seed-impregnated phones got popular, even a few million disposed around the world could create a problem….if the seeds were viable, which most likely they would not be.

    For my recharge however, I would prefer a rechargeable battery hooked to my shoes. I know I will be walking anyway, whereas having to whirl the bloody thing around before making a call is going to get old very fast. Still, I would love a bamboo phone when they come out.

    As an aside, it would be good for aspiring eco-designers to get a better grip on the way natural systems and organisms work. Implanting seeds in a product for end-of life transformation is a nice emotional hook, but a bit of research would have pointed out the prospects of invasiveness as well as the problems of seed-life.

  10. Joe Evans March 8, 2008 at 10:56 am

    I think this is a brilliant idea. As was said, we are producing an incredible number of mobile phones, and 90% of them are finding themselves in the rubbish dumps. Like countless things we rely on in our lives, this has to be made more sustainable; and the Bamboo Phone is a hell of a start. Get them on the market ASAP! I know i’m gonna buy one.

  11. UriShare - Wind-up eco ... March 8, 2008 at 7:02 am

    [...] Wind-up eco bamboo cell phone charged by whirling! Hereâs a great idea for a cell-phone that is thoroughly green in every way: from its biodegradable bamboo materials, to its thoughtfully considered lifecycle, to its ingenious use of kinetic human power to charge the battery with renewable energy. Submitted: 4 minutes ago Category: Science Submitter: RssFeed Website: http://www.inhabitat.com Report this link: Click here to report Comments: 0 [...]

  12. Zero Energy and Green B... March 7, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    [...] (more…) [...]

  13. Zero Energy and Green B... March 7, 2008 at 6:23 pm

    [...] (more…) [...]

  14. oakling March 7, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    I like the watches that charge themselves as your arm moves; I’d like to see them incorporate a little more of that into a cell phone so it’s not all “Excuse me, I have to make a call….” twirl, twirl, twirl, twirl. I’m a little afraid I’d accidentally throw it across the room or smack someone in the head with it.

  15. Sienna March 7, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    i only worry that the bamboo seeds will end up being introduced into all kinds of habitats where they are not be native, and since the species is such a hardy grower, it has the potential to become a noxious weed and disrupt other ecosystems. Will it actually happen? Maybe not. But purple loosestrife was once planted in North America as a pretty garden plant, and now look at the trouble that we’re in with it……Just thoughts to consider

  16. Carl Becker March 7, 2008 at 10:09 am

    Three minutes of cranking = one crank call. This charging feature will expand the thumb and index finger nerve disorter syndrom for the medical profession. Great start; needs improvement; especially for cell phone users with 3,000 + minutes on their phone plan.

  17. Kat March 7, 2008 at 2:19 am

    i’m not trying to be combattive, but i’m a little surprised by the comment that making a cellphone out of bamboo doesn’t do much for the environment, when 1 billion plastic cellphones are produced a year, and 90% aren’t recycled. that’s a lot of petroleum-based product being produced and discarded. plus, if someone buys a bamboo phone, they’ll probably be more readily reminded that when it’s time to toss the shell onto the compost heap, that they need to recycle the environmentally-unfriendly innards.

  18. archimax March 6, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Sony’s Odo Design unit develops similar stuff but better looking
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qegYxCBC8GE

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