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