The first image I took with the Samsung Galaxy Z Flip4 5G that was loaned to me was a picture of my office desk. I’m, of course, not posting it here because there’s company documents and still-embargoed press releases and, perhaps more embarrassingly, a half-full cup noodle, a chocolate wrapper, two empty Yakults and a no-longer-steaming cup of coffee.
Yes, the contents of the photograph are merely flagrant clues to the kind of consumer I am, and the wonky paths I take during my lunch breaks. But the image was impressively rich. The camera captured colours pretty well, and had a low enough focal ratio that allowed for shallow depth of field – if you went really close to your subject. In terms of camera performance, it’s not a substantial improvement from the Flip 3, but it’s undeniably a more polished product overall.
The phone is part of a new slate of products launched by Samsung – namely the Galaxy Z Fold4 and Flip 4, the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Buds2 Pro. They’ll be reaching retailers on 2nd September, but you can already pre-order them.
Most of the reviews have been largely positive, and if this was yet another review article, I’d probably lend my voice to the many others that have lauded this new generation of Samsung Galaxy products. The products rank pretty highly among 5G electronics on technical and ergonomic measures. The new, highly intuitive Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 user interface alone makes the Flip4 and Fold4 worth considering for immediate purchase, even if you already own a Flip3 or Fold3.
The thing is, we’ve all played this game of musical chairs before. We get that newfangled electronic product, and we’ve barely figured out all its hidden wonders when the new, more updated, sleeker version of the product comes along. We then have to decide: do we unseat the old and get the new, or do we stick with the familiar?
Ultimately, we’re consumers, you and I. That’s the truth. We are part of an eco-system of manufacturers and customers, buying things we need to upkeep a socioeconomically productive life in the 21st century, and then buying better and better versions of those things until something comes along to interrupt how we work and live and engage with technology. But the ugly truth behind this consumerist cycle is that these things leave a scar on the Earth. From the extraction of raw materials, to the energy needed in manufacturing, down to the packaging of these goods require us to, in varying degrees, pollute.
In a recent article by sustainability advocacy journal Earth.org, it was revealed that the information and communication technology industry contributed to 2% of greenhouse emissions globally. It is forecasted that this number will shoot up to 15% by 2040. It’s not just manufacturers; consumers are just as guilty. In 2021, we, as a species, dumped nearly 57.4 million tonnes of electronic waste. When we combine these two facts, the outlook is very bleak.
Is the solution then to stop using these goods – smartphones, smart watches and the like? Of course not. Not only are they paragons of human ingenuity, they are tools with which we create value in our personal and professional lives. The livelihoods of millions and their dependents center around these goods.
But we all know something can be done. And on Samsung’s part, something is being done.
Almost in tandem with the technical advancements of each new generation of products, Samsung has also been stepping up its sustainability efforts.
For the better part of the 21st century, the South Korean tech giant has shifted its energy use towards renewables, installing solar and geothermal facilities in their worksites and implementing greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) projects. This has allowed Samsung to meet some pretty lofty goals in sustainability. For example, 100% of energy used in Samsung worksites in the United States, Europe and China are from renewable energy sources. In 2020, it recycled 95% of its manufacturing waste and reduced GHG emissions by 7.091 million tonnes. Packaging is also made completely out of recycled paper.
The 2020 numbers represent an upward trend in Samsung’s sustainability efforts, a trend that continues two years on. This new generation of Samsung Galaxy products is a beneficiary of Samsung’s longstanding investment into research and development towards sustainability practices.
Where most tech companies are looking inward at reducing their own emissions and waste, Samsung is looking at solving existing problems – such as the issue of plastic pollution in the oceans. Samsung’s R&D team has developed a method of repurposing fishing nets into high-performance material for their Galaxy products, taking out a significant portion of the 640,000 tonnes of fishing nets that are abandoned in the ocean every year. As I write this, Samsung is looking at upcycling other forms of marine waste so they can bring new value to them and extract them from the ocean.
Along with these, Samsung also uses post-consumer materials (PCM) and bio-based resin in 90% of its Galaxy devices.
It’s not perfect, but our efforts in combating climate change as a species has indeed been less than perfect. For Samsung at least, investment is being poured into research and development, and they’re improving with every year and every new generation of Samsung Galaxy products. As a journalist and as a child of this planet, I am heartened.
We’re nowhere near reversing climate change, but we’re getting there. Now let’s make sure we get there sooner rather than later.