How U.S. Telecom Giants Are Becoming More Sustainable

Sprint Nextel is the top wireless provider for sustainability, according to a new study by Verdantix. Titled Green Quadrant Sustainable Telecoms (US) 2012, the study analyzed the 12 largest telecom service providers in the U.S. One of the reasons Sprint has the number one spot is because it is the first, and so far the only, U.S. telecom company to publicly announce an absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction goal. Sprint is halfway to its target of a 20 percent absolute emissions reduction by 2017. The telecom giant expects to increase renewable energy use to meet at least 25 percent of the GHG reduction target.

Sprint was named number four on the EPA’s Top 20 Technology & Telecom list of green power users last month, and the only wireless provider on the list. Sprint received another honor last month: the Sprint Buyback was named the best buyback program in the wireless industry by Compass Intelligence. For the third year in a row, Sprint ranked number one among U.S. telecom companies and number three overall on Newsweek’s rankings of the greenest companies in the U.S. It ranked number six overall in 2010 and number 15 in 2009

“The Verdantix recognition is a tremendous honor, especially since the study examines the larger role our industry can play in reducing businesses’ impact through travel reduction and smart machine-to-machine (M2M) solutions, ” said Bob Azzi, Sprint’s senior vice president of Network.

AT&T releases eco-ratings

Sprint is not the only telecom with sustainability initiatives. AT&T recently released eco-ratings so customers can now see a label with information about a device’s eco-ratings. The eco-rating system assesses 15 different criteria from five categories, which include using environmentally preferable materials, minimizing hazardous substances, energy efficiency, responsible end-of-life treatment and environmentally responsible manufacturing

In the spring, AT&T launched several initiatives, including a website portal in the spring for consumers called EcoSpace which provides information about the company’s sustainability efforts. EcoSpace also provides a shop for all of its “eco products,” eco-rating information, recycling information and paperless billing signup. In May, the company launched a buyback program that pays consumers for their old devices or allows them to donate the value of the device to Cell Phones for Soldiers, a non-profit organization that provides overseas military members with cell phones.

Verizon’s end-of-life programs

Verizon has several initiatives to recycle old devices, including the Wireless Trade-In Program that allows customers to trade in their old cell phones or tablet computers for a gift card. The company also has the Hopeline which recycles old phones and accessories from any service provider. The phones are either refurbished or recycled “in an environmentally sound way under a zero landfill policy,” as Verizon’s website states. For every 5,000 cell phones that are recycled, according to Verizon, 11,000 kilowatt hours of energy are saved, enough to power one U.S. household for a year.

In addition to recycling programs, Verizon has over 20 solar powered cell sites in the western U.S. that provide cell phone service in remote areas. Some of its stores, 100 in total, earned the EPA’s Energy Star qualification, and its New Jersey headquarters earned LEED certification.

Photo: Flickr user, bfishadow

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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