Your old cellphone can save the rainforest

Deforestation is the second highest contributor to climate change. According to Interpol, as much as 90 percent of the rainforest logging is illegal. We have all probably heard at least once in our lifetime how important it is to save the rainforest, yet today only about half of the rainforest remains. Rainforest conservation has been impeded because it is very hard to hear chainsaws amidst all of the sounds emitted by the rainforest. Rangers can only find out whether trees have been cut down after they have been logged through satellite imagery. Topher White and his team at Rainforest Connection came up with a cheap and fast solution: a real-time alert system made out of old cellphones.

Every year 150 million cell phones are discarded in the United States alone; cellphones that are full of sensors capable of detecting the sounds of the forest. Moreover, surprisingly enough, there is enough cellphone service to send the alerts— they only need about less than a bar. Taking advantage of these conditions, White hid cellphones in tree’s canopies in Indonesia, which then sent an email alert to ranger’s cellphones as soon as they detected the sound of a chainsaw. The rangers arrived at the crime scene in real time and stopped the loggers before more harm was done. According to White, it was such a surprise for the loggers— they had never, ever been interrupted before– that they’ve heard from their partners that they have not been back since. White calculates that each device can protect 300 hectares of endangered forest, preventing logging that would release 15,000 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. “This old cell phone has more effect than going out and buying a hybrid car for tens of thousands of dollars,” he said. The system was a success in Indonesia, and now they are testing it in a 430-mile reserve in Cameroon. People from around the world have also found a way to upcycle their cellphones in a way that adds utilitarian value to their old plastic device and prevents its toxic materials from seeping into the earth.

Screen-Shot-2015-07-02-at-12.11.08-PM Your old cellphone can save the rainforest News

Source: Rainforest Connection/Kickstarter

If you want to learn more, check out Topher White’s TED Talk here:



Revell, T. (2014, July 7). A Network of Recycled Phones is Listening for Illegal Logging in the Rainforest. Motherboard Vice. Retrieved from

White, T. Transcript from TED Talk. Daily Good. Retrieved from: