Apr 292008
Authors: Heidi Reitmeier

It’s hard to imagine a worn down cell phone being of use to anyone, but it’s happening.

Through a partnership with Collective Good and Kiva, a team of CSU business students created a program that turns recycled cell phones into loans to help entrepreneurs better their standard of living in developing countries.

Phones4Loans is a program developed by students in CSU’s sustainable and social entrepreneurship class. It was created with two key issues in mind: the environment and poverty.

“When the cell phones are recycled, either by reselling working phones to new customers or by recovering useable materials, the environment is protected,” said Rachel Hanson, the events coordinator for the program.

Business sponsorship through Road34 and Walrus Ice Cream has aided in the program. Today, Walrus Ice Cream will provide free ice cream to anyone who donates a cell phone to recycle.

The students also partnered with Collective Good, an organization that resells or recycles unwanted cell phones, and Kiva, an organization that provides micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing countries to help achieve their goal.

The recycled cell phones are first bought by Collective Good.

The micro-loan process is a sustainable operation because nearly 100 percent of the loans are repaid. The money acquired from repaid loans create new loans, which will make Phones4Loans able to help developing countries beyond this semester, said Melanie Sloan, a spokesperson for Phones4Loans.

“These students wanted real impact that they could see and measure,” said Paul Hudnut, the professor of the business class, in a press release earlier this month. “The class project has three components: making money from cleaning up a problem, spending it on an effective program and building something that would last beyond the semester.”

“Many people have the skills and knowledge necessary to earn a living, but do not have the capital to start their venture,” Hanson said. “By providing this capital without collateral in the form of low interest loans, micro-lending institutions create a sustainable opportunity for the poor to improve their lives.”

The cell phones being recycled contain more than 200 substances, including lead and mercury. If properly disposed of, these harmful chemicals can be kept out of landfills and watersheds, Sloan said.

Today is the last day to donate used cell phones. Drop boxes can be found on campus, including the Morgan Library, the Dean’s Offices of Business, Natural Resources Building, Veterinary Sciences Building and the Zoology Building.

“While the project truly only took shape this semester as part of our class,” Sloan said, “we have come a long way toward reaching our minimum goal of collecting 300 cell phones, with over 100 cell phones collected as of last week.”

The students hope their project will help influence other students to lend a hand and make an impact on the world, even if it is small.

“I feel the project offers a win-win-win situation,” Hanson said. “By protecting the environment, we improve the quality of life both locally and internationally. The issues confronting us today can seem overwhelming, but through this project, we have learned that even small actions can have a large effect.”

Staff Writer Heidi Reitmeier can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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