Reduce, reuse and recycle is the foundation of sustainable living. However, it's time to add another "R" to the list — repair.
Repairing electronic devices is equally as important as the other three green watchwords, the IEEE, a professional association for engineers, said in a statement. But most manufacturers must first make their devices more "repairable," the statement said.
In 2013, more than 1.7 billion mobile phones will be shipped to retailers. Each phone uses 165 pounds of raw materials in its manufacture and more than 8 gallons of water in the making of its microchip. Extending a phone's life to four years through "modest design changes," could reduce the device's environmental impact by about 40 percent, IEEE said.
Phones that can be more easily repaired are good candidates for secondary markets, both in the United States and abroad. But repairability can also be a valuable feature in the short term. Considering this factorcould do more than make you feel good about doing your part for the environment; it could also save you money. [See also: Meet the Naked Cowboy of iPhone Repairmen ]
Bring back the screwdriver
As some manufacturers make devices smaller and sleeker, the companies are also using more closed designs and materials that make the phones nearly unfixable, IEEE said.
"Simple things like utilizing openable cases, using screws rather than adhesives and providing easy access to parts that are most likely to break, like screens, greatly improve the repairability of cellphones," said Kyle Wiens, IEEE member and CEO of iFixit, an online do-it-yourself repair site for gadgets.
Still, some phones are more repairable than others. For instance, all you need is a Torx screwdriver to open the casing of the new Samsung Galaxy S4 . That won't work on the new HTC One with its sealed aluminum body, or with an iPhone. Considering repairability could do more than make you feel good about doing your part for the environment, it could save you money.