What You Could Do If You Put Down Your Phone

The world is back. Leave your phone behind

Paul Greenberg


More than three-quarters of Americans own a smartphone. Those 253 million Americans spend $1,380 and 1,460 hours on their smartphone and other mobile devices every year. That’s 91 waking days; cumulatively, that adds up to 370 billion waking American hours and $349 billion. With the pandemic receding and the real world coming back into focuss here’s what we could do instead.


In most western states, that $1,380 you spent on your phone could buy half an acre of land. In the right conditions, that half acre could easily accommodate 150 trees. A single tree sequesters 48 pounds of carbon a year. It takes about 30 minutes for an amateur forester to plant a single tree. If every American smartphone owner used that time and money to plant half an acre of trees, we would sequester about 886 million tons of carbon a year, enough to offset more than 10% of the country’s annual emissions. If you don’t want to do the planting yourself the National Forest Foundation notes that the organization could meet all of its National Forest’s planting goals with 60 cents per American smartphone user


A recent study of romantic relationships among college students in the Journal of Popular Media Psychology found that “smartphone dependency is significantly linked to relationship uncertainty,” and that “partners’ perceived smartphone dependency predicts less relationship satisfaction.” According to another recent study, more than 29 percent of Americans would rather give up sex for three months than give up their smartphone for a single week.

Now flip that around: If you gave up your device for a year, you would have time to make love about 16,000 times (assuming you’re like most Americans, and your lovemaking sessions last an average of 5.4 minutes, not counting foreplay).

If all that sex doesn’t bring you and your partner together, you could contract for about four hours of couples therapy. Not enough time? The renowned couples therapist Esther Perel has managed to fix some couples’ problems in three


Currently the American political system undercounts the votes of the majority of…



Paul Greenberg

New York Times bestselling author of Four Fish as well as The Climate Diet and Goodbye Phone, Hello World paulgreenberg.org