The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish
June 12, 2009

What do you think about cell phones? Should I switch to Credo?

Cell phones. I have one. Through AT&T. It’s a Sony Ericsson Z525a that I bought 3 years ago, choosing this model because compared to the others offered at the time, it lasted the longest before needing to be recharged. (Talk time up to 9 hours and standby time up to 400.) It’s not special. It does have a crappy camera, but that’s about the only “extra.” No fancy keyboard. Not much in the way of web browsing. It’s fine. And it still works just fine.

Okay, now I know cell phones give off radiation and we are advised to keep them away from our heads. (I still don’t have a headset for mine. Just like I rarely use sunscreen. Tempting fate?) And I know there are all kinds of environmental issues around manufacture and disposal of cell phones, the very least of which is that they are made from plastic. Most of them are also full of toxic heavy metals.

I hadn’t even considered trading in my perfectly good phone (and am constantly urging others to really think before upgrading to the latest and greatest gadgets) until this morning, when I received an email from Green America (formerly Coop America) titled “5 Environmental Questions About Your Phone Company,” promoting Credo Mobile. Here’s what the email says:

If you’re concerned about the environment, you ask questions about the things you buy. Here are five questions to ask about your phone company:

1. How much has your phone company donated to Greenpeace?
2. Does it donate to plant trees for each ton of paper used?
3. Does it work to stop new coal-fired power plants?
4. Does it oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge?
5. Does it support legislation to drastically cut CO2 emissions?

Credo’s answers to all these questions is a resounding, “Yes.” And if that weren’t enough, check out their Green Statement.

For those who don’t know, Credo used to be called Working Assets. It’s a socially responsible company that gives large amounts of money to progressive causes. In fact, Credo/Working Assets has been my long distance carrier for “16 long years,” according to the customer service rep I spoke to this morning, and I’ve always felt good about this ethical choice. But back when I bought my first cell phone, Credo wasn’t in the cellular business, so I went with AT&T (then Cingular.)

Seems like a no-brainer to switch to Credo for my cell plan, right? But there’s a catch. I’d have to trade in my old, perfectly good phone, for a new one. Why? Because Credo is on the Sprint network, which uses different technology from AT&T. I asked. I was all set to write a post about how I opted to forego the brand new free phone this morning. Not possible.

Question #1 — What do you think is the greener choice? Obviously, not having a cell phone in the first place. But I’m not willing to do that. So should I turn in my 3-year old phone (which will be refurbished & donated — Credo participates in Collective Good’s cell phone re-use/recycling program and offers several refurbished cell phones to customers to minimize cell phone waste) or should I stick with AT&T until this phone dies, even though it is a multinational corporation that may not share my values?

What would you do?

Question #2 — If you do think I should go ahead and switch to Credo, should I choose one of the very basic refurbished cell phones or should I upgrade to a smart phone like a Blackberry or Motorola Moto Q in order to be able to access the Internet and blog while away from home without having to lug around a laptop? Have any of you used one of these gadgets? Are they a good idea? And since I would have to replace my phone anyway, wouldn’t this be a good time to upgrade as well?

I’d love to find a used phone via Craigslist. Unfortunately finding a Credo-compatible phone via Craigslist will be difficult. Right now, there are none listed. And the customer service rep at Credo tells me that simply finding a Sprint-compatible phone will not work. Here is a list of the phone choices available to me if I switch. Should I pick one of these?

Or do nothing and continue to support AT&T. Would that be so bad?

39 Responses to “What do you think about cell phones? Should I switch to Credo?”

  1. JokerChandler says:

    Credo  let 40 people loose their jobs. The reason, it was troublesome for them to go from San Francisco to the other location. Could you imagine the non profits they support having that outlook. Credo is about money do not let them fool you.

  2. chrisu says:

    do it. you definitely should switch. 

    especially now that they have iPhones, and mobile hotspot plans.

    Totally worth it, especially considering the horrible influence all of the other companies have on our politics

  3. Jenny says:

    I have Credo, and we have had them for I think about 3 years now. I absolutely love them. From paying my bill online to calling customer service, they’re polite, helpful, and the website is genuinely intuitive to use! The cool new thing for those of you worried about coverage is that they are now offering free roaming, or at least we have it. Where we live in Indiana now, it’s all flat, so coverage isn’t an issue, except inside a couple of stores, but that’s not their fault. Back in New Hampshire, coverage has always been spotty due to the mountains. Now with the free roaming, it doesn’t matter what tower you get, so long as you get one! The only downside is that you have to recharge the phone more often because it drains the battery much faster since it keeps searching for its home network. I’ve never been this happy with a phone company before! :-)

  4. Anni says:

    I am also considering a switch to Credo.I received an offer today.I used to be a Working Assets customer some years back.I loved them!I have Verizon now and I hate supporting a mega corporate giant!I will continue to research this but so far I like a lot of what I’ve seen.Which one of their ‘free’ phones do some of you recommend?
    Damn!Well I just checked,seems they don’t cover our area.I will keep checking,also we are moving most likely to the NY area.I’m sure they have service there!:)

  5. Elizabeth Kansas says:

    I love Credo. They have great beliefs and great customer service. Sometimes there are issues with phones, but that doesn’t make it necessarily the companies fault, that is why there are manufacturer’s warrenties.

    So you don’t believe in Abortion, but you believe in all the other stuff! You wouldn’t want to give money to that.

    Plus they’ve donated so much. Maybe it is a little more pricey SOMETIMES depends on what you want but they are quite competetive….I was with Verizon and AT&T…I would pay to talk to someone at Credo over ever having to call AT&T again…..I don’t think they even know what polite means.

    I agent I got at Credo went out of her way to make sure I understood what I was getting. She was so sweet.

    I’d never want to support politicians and all the shit ATT and Verizon do. They give money to the bad guys time and time again…’s ridiculous and sad.

  6. Yazad Dhunjisha says:

    if u want a really environmentally friendly cell phone, get sony ericsson naite. it uses recycled plastics and has an e-manual in the phone to save power. it also has decent features and uses a low power consuming charger.i has good battery life. visit sony ericsson website to learn more…

  7. Britt Bravo says:

    Hi Beth,

    I asked a similar question a couple years ago.

    You can check out what people said then too:

  8. ariella says:

    how can Credo be donating money to Greenpeace if they don't take any corporate donations?

  9. cpcable says:

    Just to complicate matters:

    The use of conflict materials is what keeps me from replacing my cell phone…or from getting many new electronic devices for that matter.

  10. Fake Plastic Fish says:

    @Pheas — thanks for stating what I was thinking. :-)

  11. Pheas says:

    She did explain what Credo is in the post, you know:

    For those who don't know, Credo used to be called Working Assets. It's a socially responsible company that gives large amounts of money to progressive causes. In fact, Credo/Working Assets has been my long distance carrier for "16 long years," according to the customer service rep I spoke to this morning, and I've always felt good about this ethical choice. But back when I bought my first cell phone, Credo wasn't in the cellular business, so I went with AT&T (then Cingular.)

  12. Di DeSan says:

    I checked this Company's Website and is pretty impressive. Pretty cool Company.

  13. Di DeSan says:

    ha ha ha I don't know either what Credo is. But if it uses Sprint's network…well.. we used that company before and we didn't have any signal at home or work.

  14. Laura says:

    I work for a company that works with all major carriers for cell phones. The company ports cell phone applications to devices for other developers. From working in this field, I've had to deal with carriers, their devices, the recycling aspects as well as the purchasing of used devices.

    Here's what I have to say. If you like your device and it works for you, continue using it. If you plan on working from home, or the Bart or any number of places an upgrade to a Smart phone is always desirable. You can always go on eBay to purchase used refurbished phones for your company (it's really easy with ATT since you just switch out the SIM card, it's much more complicated with BREW carriers aka Verizon, Alltel, US Cellular, etc).

    Now, when it comes to service, do you like your ATT service? If no, why? Can you do anything about dealing with that carrier to make it a better service (carriers especially ATT and Verizon, from my personal experience with them, like to help and see what they can do to make their services better for their customers). If you want to switch, I recommend looking into if they are another carrier that would have their own cell phone towers or if they purchase bandwidth from the main carriers and what your contract will be limited to.

    Switching around carriers is definitely a complex issue as well as choosing a cell phone. It really depends on what your desires are and which device works best for you. As stated previously, it's really easy to get a refurbished phone on eBay (that's where my company gets theirs), with that though, make sure to check your seller, etc.

    So if it comes down to the carbon footprint, if the other carrier has their own cell phone towers, we're adding more towers to an already stressed market space. If they're purchasing bandwidth from another carrier, say ATT, you will be limited to how much you are given and generally to city areas. However, does the company's means put forward the lifestyle choices that you are making? If it's a no, wouldn't it be better to work with the company to implement those changes? Or is it better to implement those changes by having your dollars do the talking and go to the competition?

    Truly, only you can make those decisions and choices. If you have further questions on cell phones and want more detailed information on carriers, please let me know, I deal with them nearly every day.

  15. Michael says:

    Just wanted to apologize if I came across as too eager… just want to ensure folks have the info they need to make a decision. As such, folks can feel free to contact me at and we can take those discussions offline.

    Again, my apologies.


  16. Jennae @ Green Your Decor says:

    I've been considering the same thing after I got that email from Green America. I'm with AT&T too, but I just got my iPhone in March, and I'm not willing to give it up. If I could get with as much functionality as the iPhone, maybe I'd switch to Credo and give mine away as a gift. But even then, I think I'd be better off keeping the phone I already have instead of getting a brand new phone. But the fact that Credo is making so many of us think about it is proof they're doing something right.

  17. The Green Cat says:

    Use your current phone until it needs to be replaced and then switch. In the meantime, set aside additional funds to donate to some of the causes Credo supports. Will the Credo service cost you more than your current service? If so, you can set aside the difference to donate. If not, decide how much it's worth to you.

    If you feel you MUST switch now, donate your old (usable) phone to someone who will get the most use out of it. Many areas have 911-only programs for at-risk people. Or you could give it away on Freecycle or Craigslist–I don't know about out there in CA, but it seems folks in NY lose or break their phones all the time and are always looking for replacements!

  18. ruchi says:

    Can I ask Michael if he's still reading where are these trees planted? I am always extremely hesitant to support companies that plant trees in the South … I know it sounds good, but it can be done in really harmful ways to people's livelihoods and without doing more research on Credo's practices I'd be concerned. You wouldn't believe some of the stuff I've read about women being forced to walk miles to get firewood to their physical and mental detriment because the forests around them were labeled as "protected."

    I'd also like to know what Credo is doing to push phone makers to make more 1) durable phones, 2) to recycle and reuse parts more, and 3) if there are any plans to come up with their own phones made from recycled and reused parts that are ethically manufactured under fair labor practices? Or partner with a company to do these things? Because I would love to support a phone company that supports both livelihoods and the environment with both their phones and their service. It sounds like Credo is currently just using the Sprint phones, but perhaps they are considering their own line in the future?

  19. Annie says:

    My husband and I debated over switching from Verizon for ages, and finally did switch to Credo. However, there was no service at my huband's work (in Berkeley), which meant that the phone was pretty much useless for us. When we called Credo they just said, oh well, you should switch back. We did, and we HATE Verizon, and customer service has been awful, but unfortunately Credo didn't work out. Definitely try to find someone else who has the service to let you use their phone in your usual locations, if at all possible.

  20. Village Green says:

    I've been on Credo for over two years. I haven't signed on for a new contract yet as I'm checking out those on-demand companies. I think I'm paying way too much for what I get. I've been debating giving up the land line, but it will be a hassle as all personal credit cards, bank accounts and etceteras will need to be contacted to change the phone number.

    Beth, as for your concern about switching and having to get a new phone, as long as you are donating the old one to a good cause, then you shouldn't have to sweat it ethically. As for which phone, that is ultimately a personal decision to be based on your particular needs.

  21. Fake Plastic Fish says:

    Hi Jen. I'll have to look into why my page doesn't display properly on a mobile device. There is code in the template for mobiles, but since I don't have the kind of phone that displays web sites, I was never able to test it and see if it worked. Oh, also, the transcript for the Oprah video is now up on my site here:

    Everyone else, thanks for your input. Michael, thanks for your explanations. I have to admit though that I did suddenly feel concerned my blog had become a Credo commercial with all your enthusiastic comments. I will certainly call you on Monday to ask about the refurbished Moto Q. Hold one for me. I think that might be my best option. (I don't like to buy new plastic, as you know.)

    I know I won't be able to hook up my work email because we use an older version of Exchange. But my Yahoo email should work just fine.

  22. Anonymous says:

    I'm deaf, so the only phones I can use are Blackberry-type phones with QWERTY keyboards. I LOVE my phone, and use it for extensive web browsing as well as e-mail and text messages. However, I'd caution you against blogging with a Blackberry-type phone, because tendinitis is a very real risk when you use your thumbs for that much typing. I try to limit my typing to short messages that are time-sensitive.

    I like to read blogs and other web sites on my phone because the phone uses much, much less electricity than my computer. Unfortunately, a few of my favorite web sites, including Fake Plastic Fish, don't display correctly on my phone's screen. All I see of your blog postings are the first one or two letters of each line. This may not be a problem with some of the newer phones. Anyway, if reducing electrical consumption is a goal for you, choosing a phone that can access the web sites you like to visit may compensate for the plastic-and-toxic-heavy-metal aspect of a new phone.

    Like you, I've been thinking about switching phone companies. I'd like to choose one that supports causes I believe in, such as the environment and gay rights. However, I'm 100% opposed to abortion, and could never, ever give money to a company that provides funding to NARAL. If you know of a green phone company that takes no stand on abortion, I'd appreciate a recommendation.


  23. OldMeriwether says:

    So, been with Credo for about a year. Had a phone diverted from a landfill before that. Credo's been pretty good. A bit too political, and don't always agree with how divisively partisan some e-mails can be. Just like anything else, there are tradeoffs. The solar powered phone they offer has not worked well, so have had to charge with electricity. All that said, go with Credo. Best option.

    -Graham Meriwether

  24. Pheas says:

    I would talk to Sprint users in your area before making the switch. I previously had Sprint and suffered frequent dropped calls or total service outage. I never got satisfactory reimbursement for my inconvenience, nor would they let me out of my contract early. At the time, Sprint was rated last by Consumer Reports, so, much as I'd love to support Credo, I won't go near Sprint. I certainly hope service has improved in the last few years, but do check around first if you're otherwise inclined to make the switch.

  25. Julie says:

    As a former At&T Customer Service rep I feel obliged to inform you that you can call in and get the unlock code for your phone. The unlock code allows it to be used on any network. They usually only give it out if you're going overseas and still want to use your phone (hint) and it can take two weeks to get. If they don't fork it over, you can call the manufacturer and get it from them. That way you can have your cake and eat it too!


  26. Ashlyn says:

    Most of the above points sound great, but I'm very eeeehh about Greenpeace. They seem to put a lot of time, effort and money into some bafflingly crazy stuff that doesn't get the cause anywhere in the long run.

    All in all though, I think it sounds like the greenest option in this case is to donate the old phone and get a refurbished one from Credo.

    However, Michael, there is such a thing as trying too hard. I'm sure the decision is hard enough without her feeling like there's a salesperson standing over her in her own blog, you know? People get enough of that in-store!

  27. Michael says:

    WOW! This is really shocking to hear… give me call between 9-5pm PST on Monday (415) 369-2023 and we can sort you out with a solution and possibly replace your phone if needed.

  28. Academic2 says:

    I have Credo and have for the last 8 months. I switched from a Cricket plan.

    I have the Motorola Q specifically because I wanted to hook up to my email. I was never–despite more than a cumulative 10+ hours on the phone with them–able to do so. NEVER NEVER NEVER. CSRs read from a script, tried to set me up with a forwarding account, and asked about 10 times if I was tryign to forward a hotmail account.

    My phone then, after about 6 months–started going ka-flooy. After some negotiation, they sent me a new (used?) phone.

    This phone is dropping calls left and right. It is the most annoying thing I have ever encountered. I had lots of trouble getting the bluetooth feature on this to work as well. There is apparently some conflict between Vista and this phone (which annoys me because I got the Q specifically for the smart phone capabilities.)

    I love their progressive politics (particularly since my wife works for one of the groups they support), but the phone service (at least for me) has been less than stellar. I think about getting an iPhone all the time, but don't really want to go to ATT.

    Oh, and their phone bills are consistently 6+ pages long. (But they are on recycled paper without a plastic window envelope.)

  29. Michael says:

    Just as an FYI CREDO has a selection FREE phones and would "buyout" your current contract– crediting your account with up to $200 for each line, up to 3 lines.

  30. Kathy G says:

    I wasn't aware of Credo Mobile. Thanks for the information.

    I don't know if it would be a viable choice for me at this point. Our account (through AT&T) has four lines: me, DH, and two of our children. Each of us buying even an inexpensive Credo phone would add up to a big chunk of change!

  31. Pure Mothers says:

    I just got a flyer in the mail from Credo and was thinking about switching too. I already have Sprint as my carrier and get good service, but like Credo's values. I say, donate your current phone to a program that you know will get your phone to someone in need and get the upgraded phone with Credo. You should be able to check emails and blog when away from home. You have important information to share and need access to spreading it! :-)

  32. Michael says:

    CREDO uses the Sprint network, so depending on where you live coverage should be pretty solid.

  33. Tameson says:

    Where I live the ONLY cell phone question is "can you get service at your house?" There are only 2 options, the one that gets service or landline only.

  34. Erin says:

    My vote would be make the switch, opt for a refurbed phone, and then donate your old one rather than recycling it. A phone with no service plan can still call 911, so there are several organizations who take these phones and give them to people in domestic abuse situations. In my area there is a dropbox for this in Officemax. Seems to me a better option than shipping it off to god knows where for downcycling.

  35. Michael says:

    Definitely understand the dilemma and I must admit I am biased as I am a CREDO employee– which would be to make the switch.

    It sounds like our plans and service is not the issue, but phones.

    As far as switching to a new phone, we do have a great recycling program which you already mentioned (checkout: .

    We also have a selection of refurbished flip phones, but if you wanted to switch to a smartphone, we do have a small qty of refurbished Motorola Q9C (all compatible with outlook or gmail contacts to migrate from Palm).

    If you are interested, let me know and we can work something out and as always feel free to contact me directly with any and all questions.


    Michael Weston

  36. Michael says:

    Definitely understand the dilemma and I must admit I am biased as I am a CREDO employee– which would be to make the switch.

    It sounds like our plans and service is not the issue, but phones.

    As far as switching to a new phone, we do have a great recycling program which you already mentioned (checkout: .

    We also have a selection of refurbished flip phones, but if you wanted to switch to a smartphone, we do have a small qty of refurbished Motorola Q9C (all compatible with outlook or gmail contacts to migrate from Palm).

    If you are interested, let me know and we can work something out and as always feel free to contact me directly with any and all questions.


    Michael Weston

  37. Robj98168 says:

    Excuse my ignorance- What is credo?

  38. nollij says:

    I've been in the same moral quandry for quite some time. I was dissapointed when I found out that my working assets/credo credit card was managed by MBNA (now Bank of America), neither of which hold the same values as me. Calculating the footprint of both decisions could cost you much time and agony, but lord knows I've done that kind of weighing myself. I've decided that when my Treo 700p final craps out, I'll switch to Credo and pray that they have a Palm compatible smart phone at that point. I would like to do away with it all together, but I'm not willing to give up the cell phone… yet. I'm still trying to figure out what it's gonna take for me to say "enough is enough".

  39. Kate says:

    Silly cell phone companies and their silly rules. I am an AT&T customer too…and I agree…I don't think I am going to give up my perfectly good phone. But I am glad this Credo program exists!