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protect your phone without polluting the planet

September 30, 2019

About 1.5 billion phones are sold each year. And the vast majority of those phones end up in a landfill. E-waste is a serious issue. Landfills are largely filled with electronic waste, accounting for approximately 70 percent of landfill waste.

And phone case accessories end up in landfills, too. Countless phone cases come in a plastic container with plastic inserts and accessories. Not to mention, the case itself is almost always made out of non-recyclable plastic — including screen protectors and PopSockets, those knobby-grips on the back of some phones.

It’s not wrong to have a plastic phone case. In fact, lots of cases are super sturdy and are made to last. That’s great!

The problem lies within our culture. With the newest phones coming out every few months, and with companies that have been known to purposely drain battery life of phones in order for folks to buy a new device, we’re surrounded by companies who make a profit off of our dissatisfaction. It’s toxic — to our mental health and to the planet.

I’m not about to talk about all the reasons I think Apple is bad. Honestly, I’m a big fan of their products. I love my iPhone and Macbook. I just recently got a new iPhone because I’d had mine for about three years and the battery life lasted about 1-2 hours.

I returned my phone to Verizon, where they allegedly properly recycle old phones, and I got money off a new phone. But rather than spending money on one of their cases or buying one off Amazon, I opted to repurchase a more sustainable option — a Pela Case.


Pela (pronounced pee-lah), a Canadian-based sustainable phone case company, created the first compostable smartphone case. Their cases are entirely compostable (as in, you can toss it in your compost bin, drop it off at a commercial composting center or send it back to them where they’ll properly compost it). And, they’re shockingly durable.

Pela cases are compostable because they’re made out of plant-based biopolymer, recycled materials and flax straw fiber, a waste byproduct of the oilseed harvest.

Before buying a new Pela case, I had my same red Pela phone case for a year. I dropped my phone probably close to 100 times during that year and my phone never had a single scratch. In fact, that’s part of the reason I was able to return my phone and get money back… it looked almost brand new!

On the previous phone, I purchased a plastic screen protector from Target. It worked great! But was made from non-recyclable plastic. Not ideal.

Luckily, Pela came out with their own zero-waste screen protector. Yes. It’s literally zero waste. I bought it and put it on my phone. Here’s what it looks like…

This little vial is magic.

OK, it’s more like science… but sometimes science feels like magic. Pela calls this screen protector, Canopy.

Here’s some info I pulled from their site:

How does it work?: “The active ingredient fills in the existing pores of the glass. It hardens within a minute to form a very thin, very strong layer of glass on the surface. It’s highly evolved science where the liquid is engineered to covalently bond only with glass and no other surface (so it won’t bother your skin or any other part of the device :)”

Ingredients: “5% active ingredient, 95% ethanol (which can be derived from corn, sugarcane, wood, etc.) All green and eco-friendly!”

Here’s how you apply it (taken from their website):

1. Wipe device screen clean

2. Pour 1/3 of Canopy onto a cloth

3. Wipe screen with wet cloth for 30 seconds, be sure to get all glass areas but do your best to avoid speakers and port holes! 

4. Wait 2 minutes

5. Wipe off any excess product with a dry cloth

6. Your screen protector is now on!

  • Pro Tip: You won’t see anything on the screen as the liquid fuses on a molecular level (bonds covalently) to the glass. We recommend reapplying Canopy every 12 months 🙂

It really is that simple. I’ve only had Canopy on my phone for a few hours, so it’s hard to give it a real review… but I’m hopeful it’ll be as good as Pela says.

Also, according to their website, Pela says if your phone is scratched when you have a Pela case and Canopy on your device, Pela will pay for the repairs! That’s reassuring for sure.

Note: one vial of Canopy can protect three phones, or it will protect one phone for three years if you reapply it every 12 months.

Pela has dozens of designs that fit iPhone and Android smartphones.

The company also came out with an additional compostable piece called Walnut that adds extra protection to your phone. Walnut isn’t available for all phone models, but from my understanding, Pela is working on expanding the Walnut inventory.


Pela cases range from $30 to $45, depending on the design and phone model. And Canopy is $43 (but that covers three phones, or keeps your phone protected for three years). These cases are made to last. The whole idea behind purchasing a Pela case is to limit your unnecessary plastic waste. These cases aren’t designed to be used for a few months and then tossed out. They were created to last for your phone’s lifetime.

Additional info

Pela is a great company. They’re a member of 1% for the Planet, donating to worthwhile causes that keep oceans and coastlines clean and healthy, like the Save the Waves Coalition.

An important note! If you already own a phone case, continue using it! Tossing out a perfectly good item just so you can purchase a sustainable one isn’t actually sustainable at all. Remember… pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle isn’t attainable all at once. It’s about using up your products and when the time comes, consider investing in quality products from businesses that prioritize sustainability.

If you love iPhones but don’t want to support Apple as a brand, consider buying a second-hand iPhone. You can find some great quality ones from eBay and other similar sites. And they’re often cheaper, too.