AT&T to sell eco-friendly phone charger

Wireless operator is going green with a new cell phone charger that will save energy.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
3 min read

Are you thinking of new ways to go green this spring? Try getting a new AT&T Zero Charger for your cell phone, which will stop drawing an electrical charge if your charger is plugged into the wall, but the phone isn't attached.

Conventional chargers continue to draw power when devices are plugged into a wall, even when the battery has finished charging or when no device is attached to the charger. AT&T said Wednesday that it will soon be selling this replacement cell phone charger starting in May for $29.99.

Judging from this picture, it appears AT&Ts new Zero Charge will work with at least some BlackBerry phones. AT&T

The AT&T Zero Charger automatically senses when a mobile phone is not plugged up to the charger and it cuts the power supply from the wall socket. Other devices, including TVs, computers, and all kinds of home appliances, also draw power from the power grid when they are plugged in even if they aren't turned on. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that standby power makes up as much as 20 percent of home energy use in the U.S.

The amount of power that is consumed by individual phone chargers plugged into the wall is small. But when you add it up over a long period of time, it can be significant. For example, AT&T estimates that if 80 percent of the wireless subscribers left their cell phone chargers plugged into a wall for a year, their phones would draw enough electricity to power 24,000 homes for a year, or brew 3 to 4 million cups of coffee each day.

The wireless operator wouldn't specify which of its phone will use the Zero charger. But spokeswoman Jeannie Hornung said it will be available for AT&T's "most popular devices." Judging from the picture AT&T provided, it will work with at least some BlackBerry phones. And the USB interface could mean that it will be compatible with the Apple iPhone. Details about the phones that can use the charger will be available closer to the launch of the product, Hornung said.

The new Zero Charger can also help environmentally-conscious wireless users stay green by reducing the number of cell phone chargers that eventually get thrown away. Because the Zero cell phone charger will work with many different mobile phones, eventually consumers will only need one charger for multiple phones. This could should reduce the number of chargers that end up in landfills and city dumps.

"As people want an extra charger, or need a replacement, these zero-draw chargers will begin to proliferate with customers and will work with multiple devices so eventually this will lead to less need for separate chargers," Hornung said in an e-mail.

For now, AT&T will continue to sell chargers with all its phones. But eventually the company could sell the Zero-charge chargers separately, allowing consumers to use their existing cell phone charger when they upgrade to new devices.

Cell phone makers around the world agreed last year that they would make universal cell phone chargers for their phones. Over a year ago, the GSMA trade association announced that by 2012,most new cell phones will use the same kind of connector to charge their batteries.

AT&T said the new charger is part of its effort to be more environmentally conscious. AT&T recently announced a transition to smaller and more eco-friendly packaging for wireless device accessories sold in AT&T stores. This change will eliminate more than 60 percent of the paper and more than 30 percent of the plastic previously used for AT&T's accessory products, the company said. In keeping with this effort, the new Zero Charger will be sold in packaging with 100 percent recycled paper.