Is it possible to buy an eco-friendly sports watch?

Sports watch
Sports watch
By Keeley Bolger
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Often scrapped after a few years' usage, sports watches can be an expensive and environmentally unfriendly habit to maintain. Here we look at whether it’s possible to track your movements without denting the environment.


If you love tracking your fitness levels through a sports watch, but don’t want your wearable choices to damage the environment, it can feel like choices are minimal. Many of us buy them during a fitness fad - often just after Christmas - and then after a short spell of usage, discard them. Despite the variety on the market, options are limited for eco sports watches and not all can be responsibly discarded, something which is particularly important given that the technology often becomes out of date quickly on the devices.

Some companies are making efforts towards greater eco-consciousness

"There are plenty of sports watches out there and these can be split up into two categories: rubber and metal," explains Ben Johnson, Managing Director at Miltons Diamonds. "Both have their positives and negatives. Most rubber can be recycled and certain metals can too, but both have a damaging impact on the environment in their production and mining."

While buying a new sports watch will have a degree of environmental impact, some tech companies are making strides towards greater eco-consciousness. “Apple has made the most noise of any major tech brand that makes wearables and is trying to do more on this front,” explains Michael Sawh, editor of Wareable.

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“It probably still needs to do more, but it’s spoken about sustainability during key announcement launches and it’s beginning to share more insights into its moves to become more eco-friendly. They produced their own Environmental Report for their latest smartwatch to highlight the energy efficiency of its device; it uses power-efficient components and software to manage power consumption.

“Companies like Samsung are also moving towards more sustainable packaging materials and are rolling out new features for older devices that could persuade owners to hold onto devices for longer and not just simply get the newest one for the sake of it.” As well as this, corporate social responsibility policies are making it imperative for tech companies to be clear about their environmental impact. That said, there’s room for improvement.

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Sports watch

Recycling your sports watch

“There is still a lot to be done particularly when it comes to recycling,” adds Sawh. “But there are programmes being set up like RecycleHealth, which asks for donations of old wearables, bands and chargers, which are then redistributed to ‘underserved populations’. Also, WEAR Sustain, a project that was set up in 2017, has been seen as a kind of catalyst to bring much needed attention to the development of sustainable wearables. So things are changing, but there’s definitely more that can happen.”

As well as choosing brands which opt to use projects like RecycleHealth, there are other ways of making a more eco-friendly decision when buying a sports watch. "You may wish to consider buying a luxury sports watch that will last a lifetime, not just a season," says Ben Johnson. "If you're worried about the environmental impact, think about buying a pre-owned watch. A well serviced pre-loved watch can be just as reliable your modern day wristwatch."

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Consider longevity when buying your sports watch

Certain brands stand the test of time, according to Johnson and their longevity can compensate for what they lack in cutting edge technology. "I have a Rolex Submariner 16613 that was produced in 1988, it is over 30 years old and I still get compliments on it," adds Johnson. "It will never become redundant, no matter the latest tech upgrade. If you’re shopping for an eco-friendly sports watch I would recommend that you purchase one that doesn’t need replacing every few years. The Omega Seamaster and the Rolex Submariner are the finest examples of this."

Start-ups are catering for those interested in sustainability

It’s also worth paying attention to new companies on the market for a fresh take on materials and environmental policies. “You often need to look in the direction of startups building wearables for those who are trying to think more responsibly about the environment,” adds Sawh.

“**Bellabeat []( to-sustainbility)** is one example that looks to using materials that have less of an impact on our environment. It recognises that it’s challenging to do when some materials are just not as effective in delivering features that wearables need to deliver (like waterproofing for instance).”

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Words: Keeley Bolger

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