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These geeky eco-warriors want your old phone to help stop illegal deforestation

That old smartphone you’re considering putting up on eBay, or just leaving in a drawer because it’s no longer needed, could be put to much better use. Forget about making a cheap home security system, or recycling it for parts, it could be instrumental in saving the rainforests.

It’s all thanks to Rainforest Connection, an organization that takes unwanted smartphones and turns them into a weapon against illegal loggers, who’re destroying the world’s rainforests with their noisy chainsaws.

Related: Hands-on with the ethically sourced, environmentally friendly, Fairphone 2

The way it does so is ingenious. After it receives your old, unloved phone, the device’s memory is wiped and the hardware stripped down, then it’s reprogramed and fitted with a solar panel array. The team then ships these devices to rainforests being plundered by illegal logging, where they’re attached to the very tops of trees.

Instead of listening to your boring conversations, these phones have a new purpose: They listen for the sound of chainsaws. The modified phones have a listening range of up to a mile, and should its sensitive microphone hear the roar of a chainsaw being revved up, it sends a signal to local agencies in charge of protecting the forest.

Within moments, the illegal operation can be found — thanks to the geo-location ability of the phones — and halted, before too much damage can be caused. Rainforest Connection says that a single modified phone can protect 300 hectares — about a square mile — of endangered forest, and that by preventing logging in that space, it’d have the same positive environmental effect equivalent to taking 3,000 cars off the road for a year. The group quotes UN stats saying the destruction of rainforests is the leading cause of climate change, and that much of it is illegal.

It’s easy to be part of this exciting, eco-friendly, and technically innovative project. All you have to do is donate that old phone you’ve almost forgotten about here. We’d recommend erasing all your personal information first, of course, then live happily in the knowledge it’s off to become a high-tech defender of the world’s forests.