London’s Red Phone Boxes Go Green

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By Arwa Lodhi

Let’s face it–London’s icons are a bit old. Those double decker buses were so dangerous, they were replaced (imagine walking down the bus stairs, holding bags and in heels while the bus turns a corner!). The black taxis belch diesel and are clunky and noisy. And those red pillar phone boxes…well, who uses phone boxes anymore?

The answer is: you do!

Thanks to an idea from  Harold Craston and Kirsty Kenny, two former geography students at London School of Economics, tourists and Londoners alike will be once again searching for a phone box–but this time, to charge their phones via roof fitted solar panels.

Logically, the boxes will be painted green, and to pay for the free service,  adverts will be broadcast as you wait for the device to charge. So far, Tinder and Uber have signed up as advertisers. Interestingly, the latter is set to replace those old-fashioned black cabs with cheaper, more eco-friendly rides (most Uber Pop vehicles in London are hybrids or electric).


The Solarbox project came in second place in  the Mayor of London’s Low Carbon Entrepreneur of the Year Award  earlier this year and also won the LSE‘s Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year award. Happily, the winner was also a ‘green’ project called the  Crowd Power Plant, an alternative way of purchasing and funding renewable energy.

Craston  told the BBC: “I lived next to a phone box in my second year at uni and walked past it every day. I thought, ‘There are 8,000 of these lying unused in London and we must be able to find a use for them.’”

The solarbox can charge up to 100 phones a day, offering a 20 per cent battery boost in 10 minutes. Craston said that the booths will serve about six people per hour, and will provide a much-needed service in the age of smart phone reliance. Craston admitted that on the day of the launch of his project,  “my phone ran out of battery and I genuinely had to use the box.”

With millions of tourists packing in London’s myriad hotels every day, surely this is a great idea – think of how many people forgot their chargers, or weren’t aware of the UK’s three pronged electrical outlets. The boxes will be regularly maintained and locked overnight to prevent theft and vandalism–as shame for those needing a quick charge to call a late night Uber, though.

Main image:  Red telephone boxes behind Young Dancer – Broad Street – London -Wikicommons
Chere Di Boscio

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