Convention dictates that during the next few weeks people all over will be traipsing around malls, stores and strip centers finding gifts for their loved ones. With the times becoming so tech-reliant, many of these tokens of endearment will be energized for portability with a range of batteries. What follows are some pointers on how to have a greener impact when it comes to battery purchases for your holiday needs. Remote controls, alarm clocks, toys and many more holiday goodies are all benefactors of the handy, portable battery. But with so much energy required — and so much battery waste to account for — the best way to limit hazardous environmental impact is to focus on efficiency and longevity. The most commonplace battery is probably the AA, and department stores typically offer bulk deals on generic versions of these. More often than not, this is the worst environmentally sustainable option for purchase since generic batteries are quickly disposed of. Nobody wants their groundwater supply awash with heavy metals like mercury, cadmium, nickel and lead, but with large amounts of disposable batteries leaching in our landfills, this is often a real threat. Further, trash incinerators only add to the problem as, “Certain toxic metals are released in the air and can concentrate the combustion ash, and might even result in an explosion,” according to Brighthub.com. Brighthub also notes acid rain and corrosive acids as improper disposal dangers. Focusing on the two points mentioned above — efficiency and longevity — a better option presents itself in the form of the rechargeable battery. Unlike disposable units, rechargeable batteries are, well, rechargeable. This means that they don’t hit the garbage once their energy has been depleted the first time. So, disposable batteries cut down on material heading to the landfill, but any good green-thinker takes a holistic approach to such issues, which leads to the question about how sustainable the energy consumption is. Fortunately, for such critical thinkers, there are some pretty heavy hitters on the manufacturing side of things that share this concern. Apple, a company that has become responsible for exponentially increasing the amount of electronic devices created, also pays attention to environmental concerns with its battery charger. This charger is making headlines, as it “has a power-management system that will automatically cut the power when AA batteries are fully charged.” Further, “Apple said that ‘the charger draws 30 milliwatts once batteries are full, compared with 315 milliwatts for other nickel-metal hydride rechargeables.’” What’s more, the batteries with this charger are estimated to last 10 years. Kudos to Apple, but other companies are revolutionizing the household battery all together in order to achieve what is likely the greenest battery made. An upstart battery company, earthCell, is offering a battery that brazenly promises, “Zero waste. Better batteries. Less money. With your help in getting started, earthCell will transform the battery industry, for good.” In essence, these are rechargeable batteries with a slightly different chemical makeup, using low self-discharge nickel metal hydride (LSD NiMH) batteries, which, according to the brand’s website, are more effective than both regular NiMH batteries and the traditional Alkaline battery. While new battery technology is great, what makes this company so revolutionary in the battery industry is actually its return policy and end-of-life operations. Once purchased, earthCell batteries come with a prepaid mailer where spent batteries can be stored and shipped. Batteries are retested at the earthCell HQ. If the batteries are still usable, the company can “revitalize” them for resale. But, if a battery doesn’t meet specification to be revitalized, it is dismantled and the valuable materials inside are used to make new batteries. That’s right: earthCell is bringing to market a cradle-to-cradle battery. Batteries may be a marginal part of daily life, but with estimates saying that 3 billion batteries are thrown out every year in the U.S. alone, making this facet of your life a little more environmentally conscious can go a long way.
A New Breed of Battery for Your Gadgets
The gadgets and gizmos we give this holiday season probably run on batteries, but did you consider recyclable, rechargeable batteries to be gifts themselves?