December 2nd, 2010

Green Battery Guide for the Holidays

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Photo used under Creative Commons from Kasia

This year I had a few goals in mind when buying gifts for my family:

  • Keep it simple
  • Buy gifts without a lot of packaging materials
  • Use my reusable bags as much as possible
  • Try to buy things that don’t need batteries

The only major mishap was the shocking realization on Tuesday that Hanukkah started on Wednesday night. I had one day to pull it all together. Somehow I did it and we are ready for the 8 crazy nights.

During my speedy shopping experience, I was really focused on getting the job done.  In hindsight, I was able to stick to most of my goals.  I was surprisingly successful in finding gifts that don’t need batteries- with one exception, my son’s new watch.

Batteries are a necessity in so many ways, making our lives convenient and portable. With this need comes a tremendous amount of waste.  Americans toss almost 180,000 tons of batteries each year, most being single-use batteries.

The hard facts (battery truths)

  1. About three billion batteries are sold annually in the U.S. averaging about 32 per family.

    Photo used under Creative Commons from Anton Fomkin

  2. Batteries contain heavy metals such as mercury, lead, cadmium, and nickel, which can leak and contaminate the environment when they are thrown away.
  3. A car battery contains 18 pounds of lead and one pound of sulfuric acid.
  4. Household, disposable batteries come wrapped in plastic packaging-adding more plastic to our overflowing landfills.
  5. Don’t throw any used batteries in the garbage.  Save them for a hazardous waste pickup in your community, or take it to your local hazardous waste management facility (call your local Department of Public Works for the closest location to you).  You can check check with  Earth911 for a listing of local drop off locations.
  6. Your batteries come wrapped a lot of excess packaging-wrapped in plastic and cardboard-all of which end up in a landfill.

In most cases rechargeable batteries are the greener choice

  • Alkaline single-use  batteries are much safer than their pre-1997 version, but they still can’t be recycled. Rechargeable batteries can be recycled.
  • Rechargeable batteries are more costly upfront, but can be used reused multiple times.  They, like single-use batteries,  still contain heavy metals so be careful about disposal. Green Batteries is a great site for all your rechargeable battery and charger options.
  • Four rechargeable batteries can replace approximately 100 regular alkaline batteries.
  • For rechargeable battery recycling options check with Call2Recycle for a location near you.  California is  a special case when it comes to recycling batteries-requiring recycling of more types of batteries than other states-always ahead of the game, aren’t you California?
  • Recycling batteries keeps heavy metals out of landfills and the air. Recycling also saves resources because recovered plastic and metals can be used to make new batteries.

Photo used under Creative Commons from John Seb Barber

Disposable v. Rechargeable

It is impossible to avoid the need for batteries- cell phones, remotes, flashlights, hand-held games, cameras-the need is far and wide.  If some of your holiday gifts need batteries,  Earth911 suggests we think about what type of gadget will be using the batteries. If the device isn’t used often and doesn’t use a lot of power (i.e. remote) it might be best to use a single-use battery. If the gadget needs portable power on a regular basis (i.e. cell phone) go rechargeable.

Greenest Choice

Buy gifts that don’t need batteries.  If your gift requires batteries, try to include rechargeable batteries. If you are feeling really generous include the charger too.

Happy shopping!

If this post helped you please share it with your friends. And please become a Facebook Fan! Thanks!

This post is part of the 3rd Annual Holidays Carnival, Holidays Without the Hoopla, for  Green Moms Carnival hosted this month by Jenn of The Green Parent. Be sure to check out all the other great ideas for Holidays Without the Hoopla.

11 Responses to “Green Battery Guide for the Holidays”

  1. Congrats on pulling it off in one day. Sadly, we did buy a little battery, in the form of a Nintendo DS, but it was a used game console, so I am viewing this as recycling.

    Does DPW really take disposable batteries? If yes, I will start saving these for the hazardous waste day!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Sandra Lee and Lori Alper, Groovy Green Livin. Groovy Green Livin said: New: Green Battery Guide for the Holidays. […]

  3. It is almost impossible to avoid buying gifts that don’t need batteries-they are such an integral part of our lives. Check with for the closest drop-off location for single-use batteries. It is not necessarily the DPW that will collect used batteries-many cities and towns have designated spots for drop-off. Your local DPW might have the information too.

    Welcome to the world of DS……I have 3 boys so I am all too familiar!

  4. […] batteries are unavoidable for you this year, be sure to check out Lori’s green battery guide on Groovy Green […]

  5. If I buy a gift that uses batteries, I always include a set of rechargeable and a charger. I remember as a kid that once that first set of Christmas batteries ran out, we never seemed to get a new set.

  6. It is always so nice to get a set of batteries with a gift that needs them! A set of rechargeable batteries and a charger is such a thoughtful and generous way to make any gift complete.

  7. I hate to admit this as someone who aspires to a greener being but I’ve yet to find rechargeable batteries that are worth their salt. Many of ours won’t work at all in certain things and other times they run out the same day. I think your last suggestion is the better one: try to buy stuff that doesn’t require batteries.

  8. I think it is hard to find rechargeable batteries that actually do their job. It also seems that the single-use batteries are running out of juice very quickly these days. I just invested in a few new rechargeables to try out. Hopefully some of them will work well.

  9. The regular kind of NiMH rechargeable batteries discharge their energy very quickly while idle, and are dead within a few months. Thankfully, Sanyo in 2005 pioneered low self-discharge NiMH batteries: Eneloop. They only lose 15% of their energy after 1 year, which is comparable with Alkalines.

    I wrote in detail about low self-discharge batteries and the best chargers for them, here:

  10. Thanks for sharing the info Joe. Interesting information.

  11. […] you don’t already have one, a charger might be a smart investment for your family as well. Here’s more on why to avoid single-use […]

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About Lori

Hi! I’m Lori, a recovering attorney, writer, and mom to three boys. Join me as I uncover and share the latest info on healthy living. Learn more.

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