A BRIEF INTRODUCTION TO BATTERIES
Created in 1800 by Italian native Alessandro Volta, batteries have, since then, played an important role in our everyday life. They power our computers, our mobile phones, they help us save lives, and facilitate the exploration of our planet and outer space. They are, to this day, the most efficient and convenient way to store energy.
It’s inconceivable to imagine life on earth without batteries. Unfortunately, they have their drawbacks. Batteries are very toxic; they bring about health problems in those extracting the raw materials, they damage our groundwater, they’re very harmful for our environment, and they are hard to dispose of.
WHY LIMIT OUR BATTERY CONSUMPTION?
A battery is one of those products that is environmentally damaging before its manufacture, during its manufacture, and as it’s disposed of. Batteries are made up of many elements that are often difficult and harmful to extract such as Cadmium, Cobalt, Lead, and Lithium. We have, over the years, improved the efficiency of batteries in general, but the batterie itself remains harmful. That is why we most double down on our efforts to reduce our battery consumption. There are many ways to achieve this goal, but the most efficient one is to increase the lifecycle of each battery whenever possible.
To increase the lifecycle, we most get rid of single-use battery. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), over 3 billion batteries are thrown away every year in the US alone. That’s about 180 000 tons of hazardous waste with single-use batteries accounting for half of that. If placed end to end, these dead alkaline batteries would circle the world more than six times.
Today, it remains near impossible to eliminate our battery consumption entirely. The best way to avoid using single-use batteries is to opt for rechargeable ones, which can be used up to 1000 times. They are also much easier to recycle. When used properly, batteries can be much more sustainable than the alternative. A great example of responsible battery usage is the budding electric car industry.
THE KEY TO SUCCESS LIES IN RENEWABLE ENERGY
Using rechargeable batteries is only part of the solution. As experts claim: a rechargeable battery is only as clean as the energy used to recharge it.
The above concern is often mentioned when analyzing the pros and cons of electric cars such as Teslas. Certain people argue that electric cars are more polluting because of the energy used to recharge their batteries. This may be true for a select few cars operating in areas that are powered by fossil energy such as coal but, in the vast majority of cases, using electrical cars is much cleaner than burning fossil fuels.
The advent of the electric car is a wonderful opportunity to move the entire energy industry toward renewables because, if all electric cars were recharged with renewable energy, we would be facing a world exponentially less polluted. But in order to achieve that, we need electric cars on the road. The entire fossil fuel industry is predicated on cars powered by fuel. If we eliminate gas-powered cars we eliminate the need for fuel. Thus, if the objective is to recharge all electric cars with renewable energy, using an electric car is the first of many steps in the right direction.
The same concept applies to any object that uses batteries. If all those objects were powered by renewable energy, not only would we eliminate the need for a tremendous amount of batteries, but we would also reduce much of the pollution that comes with producing batteries in the first place. Consider the watch industry: if all battery-powered watches functioned using solar movement, we estimate we could eliminate the need for 300 million batteries per year! Imagine the result if we could apply this kind of solution to every industry.
Each step toward sustainable living is a victory. Every time you consume responsibly, you push industries to create sustainable goods rather than perpetuate the harmful status quo.
Keep up your sustainable habits; you really can make a difference!