Switching to Rechargeables Can Reduce Carbon Footprint

sustainable battery kit

There are all kinds of ways to lower your carbon footprint, such as reducing food waste, being mindful of water and gas consumption, and so on. However, what many people don’t realize is that they could reduce their carbon footprints by simply switching from disposable to rechargeable batteries. Not only do rechargeable batteries cost less per use than disposables, but they also have a significantly smaller environmental impact.

Making the switch to rechargeable batteries isn’t hard. It’s common to keep an extra pair of disposable batteries on hand, so it isn’t that much of a leap to consider keeping a spare set of rechargeable batteries around instead. The only difference is that, rather than disposing of the batteries after they’ve been drained, you’ll plug them in to charge. 

Why rechargeable batteries are more eco-friendly than disposables

Why do rechargeable batteries have a smaller carbon footprint compared to disposables? The main reason is that they can be used up to 1,000 times, rather than just once. While it’s no surprise that a reusable product is greener than its disposable counterpart, rechargeable batteries actually reduce environmental impact in a number of ways.

  • Since rechargeables can be reused for years, fewer natural resources are depleted per use compared to single-use batteries. In fact, they use as little as 4.3% of the non-renewable natural resources that disposables require.
  • Every battery, whether rechargeable or single-use, has to be transported from the manufacturer to the retailer or end user; this burns fossil fuels, which drives up their carbon footprint. However, if someone buys a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries that last for several years, it’s a different story; they’d be able to avoid the environmental damage associated with transporting all those disposable batteries.
  • Even though rechargeables can provide considerably more power over their lifetimes than disposables, they emit 28% less greenhouse gasses. They also have a smaller impact on water pollution, air pollution, and air acidification compared to single-use batteries.
  • Rechargeable batteries are made with highly toxic materials (such as nickel and cadmium), which is why it’s important to recycle them. The good news? 90% of a rechargeable battery can be recycled. Not only does this keep harmful chemicals out of landfills and incinerators, but it also means that those same materials can be used to make new rechargeable batteries.  

In other words, the reduced carbon footprint of rechargeable batteries doesn’t necessarily come from an eco-friendly manufacturing process, or using green materials. It comes from the fact that once you buy them, it could be several years before you have to purchase replacements, thereby saving a lot of battery and packaging waste, logistics and transportation resources, and end of life management.. However, it’s important to note that using rechargeables doesn’t automatically reduce your carbon footprint; there are a few important things you should do in order to minimize their impact on the environment.

charging sustainable batteries

How to reduce the environmental impact of your rechargeable batteries

In general, the key to having a smaller carbon footprint with rechargeable batteries is buying high quality batteries that will last as long as possible and also taking good care of them so they last as long as possible. This being the case, here are some steps you should take when using rechargeable batteries.

Charge them properly

Always read the charging instructions – these can vary from one brand to another. In general, you should avoid overcharging your batteries; however, Paleblue’s have overcharge protection built into our batteries. It’s recommended to charge them in a spot that’s easily visible, out of direct sunlight, and away from flammable materials, especially when charging. Good charging practices are essential to getting more use out of your rechargeables; the longer you can keep each set, the fewer batteries you’ll have to buy over your lifetime. 

Avoid unfavorable conditions

Under the right circumstances, rechargeable batteries can perform well for years. That being said, some people try to bend the rules a little, which can result in damage to the batteries. For example, charging them in below-freezing temperatures can actually change their internal chemistry and reduce their lifespan. 

Another practice to avoid is charging a battery with a different brand of charger. Even if the charger is the right size, it probably won’t be calibrated to match the batteries’ charge rate. Fortunately, this isn’t an issue for USB rechargeable batteries. 

Last but not least, don’t let unused batteries run out of charge while they’re waiting to be used (except ours, they have over-discharge protection!) – make sure you recharge them every couple of months. Once again, all of these tips should prolong the life of your rechargeable batteries, reducing consumption and keeping disposables out of landfills.

Recycle your batteries

This may be one of the most important ways to reduce the environmental impact of rechargeable batteries. Even without recycling them, rechargeables are still more eco-friendly than disposables due to their long lifespan. However, the materials used in rechargeable batteries are actually more toxic than those used in disposable batteries, which makes it even more important to properly recycle them. Even if your area doesn’t have recycling centers that accept rechargeable batteries, it’s possible to find places that will recycle them.

Are rechargeable batteries always the best choice?

While most battery-powered devices will work with rechargeable batteries, some of them are better suited for disposables. Some slow-drain electronics like alarm clocks or smoke alarms don’t work as well with rechargeable batteries, because rechargeables have a higher self-discharge rate than single-use or alkaline batteries. This means that, in addition to the power drain from the device itself, the battery would be losing power simply because it isn’t being regularly recharged.

If you need batteries to power frequently used or higher-output devices, such as Xbox controllers or flashlights, then rechargeables would make more sense. When one set of batteries runs out, you can simply replace them with your fully charged backups, time after time.