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Executive Post: Together We Can End Disposable Battery Guilt!

Originally posted in the GoalZero blog July 12, 2012

I don’t think I’m alone when I say that I have a severe case of DBG. DBG affects millions of adults who, like me, have lived on the West Coast of the US (especially Oregon or the San Francisco Bay Area) and people who watch television. DBG or “Disposable Battery Guilt” is treatable. Like most people, my staple has been disposable batteries. I still have mass quantities of unused disposables purchased at Costco. I use them for everything from the television and Wii remote controls to flashlights. When they run out I will be, inevitably, stuck in a pickle. Though it would be a stretch to call me an environmentalist, I definitely want to be a good steward of the planet. If I see trash on a trail or on the street I pick it up and rely on public services to take care of it from there. What about getting rid of those disposable batteries? We’ve all heard that batteries shouldn’t be disposed in the trash, but why not? I’ve always wondered if that is the case but I’ve never taken the 30 seconds it takes to Google it, until now. Now that I have, let me share the information with you.

Duracell tells us the following on their website:

“Due to concerns about mercury in the municipal solid waste stream, we have voluntarily eliminated all of the added mercury from our alkaline batteries since 1993, while maintaining the performance you demand. Our alkaline batteries are composed primarily of common metals—steel, zinc, and manganese—and do not pose a health or environmental risk during normal use or disposal.

It is important not to dispose of large amounts of alkaline batteries in a group. Used batteries are often not completely “dead.” Grouping used batteries together can bring these “live” batteries into contact with one another, creating safety risks.

Proven cost-effective and environmentally safe recycling processes are not yet universally available for alkaline batteries. Some communities offer recycling or collection of alkaline batteries—contact your local government for disposal practices in your area.”

Well, there you have it. You can just throw them away…just not too many of them together. Well, now that I know that, the guilt is…still there! Dang it!

Despite the guilt, we still find ourselves buying disposables anyway. The reason is that even though I care about the environment, it’s tough to swallow the price difference between disposables and rechargeables. If only someone with financial knowledge would take the time to outline a “return on investment” analysis to show it’s worth it to buy rechargeables both financially as well as for my ever-present DBG. Okay, okay, I’ll take a look and see if we can get it to pencil out to a good deal.

So if you bought a Guide 10 Plus Battery Pack (includes 4 AA Batteries and the Guide 10 recharger) on our website it

would set you back $59.95. Assuming 4 AAs doesn’t cover all of your needs, as long as you are all in on rechargeables, you could get another set of 4 AAs and a set of 4 AAAs for $34.98 on goalzero.com. So this environmental guilt has now cost you $94.93 and all you have to show for it is 12 total batteries and a charger (which, by the way, is actually a sweet charger). At this point you may be thinking you would rather just deal with the guilt, but let’s continue the analysis. We need to take into account that what you’ve just purchased can be recharged potentially over 1,500 times! Which means you could lose them, but you may never actually use them up.

Let’s spread the cost of the Guide 10 across the 12 batteries since it is a cost and you don’t need a recharger if you are doing the disposable thing. So each battery with its share of the Guide 10 cost ended up costing you $7.91 (i.e. $94.43/12=$7.91). That’s crazy you say? Well each of them will discharge for you about 1,500 times. That means each one cost you half a penny per discharge (i.e. $7.91/1,500=$0.00527). A 12 pack of AA batteries at Wally World (aka WalMart) is about $14.47. Once you use each of those batteries they are done and you can either hoard them like I do or feel guilty as you toss them into the garbage (being careful not to toss them in with any of them touching as that could create “safety risks”).

By going the disposable route you avoided dropping $94.93 on 12 batteries and instead paid a mere $14.47. But that means per discharge you paid $1.21 (i.e. $14.47/12=$1.2058). I know it’s counterintuitive to spend more to save, but in this case you would spend 6.56 times more to get set up with 1,500 times the uses of each battery. The tradeoff is half a penny per discharge or $1.21! Even if you do occasionally lose track of your rechargeables, you’ll still come out way ahead in a relatively short payback period. You’d probably pay that $14.47 two or three times per year and so payback would be in less than 3 years and then it’s all upside baby. This isn’t a hybrid versus gas engine situation, the payback is relatively short and then everything beyond that payback period is gravy.

Add to that financial payback the warm feeling inside of being a great environmental steward and the freedom of no more guilt as you throw batteries away and this is an investment well-worth making. Then the coup de grâce is that you now own a Guide 10 Plus charger! Pick up a Nomad 7 while you’re at it and you have portable power that can recharge from the sun! Which brings me to the final point of guilt; it is almost sad to be out on a sunny day and not have a Nomad 7 with a Guide 10 to collect a little power while you’re out and about. It’s like leaving the water on while you brush your teeth. Why waste a great resource? So my friends, treat your DBG and buy a Guide 10, some rechargeable batteries, and a Nomad 7 and feel like a financial wizard while you’re at it!

Read this part quickly: Side effects may include fits of extreme euphoria and sudden urges to get outside and do something fun. Most buyers of our products do begin to see the resources around them differently and wonder what other resources in their life they should be tapping into. If you experience prolonged periods of doing your own version of River Dance, call our Solution Center and we’ll help you come back down to earth by talking to you about emergency preparedness.


Note: I know I left out the cost of charging the batteries, but it’s de minimis (it varies depending on where you live, but here in Utah it would be less than a penny per charge).


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