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Green Your Gadgets -- Batteries 101

Posted Sep 24 2008 11:47am

Last week, congressional watchdog agency GAO published a report on high-tech toxic trash exports and Greenpeace released its ninth annual Guide to Greener Electronics. This week's tips cover ways to keep consumer electronics from harming human health and the environment.

Tip #2: Extend battery life

Later this week, European Union officials will begin enforcing new restrictions on rechargeable batteries--a move that the research firm Cleantech Group reports could nudge the market away from toxic components and non-replaceable, built-in batteries. In the meantime, Americans still buy more than 350 million of the pricey, heavy metal-packed capsules every year. With smart maintenance practices, they can be replaced less frequently. For example, lithium-ion batteries, one of the most common types used in laptops and mobile devices, last longer when kept from running below a 40-percent charge. If you have an iPod, you'll get the most bang for your battery buck (make that bucks--at least 49 of them for a replacement battery ) if you take it out of the case before charging. Carrying cases can trap heat and compromise battery capacity--making you plug in more frequently and burn through the battery's limited number of charges sooner. For any device, it's a good idea to keep batteries away from extreme temperatures, allow plenty of circulation, shut off juice-draining non-essential functions, and use a low-power mode whenever possible.

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