These eco-friendly torches and radios all work on solar or wind-up power, or a combination (with back-up mains if needed). Most only need daylight (not necessarily hot sun) to work.
Conventional batteries can leak toxic chemicals, and are choking hazards (all stores that sell them must by law take batteries back from any store, for recycling). Take car batteries to your local mechanic. Most batteries are also sold in plastic packaging. If you have to buy them 9say for smoke alarms), choose quality brands that last longer, rather than cheap ones that you will have to keep replacing.
Power a Life sells chargers for your phone that help give natural light to developing countries. The PAL Solar Lantern is good for outdoor light.
All these items are by PowerPlus, a brand that offers quality items that will last years. So whether you wish to use them in the garden or when camping, see which one fits your lifestyle, then treat yourself!
- Falcon Lantern uses the power of the sun to charge using the solar panels, or you can wind it up. With an LED lifetime of over 50,000 hours (you can replace battery packs without having to recycle the whole lantern), it has a USB-out emergency device charger powerbank, a personal alarm, an LED lantern with 8 bright LEDs.
- Camel Solar Charger uses 3W solar cell with 2W output to charge mobile and other USB devices. It can be attached to a window using provided suction pads, then just connect your device.
- Stork Solar Radio gives DAB and FM radio stations with high sound quality thanks to the telescopic high-frequency antenna. Solar power can charge a li-ion battery within the radio, or charge from a USB source or batteries. Comes with LED display and alarm.
- Lynx Radio is a high performance mobile radio and flashlight. Just wind up or expose to the sun to store the charge and give up to 9 hours of radio on a full charge.
- Parrot Solar Powered Thermometer is good for indoors or outdoors. The suction cup can be attached to glass or other flat surfaces. Small and compact, it offers a bright display.
More Battery-Free Lights
Any light that does not contain batteries, is always going to be better for the planet. Batteries are sometimes needed (say for smoke alarms), but overall they are pretty toxic, and choking hazards for people and pets. Any store that sells batteries must legally take them back for recycling (no matter where you bought them), and good councils offer battery recycling banks (as do some supermarkets).
The Million Mile Light is a crowdfunded battery-free light for runners. Visible for up to 200 metres (44 car lengths), it’s powered by your own movement and has a 5 year guarantee. Just clip and go.
Ways to Help You Use Less Batteries
There are billions of batteries. Obviously sometimes they are needed (say for smoke alarms). But many items that contain batteries are not really needed. The problems with batteries are many. For a start, they are made with toxic materials. Then discarded batteries are choking hazards for people, pets and wildlife. And finally they continue to leach toxic chemicals into the environment, at end of life. Although most batteries can be recycled, many are not. So let’s take a look at how batteries work and what we can do to replace most of them. And then find out how to recycle the ones already in existence.
Did you know that over 20,000 tons of batteries end up in our landfills each year, with just 3% of batteries being recycled? The chemicals leach into soil and water, and also into our waters, harming all creatures.
- Choose a good smoke alarm with a 10-year battery. Mains-powered alarms have to be installed (by a qualified electrician) in new buildings, so ensure it has a battery back-up. Alkaline batteries need to be changed each year, whereas rechargeable lithium batteries should last the lifetime of the alarm. See more on fire safety.
- Switch to battery-free torches and lanterns. Ideal for the garden and camping, these tend to work with wind-up dynamo technology, and can last years. You can also buy battery-free bike lights and running lights.
- Check out your town’s natural toy shop for CE safe toys for children. These are not just battery-free, but also foster creativity. Children have to do things to make them work, rather than just press a button (operated by a battery) for the toy to do the creative stuff.
If you have to buy batteries, keep them stored away from pets and children, as they are choking hazards. The biggest hazard to the lifetime of batteries is extreme temperatures, as they are damaged by hot or cold. They work by converting chemicals to electricity, so have to work harder in heat.
Choose the right battery (you can recycle watch batteries at most jewellers) and don’t mix old and new batteries. Store them away from direct sunlight where it’s dry, away from metallic items (including jewellery). If you accidentally ingest or make eye contact with a leaked battery, it’s a visit to the hospital for a safety check, alas. Never try to charge single-use batteries, you can cause a fire or explosion.
At end of use, recycle your batteries. You can recycle most types of batteries in stores including ‘button batteries’ in watches, battery packs in smartphones and laptops and car batteries (at designated collection points, often your local mechanic). Businesses can request a free battery collection box (site has guidance on safe collection). Or order a battery recycling bin and when collected, the chemicals (mercury, zinc and lead) are turned into new items like lighting. British Bins also sells good battery recycling bins.