A Green Energy Valentine’s Day Massacre - Part One

With Valentine’s Day approaching, the search for an eco-conscious gift is on many people’s mind.  Portable electronic devices become more prevalent everyday and the attachment some people have to their devices borders on addiction.  So what better gift for the junkie in your life than a virtually limitless free supply of juice, you know, electricity.

The amount of solar energy that reaches the Earth in one hour, every hour, 24 times a day, is roughly equivalent to the energy consumed by the entire planet in one year.  When looking into devices that use solar energy to charge portable electronics like an iPod, iPhone or other portable electronic item, it is necessary to establish what factors are important and compare them.  In the light of day there are really just two broad factors to consider.  First is the charging device practical: lightweight, sturdy, convenient to use.  Second, and perhaps more importantly, is the planet better off over the lifetime of the charging device: do you receive more energy from the charging device than it took to create it, don’t forget to include the emissions from production.

Slapping photovoltaics (PV) onto a device is all it takes for some companies to call it green.  Without knowing the production history of the device it is impossible to determine if using the device will be a net gain for green or a net loss.  In a vast oversimplification, if it takes 100 units of energy to produce the charging device and you get 80 units of energy over the lifetime of the device then even without considering the emissions from the original energy, perhaps it was from coal, and not considering the materials that may end up in a landfill, simple math shows a net green loss of 20 units.  A company that uses green as a marketing ploy is better than one that does not.  Best of all is a company that uses green in their marketing because they are truly green and they understand the triple bottom line.  The triple bottom line is the consideration of environment, economics, and social equity, not just considering one factor at the expense of the others.

Part two touches on the inclusion of a battery and finds one company walking the talk.

Full Disclosure: The author is not associated with any of the companies mentioned and as of the time of writing has not yet purchased a solar charging device.

Photo Credit: cogdogblog