See this cool-looking toy car? It was a gift from the kids down the street for my son Owen’s seventh birthday party. Which was last Sunday. And the car is still sitting on our dining-room table, waiting to be played with.
Because we don’t have any AA batteries to put in it. And I keep forgetting to get them when I go to the store.
As a family of 7, there are an incredible amount of battery-operated devices in our home. Remote controls and game systems alone use dozens.
And it always seems like no matter how many we buy, there are never enough when we need them. Worse, we’ve got That Drawer now – the one that seems to be filled with an equal number of dead and fresh batteries, with no way of knowing which is which. (Why is everyone dumping the dead batteries in this drawer? I don’t know, but there they are, taunting us.)
A few days ago I was griping to my husband that this level of drama doesn’t exist with our tablets and phones. When one gets low on charge, we simply – poof! – plug it in.
“We could do that with batteries too, you know,” he pointed out.
This is where I admit that my husband has been trying to get us to switch to all-rechargeable batteries for years, and I’ve resisted. They cost more! I’d argue. We’ll have to use up several outlets to hold the chargers! I don’t want to have to deal with recharging yet another thing!
But really, the more I thought about it, the more I realized how short-sighted my resistance has been. Running out to the gas station to get batteries in an emergency (yes, we’ve had to do that on Christmas Eve before) isn’t exactly a time- or cost-effective way to power our kids’ toys. We — all of us, down to my three-year-old daughter — are already in the habit of recharging phones and tablets by plugging them in, so adding batteries to the “recharge” list really isn’t a big deal. Rechargeable batteries are way better for the environment. And over time, the investment made in rechargeable batteries pays off because they last so much longer.
So this Christmas, we’re making the switch. I’ve laid out three necessary steps we’ll have to take:
1. Start fresh. Employing my 9-year-old son William as a tester, we’ll finally separate all those batteries rolling around in drawers into “dead” and “live” and once and for all dispose of the dead ones. While newer batteries are thought to be safe to toss in the regular trash, I will be contacting our local recycling centers to see if they can be recycled first.
2. Take stock of the type and number of batteries we need. Our household is pretty heavy on AA batteries, with a few AAAs thrown in, but flashlights and larger toys often require Cs or even Ds. I think we also have a 9V or two around here. By adding up all the different kinds of batteries we use at any given time, we can replenish the stock with rechargeables all at once — hopefully, taking advantage of a sale! — and avoid having to run to the store (or raid a gadget for its batteries) later.
3. Invest in several rechargers, and place them strategically throughout the house. With all the kids in this house, one recharging station probably isn’t going to cut it. There are certain technology “hot spots” in our home where a recharger makes sense: upstairs by the game system, which needs batteries for the controllers; downstairs by the TV, which is inexplicably operated by 3 different remotes, and one in the dining room to handle overflow. We’ll make at least one of those a universal charger so that we can juice up those less-numerous Cs, Ds and 9Vs.
4. Train the kids. The most crucial part of this system is making sure everyone uses it. By teaching the kids how and when to recharge batteries, we won’t have to buy a ton of extras to make sure we always have a fresh set on hand.
Now that I’ve seen the light, I’m getting on this right away. Because at some point, I’m sure my son would like to use his birthday gift. Like, you know, before Christmas.
And speaking of Christmas? If I could avoid one of us having to make an emergency midnight run to the party store for batteries, that will make the investment worth it, right there.