30 day challenge recap: accessorizing the sun

As a follow up to my previous “30 day challenge: Accessorizing the sun” entry, I have had great success at having my small devices leverage the solar panel and external battery for power. The one core complication I had was my Anker battery died in late June. I assumed the warranty would only be 90 days and that I would be out of luck but I called Anker support on a Thursday and they told me it was a one year warranty and had a new battery with a 75% charge in my hands by Tuesday. They were incredibly efficient and it was a human who answered the phone and helped me troubleshoot and get all my information without the need for a single transfer to another department. During that weekend without the battery I needed to charge directly from solar but thankfully the weather cooperated and I maintained keeping my devices from leveraging any traditional electric outlets.

My son has joined in and is using of few of his and my daughters batteries as his sole source of power for his mobile phone. This adds some competition for time charging batteries off of the solar panel but thus far we are managing to share effectively. He is about one month in using only solar power and I am about 2 ½ months in. It is pretty cool to see him take on this challenge as well and at the same time my daughter has written letters to our local members of congress asking for more action on climate change initiatives.

I have not yet finalized what my next challenge will be but have some thoughts and am open to suggestions.

30 day challenge: Accessorizing the sun

A few years ago I watched the Ted Talks by Matt Cutts called “Try something new for 30 days”. It is a short light hearted talk worth viewing that that more or less states, if there is something you want to do or change, commit to doing it for 30 days. More recently, a relative kept his online status updated with his “30 days of biking” and that rekindled the idea for me.

For the month of June I have decided that the core gadgets I use on a daily basis can only be charged via solar power. Thanks to my lovely wife and kids, I already had everything I needed to undertake this effort, I just had not put it into practice consistently. My gadgets are my phone, my Microsoft band, and my Bluetooth speaker. My solution is an Anker portable fold up solar panel and an Anker battery power bank. After about 22 hours of direct sun, the battery will fully charge from the solar panel. Based on past use, I know that the Anker battery can charge my phone nine times before needing more power. Presumably adding in my other devices will increase the frequency of how often I need to charge the battery brick but I still only anticipate it being once a week or so. For charging the battery bank from solar, I have found that leaving the panel spread out on the dashboard of the car with the battery in the glove box works well while parked in a sunny location at work.

You might be questioning my logic as the ROI on a $100 worth of solar panel and battery bank that was gifted to me will take a long time to recognize, but for me it is not about that. For me, it is a small iterative step I can take that is positive. I am hopeful that after a successful 30 days, I can sustain this practice and add in another new 30 day challenge. Transitioning to this model also forces me to be more proactive and plan out my devices energy consumption and re-charging. As I hope our family will be transitioning to an electric vehicle in the coming year or two, having this type of planning mindset for energy consumption and charging will be very useful.

I also feel compelled to mention that I used charge my mobile phone every night and then about 6 months ago I changed a few key settings which dramatically increased the battery life of my phone. The single biggest change I made was reducing the frequency of which I sync my e-mail accounts. I used to have them sync ‘as items arrive’ and I changed this to ‘once per hour’. The majority of the time the content constantly syncing, re-organizing, and deleting on my phone was unnecessary as I was managing that content from my laptop while working anyway. As time passed, I also realized that my nose was not in my phone as often which I think is a good thing. I can always manually sync when I want to check e-mail, otherwise once per hour is plenty. I also no longer allow non-essential applications to run in the background. For example, if I look at Facebook on my phone I log out and close it when I am done. This is another thing that offers the healthy by-product of looking at my phone less. When I want to consume content on my phone I do, but now I avoid toast notifications and others various things that used to nudge me for their attention.  I have also found that hooking up to my home wireless uses much less battery than cellular.

While solar powering accessories might not be for everyone and might not reduce emissions to a significant degree, I am excited to do it and already starting to brainstorm on my July plans. To you, I will quote Matt Cutts and say “Why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next thirty days”.