Solar phone chargers were introduced more to take advantage of a willing market than to solve a problem. To my mind, they are sold in completely the wrong way. Most marketing material for these kind of “green” chargers is that you’re helping save the planet. That simply isn’t true.
Even if you used a solar phone charger every day for five years, you would probably only save a few pounds of CO2. That’s still probably less than it took to make the thing in the first place. What marketers should concentrate on is the utility of the device.
I have a solar iPhone charger and I take it everywhere with me. In the car, on the trail, on my bike, and even out with the dogs. As I’m always on the phone, the charge runs out pretty quickly. When I’m in the middle of nowhere, there is nothing more convenient that having a solar phone charger to keep the battery topped up, or to recharge it.
That is the real benefit of having a solar iPhone charger. Not saving carbon, but allowing me to recharge my phone battery wherever I am in the world. As long as there is sunlight and network coverage, I’m golden.
Marketing is a tricky business, especially on products that aren’t in the mainstream. This utility style marketing approach would work well with other products, not just solar phone chargers. Home solar systems too. While their carbon saving can be quantified as between five and eight years of use, it’s the benefits of having and generating your own power that’s the biggest pull.
As much as we may think otherwise, most of us aren’t too worried about saving the world, reducing carbon emissions or keeping panda bears alive. We’re more interested in what the technology can do for us, what benefits it brings to us personally.
There are more than a few people out there who will be disagreeing with what I just said, but think about it for a moment. If solar technology didn’t have significant benefits for your own way of life, would you have spent the money to have it installed?
Solar phone chargers are just one example of where marketing falls down in my eyes. For example, right now, I would be marketing my solar iPhone charger at Japan, saying that even with Fukushima playing up, you could still use the phone to call your loved ones. Harsh? Sure, but realistic.
But, enough of that, back to the chargers. Having a solar iPhone charger hasn’t changed my life, isn’t going to stop global warming, and isn’t going to stop poachers killing elephants. It is making my life more convenient, and allows me to be on the road longer to learn more about solar energy and how it can be generated.
That not only benefits me, it benefits you too, because whatever I learn, I share. So while these gadgets are advertised as helping to save the world. They won’t. Much like the Toyota Prius, they take too many raw materials to wear the “green” label with a clear conscience.