Batteries are one of those little things that really add up. With about 3 billion dumped each year, the lead, cadmium, mercury, and other heavy metals in household batteries can be a bummer for our soil and water quality. To take just one example, more cadmium in landfills comes from batteries than any other source. The solution? Recycling, of course. Here's how:
Rechargeable batteries (e.g. nickel-cadmium and lithium-ion) can get their juice rejuvenated hundreds of times, but eventually they too wear out. Click over to the Rechargeable Battery Recycling Corporation or call their hotline at 1-800-8-BATTERY to find out where you can drop rechargeables off for recycling.
Standard household (e.g. alkaline and zinc-carbon) batteries are recyclable too, although they can be harder to find a home for. My local hardware store takes them, and yours may too. Check earth911.org or call 1-800-CLEANUP for a location near you. If you go through a lot of batteries, it might be worth enlisting a company like Battery Solutions or the Big Green Box that will recycle them for a fee.
The bottom line: Think carefully before buying new battery-powered gadgets (do you really need them?) and be sure to recycle all kinds of batteries. Solar chargers can be great alternatives for small accessories like cell phones and iPods--they even come in backpack or beach bag form.