nimble : Tech for Good

They had me at “tech for good”. Doesn’t that just sound like something you should support? Technology and gadgets are not the most interesting of categories for me, but after reading about this product I really wanted to try them out. Disposing of old electronics and where they go from there is something I didn’t put much thought into. I have old ipods, blackberries, cell phones, and so on laying around, but I just shove them to the back of closets, drawers or boxes in our garage to deal with later. Our city sometimes puts on e-waste and hazardous waste disposal events which we occasionally take advantage of. However I’m not entirely convinced they do anything productive with them. I once heard that we send this type of trash to third world countries where they still end up in landfills. Given our increased use of technology and gadgets I thought this might be an important product to explore.

Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

ABOUT THE PRODUCT

Nimble (GoNimble.com) sells portable charges, wireless chargers, cables and wall chargers.  This is not the sexy side of technology but stay with me (that was my internal pep talk). And just to warn you, they have several handy images highlighting their products so this blog post will have a lot of photos. When you order yours it will feel like that Facebook friend you haven’t seen in person for years, but when you finally see them it’s like you have lunch with them everyday.

Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Nimble

According to their website, they make their products with recyclable aluminum, bio-plastics and no chemical adhesives. They also use organic hemp and recycled plastic bottles in some items and keep their packaging to a minimum with recycled materials and no plastic in their packaging. As you will read further on, the materials used in electronics create some of the most hazardous waste, damaging our environment and health. This is a very important aspect of their product that can easily be overshadowed by the next awesome thing about this company.

Nimble offers a recycling program.  When you purchase an item from them, you get a prepaid plastic bag to return one electronic item for free.  This is not your neighborhood recycling partner. They’ve partnered with Homeboy Electronics Recycling to take your e-waste.  Not only is this good for the environment and de-cluttering, it also provides jobs for people that face barriers to finding employment. More on that further on.

I ordered the 3-Day Fast Portable Charger.  If you don’t know, these kinds of portable chargers are like an extra battery you take with you to recharge your phone or other compatible devices on the go.  You charge it up at home and viola.  This can come in really handy for things like all day outings where you might be taking pictures or on your phone a lot, Disneyland, museum trips etc.  Also camping where you might not have a convenient outlet source.  In addition to my cell phone, the other primary use I have for them are my kids Kindles which often get used on long car rides only to discover we forgot to charge them.  I wish they would charge my laptop too because I’m having some battery issues with mine and it’s always running low. But it doesn’t. I am fairly illiterate when it comes to these accessories so I’m going to stick to what I purchased rather than comparing them against other portable charger options but there are lots of them out there.

Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

The Nimble 3-Day Fast Portable Charger has 10000mAh (in simple terms from someone who probably doesn’t understand it – the higher the number the more it will charge).  You want an mAh higher than your phone’s battery capacity. My Samsung has 3000 mAh (which I found in settings – about phone – battery information). They claim that this phone will charge my Android phone to 80% in 35 minutes.  And the portable charger can fully recharge my phone 4 times before I have to recharge the charger. The 3-Day charger appears to be on the medium side in terms of charge power.

Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Nimble

This particular charger has 3 outputs: one USB-C and two USB-A, which you can charge all at the same time!  That’s pretty cool.

Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Nimble
Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

USING THEM

I purchased the 3-Day Fast Portable Charger in midnight gray.  It shipped within two days and I received it 10 days after ordering it.  They communicated to me solely via text messaging so every time I’ve gone back to reference my order I keep forgetting and searching my emails.  Kind of annoying. After reaching out to them, they confirmed when I placed my order I clicked the “phone only” option. Oops. I’ve noticed they are also available on Amazon in addition to their website.

Nimble 3-Day Portable Charger. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

It’s heavier than I expected.  We received a free portable battery charger from a work event my husband went to and it’s thin and very light weight. 
With that said, we’ve never been able to reliably use the freebie. I think it drains power when not in use or something because I will charge it and then days or weeks later try to use it and it’s dead. This one comes in at a whopping 9 ounces. It also has a button you can push and it will light up showing you how much charge is left. When charging, the top light indicates regular and fast-speed charging. How incredibly handy!

Power status. Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

Both of my kids were home sick from school and spent part (ok maybe like half) of the day on their Kindles.  Both of their Kindles were low on power so I used the Nimble charger back and forth between them, and then with my own Kindle, and completely drained it.  It was very handy because normally in this circumstance they’d have to be parked next to an outlet while their Kindle charges.  This way they could sit on the sofa or in the playroom.

While I am still getting used to having this as a charging option, I can think of several people who would immediately benefit from having a portable charger. Teenagers for instance, who I’m convinced are foreshadowing technology being embedded into our bodies, and some real estate friends who are always on the go and always running low on battery. Traveling a lot for work and always looking for the outlet? No need to worry about that anymore! If you’re thinking, maybe we should just slow down and not be on our phones as much. If you can’t go a day without recharging your phone, then you need to adjust your lifestyle. As Jeff Bezos famously said “You have to always be leaning into the future. If you are leaning away from the future, the future is going to win every time, never ever ever lean away from the future.” It sort of reminds me of going from corded phones to wireless. The future is portable.

ECONOMICS

The Nimble 3-Day Fast Portable Charger is available for $39.95 on their website, or $49.95 on Amazon. I ordered mine from their website and shipping was free. They also offer free returns on their website.

ANYTHING ELSE?

Nimble is working towards B-Corp certification, which means they are deemed in the highest standards as balancing profits with social and environmental responsibility.  Reinforcing what my goals are for this blog, purchasing from B-Corp companies sends a message in the most impactful way possible that we care not only about the products themselves but how they impact the world around us.  To learn more about B-Corporations, click here.

Transparency is something many green companies try to provide to their customers. Not only does this build goodwill and helps to set them apart from the major suppliers they are competing with, it also holds them accountable for being sustainable – a term that often includes social responsibility. Nimble has on their website a list of their suppliers with names, details about employees, and what aspect of the manufacturing process they are responsible for. I tried googling the companies and couldn’t find them. I appreciate the level of transparency and hope that this information is vague enough to prevent competitors from using their sources.

WHAT PROBLEM DO THEY HELP SOLVE?

Nimble takes back a one pound electronic item with every purchase. How bad are electronics for the environment and what happens if you recycle yours? This is what I was especially interested in.

In the U.S., the average household owns 24 electronic products, things such as cell phones, video game consoles, DVD players, ROKU players, TVs, computers, printers, chargers, microwaves, bluetooth headphones, Kindles… And newer items which I have yet to embrace like robotic vacuum cleaners, electric bikes, electric scooters, drones, smart speakers, even door bells. The trend is only increasing to put computers and electronics in everything. I just purchased Christmas lights that use an app to control them. And then at the base of our electronic junk pile are all of our old items we’ve outgrown in our lifetimes, which may be in the landfill or perhaps sitting somewhere in your garage, including iPods, digital cameras, VCRs (we actually still have one in our garage), pagers, fax machines, walkmans, tape recorders, stereos. That’s a lot of junk with a lot of circuits and batteries and metal and stuff.


Photo Credit: Chien-Min Chung, obtained via Time article.

A lot of junk not to be recycled. Reports suggest global recycling rates around 20% for electronics. The items that don’t get recycled end up in landfills or incinerators. According to the UN, in 2016 there was an estimated value of $55 billion in the gold, silver, copper, platinum, palladium and materials that are not being recovered in electronic goods. Because they end up in landfills. Although electronics make up a small portion of the total landfill, it makes up “70% of toxic waste found there.” Dangerous chemicals, such as lead and mercury, leach into the ground and eventually the groundwater. The World Health Organization has estimated that 1.7 million children die each year due to polluted environments. “One of the emerging environmental threats to children is electronic and electrical waste.” In addition to air and groundwater pollution, these chemicals can make their way into the food supply chain. In the U.S. only 25 states have laws requiring electronic recycling. Want to find out if your state is one of them? Click here.

Photo Credit: Chien-Min Chung, obtained via Time article.

So these components are valuable. And they’re also damaging for the environment. What happens if they do get recycled? Some companies who take electronics will refurbish them and resell them. More and more manufacturers are allowing this to happen and even designing products from the beginning to make it easier to break them apart. If they can’t be refurbished, they get sent elsewhere. You may have heard recently that China has stopped taking our trash. Wait, hold the phone! We ship our trash to China!?? It seems the majority of our e-waste gets shipped off to third world countries where it is cheaper to extract the precious metals. And it’s actually cheaper to get them from shredded old products than to extract them from the earth. Which is promising given that we have the opposite problem with plastic! Right!?

Our top export to China up until the ban was trash. They ship us cheap plastic goods for full price, we ship it back to them, used and for pennies, and then they remake it and ship it back to us at a premium. Over and over. But now that China has stopped taking it due to health and environmental concerns, most of our trash now ends up in other Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand and Vietnam. The problem with that is these smaller countries have more lax environmental laws and no infrastructure to manage it. Workers are exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes, using acid and coal to break down the components. And now some of these countries are already maxed out with how much trash they can take.

Photo Credit: Basil Action Network

So how do Nimble’s products help to solve this problem? First, they use sustainable materials to create their products. This is really critical because most electronic products contain dozens, if not, hundreds, of various metals, components, plastics, adhesives etc. It can be very time consuming to dismantle products in order to remove toxic parts inside. Many recyclers will put the entire piece in the shredder without bothering to take them apart. With Nimble’s products if a processor doesn’t break them apart, at least the chemicals released will not be deadly for workers. As with many green products, responsible and thoughtful design can make all the difference with the end-of-life process.

Photo Credit: Kimberly Offenberg

Second, they have incorporated into their business model sending your old electronics to be refurbished and recycled to Homeboy Electronics Recycling. Located in Los Angeles, Homeboy provides jobs to individuals who face barriers getting jobs. They take anything you want to give them, including confidential information that gets destroyed securely. Our city and Goodwill do not offer those options as far as I could tell. They have a ton of certifications, mostly notably are B-Corp and R2, the leading standard for responsible recycling. Compared with most other processors, they do not ship products or components overseas, aside from circuit breakers which go to a responsible processor in Japan. They partner with hospitals, universities, private businesses, Fortune 500 corporations and more to process their electronics, manage data destruction and IT asset recovery. They have a partnership with HP where they have turned 18,000 tones of recycled plastic into new products. They will also take items from individuals.

There are other recycling options including through some cities, Goodwill, and even manufacturers who have recycling and take back options, although I don’t think many of these are well publicized. After reaching out to my city about our recycling program I found out we contract with Electronics Recyclers International, Inc which, according to their website, responsibly recycles e-waste without sending it overseas or to landfills.

DO I RECOMMEND THEM?

Even though I’m still getting used to using a portable charger, I think they are so handy. I would recommend Nimble for your portable charging needs. I found the company very responsive, and their thoughtful design and care for the environmental is the way of the future. Voting with our wallets is the best thing we can do as consumers to let the market know this is important to us. If you are interested in purchasing, you can use my link to receive a discount through their website: http://nimble.refr.cc/buyingmywaytogreen

But before I go, I want to get on a soap box for a minute because I am so impressed with both Nimble and Homeboy Electronics Recycling, not only for what they are doing for the environment but what they are doing for people. Nimble could make these chargers from responsible materials and move on. But they don’t. They take it one step further. They make their customers aware of the problem of e-waste in a way that doesn’t shame them but helps them feel good about purchasing their products. How many other companies or products can you say that about? Many major manufacturers are doing good things with their products but they’re not really marketing that or letting their customers know about those options. And not only can you feel good about your smaller environmental footprint, you can feel good about how you’re helping people. However you feel about our criminal justice system, there is no denying that once people are released from jail they are expected to become responsible citizens and the way to do that is through employment. Homeboy specifically hires those individuals and I just think that is amazing and incredibly inspiring. This is a win win win product.

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