A few days ago, I came into the office trailing sand and mud behind me. The floor beneath my desk often looks like a mud pit, only there aren’t girls wrestling in it. But on my desk was a big, glossy black box, shining amid my filth. “Goal Zero VIP,” it read in gold letters. I wanted to wash my hands before opening it, lest I sully the contents inside. I didn’t even know what was in it. It’s pretty rare for me to be a VIP (because I trail sand and mud behind me), so I didn’t want to screw it up.
So with still-damp and freshly washed hands, I opened my box. Inside lay a black canvas thing, folded up with Goal Zero emblazoned on the front, and beside it sat a little box with the same logo. The little box was a pair speakers, and the black canvas thing was a solar panel.
Here’s the cool thing: on the back of the solar panel was a little junction box with a USB port, a 12-volt plugin, and something called a “guide 10.” I still don’t know what the guide 10 is for, but it plugs into something. There was also a little silver tube inside the box. It was all very futuristic. The silver tube turned out to be a rechargeable battery with a USB plugin on the bottom.
So here’s what this thing does. For every time you’ve been to the beach, been up a mountain, or generally been somewhere that’s not under a roof, you could have been listening music, charging your phone, or using whatever it is that “guide 10” would be charging. It’s probably something awesome, and I’m totally missing out.
Solar is where it’s at, power-wise. There’s this giant ball of energy burning away up the heavens all day, every day, and for the most part, we sit here getting tanned underneath it, digging giant holes in the ground to pull and blocking rivers to fuel our incredible hunger for energy. For such a smart species, we’re pretty dumb a lot of the time.
But for anyone who likes adventure, this thing is pretty great. Although there is a lot to be said for unplugging and getting away, there is just as much to be said for the freedom that “Powering Anything, Anywhere” can give you. Strap a solar panel to your backpack, head out into the wild unknown, then call your boss from your freshly charged iPhone and organize a conference call. Then you’re the cool guy on a conference call from the top of a mountain, drinking out of a waterfall. The suits will be jealous when they drink from the water cooler.
For me, I brought it to the beach where I collect my sand and mud. I lay out in the sun all day, burning myself into a charred mess, and my music kept playing for the entire time. The same thing that was turning me into an almost purple shade of red was powering The Boss.
Goal Zero’s also got a pretty incredible upbringing, too. Back in the spring of 2007, the founder, Robert Workman took a trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He realized that helping only actually helped if he taught people how to help themselves. By the next year, he had the first portable solar power pack tested in DRC — originally called GoBe, now the Goal Zero Yeti 150 — it consisted of a battery, solar panel and LED light. This simple system brought light, safety and economic empowerment to villagers.
In recent years, they’ve been at ground zero for a lot of major disasters: passing out power sources in Haiti after their devastating earthquake and donating hundreds of lighting kits and solar panels to stricken Japanese families after the tsunami. They sent over a half a million dollars worth of portable power, solar panels and lights to those living in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.
So I got this cool, shiny black box. Inside it was a tiny thing that holds the sun’s energy. Now that’s power.