By Caitlin Vandewater
From a young age, we are taught to turn off the faucet while brushing our teeth and to shut off the lights when we leave a room. Our parents make it a game of sorts, telling us we are helping the environment, and secretly their wallets. It’s these first lessons from childhood that plant the seeds for environmentally conscious adults.
Nowadays going green can sometimes be a little more daunting, especially since our dependency on electricity and technology has increased over the past few decades. Thankfully, there is a growing market of devices that reduce our impact on the environment, but still enhance our use of technology. Here’s a list of 10 gadgets and products that will keep you connected without increasing your carbon footprint.
Harness the Power of Bamboo with this Electricity Free iPhone Speaker
iBamboo iPhone Speaker
Searching for a 100 percent eco-friendly speaker system for your iPhone? Look no further than the iBamboo speakers. Made of a foot-long shoot of bamboo, this simple speaker system for the iPhone 4/4S is plain in design and easy to manufacture. A marriage of a high-tech gadget and simple product of nature, it uses the natural resonance of the bamboo to amplify the sound produced by an iPhone’s built-in speakers and requires no external electricity. Due to its simplicity, a product like this is often cast aside in the constant search for the perfect set of speakers. If you are looking for something a little more edgy and sleek, there is a companion product called the iBamboo Urban, which is currently a prototype. The new version is made out of recycled plastics and will be available in both a clear and solid black finish. The iBamboo Speaker is available on iBambooSpeaker.com for $25-30.
Keep Your Gadgets Charged when You’re Off-the-Grid with a Solar Powered External Battery
Sunbox USB Renewable Energy Storage
For those of us who want to save energy without completely disconnecting our phones and iPods, the Sun Box USB provides buyers with an energy efficient alternative to charging our favorite products. Perfect for camping or at home, this product features a self-regulated solar panel that charges the USB box anytime it senses sunlight, no matter how strong or dull the beams are. The kit comes with a waterproof solar panel, rechargeable AA battery pack, two USB ports for charging USB devices and an evening light. The internal battery fully charges in 6-8 hours under direct sunlight, and the USB power unit contains an over-charging and discharging protection control system. This product is also a perfect energy alternative in emergency situations, as you only need the power of the sun to keep your gadgets charged. The Sun Box USB is available on BuyGreen.com for $78.
Green your Workspace with a Bamboo Bluetooth Keyboard
iZen Bamboo Keyboard
Although on the pricey side, the iZen keyboard for the iPad, Mac, or Windows PC is just about as eco-friendly as a keyboard can get, while still harboring the technological specs we crave. Like the iBamboo speakers, this product capitalizes on an abundant natural material, and helps to reduce the carbon footprint of the user. It is made out of 92 percent bamboo, is renewable and recyclable. Every keyboard is unique in that the bamboo grains and colors vary, making it a beautiful and natural addition to any home office or electronic arsenal. As for technical aspects, this product is compatible with iPads, iPhones, Macs and smartphones as well as many other Bluetooth-enabled devices. It runs on a lithium ion battery and charges with the same cable as an iPhone or iPad. The iZen keyboard is available on iZenBamboo.com for $99.
Rechargeable AA Batteries Receive a Much Needed Update
USB Cell Rechargeable AA Batteries
Believe it or not, rechargeable batteries have been around since the dawn of the 20th century, and the USB Cell adds a new battery type to the arsenal of reusable batteries. Like Energizer’s popular rechargeable batteries, this product is a nickel-metal hydride battery. It is perfect for people who are looking for reusable batteries, but without all of the extra gear of chargers and power cords. The battery plugs into any available USB port and charges. The only downside to the product is that it takes about five hours to reach 90 percent—but considering most of the USB ports in our lives are on computers, it could easily be charged while sitting at work, aimlessly browsing Facebook or incessantly watching funny videos on YouTube. The USB Cell batteries come in a pack of two and are available on Amazon.com for $15.
Charge your USB Gadgets with the Heat Generated from Cooking
The PowerPot USB Device Charger
Have you ever wanted to brew a fresh cup of tea and charge your cell phone at the same time, while in the woods, and without electricity? Thanks to the PowerPot you can do just that. Like the Sun Box, the PowerPot takes natural energy, heat, and converts it into electrical power, enabling you to power your gadgets while roughing it in the woods or at home when the power goes out. All you need is something to alter the interior temperature of the PowerPot — warm or cold — in order for it to produce electricity. Although this product would be handy for recreational use in the U.S., its creators have bigger plans for it, mainly providing electricity to individuals in developing countries that have little to no electricity. The PowerPot retails for $149 and is available on ThePowerPot.com.
A Biodegradable Umbrella Keeps You Dry and the Environment Safe
Totes Eco Friendly Fabric Umbrella
Umbrellas have been around for centuries, but rarely can you find one that is a decent price and made out of recycled materials. Other 100 percent biodegradable umbrellas or parasols can go for up to $84. For under $30, Totes features a line of durable umbrellas made from at least 70 percent recycled material. This product is available exclusively online and is sure to keep you and your precious smartphone dry on a rainy day. Now you can roam the streets on a gloomy day and feel good about covering up without worrying if your umbrella is made out of materials harmful to the environment. The umbrella is available for $24.99 at Target.com.
Coasters that are Stylish, Simple, and Green
Of the products featured on this list, this is just about the greenest of them all. It’s not because of its environmental impact, but because it is the waste product of a waste product. These coasters were a happy accident by Josh Jakus, a product designer from California, who designs bags made out of excess factory wool. Each of these coasters is a leftover cutout from one of those bags. Obviously, coasters are a relatively simple idea, but right out of packaging, these coasters have a cool aesthetic quality to them. They are strung together with a thick piece of thread, which you cut to separate the coasters from one another. However, no one says you have to necessarily separate them. These coasters can work as a weird, nifty centerpiece on a coffee table. Dots are always cool design elements, no matter the color or material. The Cut-Coasters are available for $5 on OliveandMyrtle.com.
Forget the Batteries and Power Plugs, this Alarm Clock Runs on Water
The Bedol Drop Water Powered Alarm Clock
Forget the batteries and power cords, this alarm clock needs nothing but a little water to wake you up in the morning. With a patented water-drop design, this clock runs on tap water, converting ions in the water into energy. It can run for six months at a time on a single filling, and features a built-in memory chip that remembers the time so you can avoid resetting it. Bedol sells six variations of the water clock, ranging from $19-39. The Drop Alarm Clock is available in five different colors for $29 on BedolWhatsNext.com.
A Tiny Solar Powered Lamp that Solves a Big Problem
Little Sun Solar Light
Designed by Olafur Eliasson, an Icelandic-Danish installation artist, this solar powered, portable light was invented to change the way we look at light and energy. For every four hours the Little Sun is exposed to direct sunlight, five hours of light is produced. Like the Sun Box, this product is meant to be used at off-grid locations and is aimed at bringing power to people without electricity. The creators of this product hope to replace the kerosene lamps and lanterns typically used by people without electricity, increasing their abilities to read, work and gain an education. This product is $25 plus shipping and available on LittleSun.com.
Always in Tune and Never a Dead Battery
TASCAM TC-1S Solar Powered Tuner
As if this list did not have enough solar powered items, the final product we present is sure to please any aspiring rock star. The TASCAM TC-1S Solar Powered Tuner is a chromatic tuner that has a built-in microphone and instrument/microphone input. Unlike the other solar powered products on this list, this product can also be charged through a USB connection if you are completely in the dark. With an LCD display and a convenient carabineer, it is easily portable and always on hand when you are ready to rock out in tune. The tuner is available in colors black, pink, white, orange, green and blue for $24.99 on MusiciansFriend.com.