Greener Gadgets: Bright Ideas for a More Efficient Tech Experience

From a printer that uses coffee grounds for ink to solar-powered window blinds, the entries in this Greener Gadget contest show you can have your tech and a conscience too.

Innovative Green Tech Designs

Everyone wants to save the earth but some creative thinkers are trying harder than the rest of us. Here are some of our favorites from the 50 entries in the 2009 Greener Gadgets Design Competition, which was sponsored by the Consumer Electronics Association, the parent organization of the the giant annual gadgetathon known as the Consumer Electronics Show, as well as design resource site Core77, among others.

Some of the designs are useful, some more fanciful, but every one has Mother Earth and your energy bills at heart. The list of winners will be available on the Greener Gadgets site starting on March 2. Note: None of these products are yet on the market.

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Riti Printer: You're Not the Only Thing That's Coffee Powered

The Riti Printer solves the problem of costly ink cartridges, the difficulty to replace them, and finally gives you something to do with coffee and tea dregs. This clever printer is completely powered by the user moving the ink cartridge--packed with breakfast recyclables--by hand, from left to right until the paper has moved through the printer. This small printer is probably best for printing things like a letter to Aunt Trudy in Nebraska, not important business documents, but it is still an idea to be admired. Could be dangerous to use after six expressos, however.

Recompute: How About This Environmental PC Rig?

This is a weird one, but it makes a valid statement about e-recycling: Recompute is a working computer that houses completely used parts in a corrugated cardboard box. It makes us all aware of how we should be recycling more, and is designed to allow the user to take full advantage of existing hardware. Who needs that netbook now?

Move Your Energy: The Green Techie's Rocking Chair

You can only read for as long as you can rock on Move Your Energy, a rocking shell chair that comes complete with a user-powered LED reading lamp. The lamp is powered by a special kinematic mechanism that works together with a lever that runs a fly-wheel disk as you rock. Leaning towards the silly side, Move Your Energy looks like it would get old fast, like those self-powered flashlights from the 1990s.

Blight: Solar Powered Window Blinds

In this era where everyone’s searching for innovative ways to harness the sun’s energy, the makers of Blight, a solar venetian blind, deserve some recognition. This solar blind takes power from the sun during the day and gives it back to you at night by transforming into a light. No power cables are needed, and the sleek design is eye-catching. The revolving blades follow the sun throughout the day, allowing for maximum solar exposure.

Lightimus: Light Up the Night With Style

Lightimus is an hourglass-shaped decorative light that has solar panels on one side and a set of LED light bulbs on the other. Similar to Blight, its competition in the Green Gadget contest shown in slide 5, Lightimus captures solar energy during the day and supplies light during the night. Lightimus boasts stylishness and portability. When charged, Lightimus stays illuminated for around 8 hours. In the morning, simply turn the hourglass over so it can continue its charging cycle and prepare again for lighting the dark hours.

The Laundry Pod: Wash Your Clothes With No Electricity

The Laundry Pod is essentially a large salad spinner for the clothes you need to wash, but don’t want to waste energy on in your main clothes washing machine. This hand powered washing machine has simple instructions and might even give you an arm workout as you pump the hand lever to activate the wash cycle. Where it might not save you time, the Laundry Pod will save you money and trips to the coin laundry--that is if all you need to wash is socks.

Bware: How Much Water Are You Using?

Bware could make us all extra conscious of how much water we waste while brushing our teeth on a daily basis, by way of a small water meter. Every time the faucet is turned on, it displays how much water was used on an easy-to-read digital screen. The ultimate purpose of Bware is to encourage everyone to use a little less water every time. The meter comes with Wi-Fi connection and log software, making it easier to trace water usage.

Blister Radio: Fun with Sun Power

Blister Radio has an uncomfortable name, but a very inviting design. It’s made out of PLA, biodegradable, thermoplastic, aliphatic polyester derived from renewable resources like cornstarch. And, you guessed it, this radio has a solar powered battery pack.

Dry Your Clothes in Your Living Room--For Free!

The Indoor Drying Rack offers an end to the awkward public display of undergarments on the clothesline. It also offers a solution to the 2nd largest energy consumer in your home: your clothes dryer. This rack is made of bamboo laminate and recycled aluminum. It’s easy to recycle, and the bamboo resists mold and mildew. Similar to ironing boards in old houses, the drying rack folds up against the wall when not in use.

Power Hog: The Energy Meter's Running, Kids

Power-Hog will not end global warming, but it does make an attempt at familiarizing kids with the cost of running energy using devices, like video games and computers. It takes loose change (or allowance) and a red light blinks when time is running out. Plenty of people, presumably parents, think Power-Hog is a great idea for metering energy use. Still, it seems more like a novel parenting tool than a product that will genuinely benefit the green movement.

Ubicycle: Biking May Finally Go Mainstream

For those who don’t own their own bike, ubicycle is a system that has been dreamed up to encourage the public to commute to work and school by bicycle. The ubicycle system would ultimately be based around a universal card access program, allowing those with cards to check out a bicycle at centers for public transit, like a bus stop or a train station. This could make the switch to biking to public transit instead of driving it more appealing and convenient for commuters.

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