Every Day Is Earth Day
Every day is Earth Day, hard-core environmentalists will tell you, but on the calendar it's April 22. And if you want to show some support for Mother Earth, you might as well do so without abandoning your techie principles. There's no shortage of energy-efficient, ecofriendly, or generally "green" gadgets available, but here are 15 of the coolest, weirdest, and most practical, in no particular order.
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Voltaic Generator Solar-Energy Laptop Bag
A search for green tech on Amazon turned up this 720p, 10X-optical-zoom camcorder fitted with two solar panels. Not a bad deal for $250, but fair warning: It's a no-name brand, and the product has no customer reviews on the site. It's a nice concept, at least.
Water-Powered Alarm Clock
It doesn't offer a fancy radio or iPod integration, but the $20 water-powered alarm clock should wake you up and wash away a bit of guilt. Just dump in some H2O, and you're good to go for three months, as the evaporation process powers the clock. Oddly enough, it isn't waterproof on the outside.
Bits Limited Smart Strip
Some gadgets quietly draw energy even in standby mode, but who can be bothered to unplug everything or to trigger-flip the surge protector just to save a few watts? Bits Limited's Smart Strips, starting at $30, automatically shut off several devices, like Blu-ray players or game consoles, when you turn off a master device, such as a television.
nPower Kinetic Gadget Charger
HYmini Wind Charger
Here's another gadget charger that doesn't rely on solar power. The $50 HYmini stores energy to its internal battery, which can charge MP3 players, digital cameras, and other 5V devices. Particularly cool are the optional arm band and bicycle holder; you may look a little silly wearing one of these chargers, but think of all the juice you'll generate.
PowerPlus Leopard Solar Remote
If you're the kind of couch potato who would rather stick with one channel than get up to change the remote's dead batteries, you'll appreciate the PowerPlus Leopard. Its small solar charger can even absorb ambient light, so you needn't place it in direct sunlight to juice up. The price is roughly $15.
EcoCube Cardboard Speakers
You won't find a fancy power source for the $15 EcoCube speakers--they actually draw charge from whatever device you connect to them--but they are made entirely of recycled materials. Best of all, they fold completely flat for maximum portability.
SoyPrint Soy-Ink Cartridge
So your office printer is out of toner. Now's the time to push for some soy ink as a replacement for regular, oil-based toner. SoyPrint, which sells the "green" (but actually black) ink, will even send you sustainability reports so that you can feel good about the purchase.
Battery Wizard for Alkalines
It's common knowledge that if you try recharging alkaline batteries, they'll leak corrosive material or explode. The Battery Wizard instead reconditions such batteries to make full use of the chemicals inside. Using the contraption for AAA, AA, C, or D batteries reportedly extends their life by ten times or more.
NovoThink Surge Solar iPhone Case
It seems as if every iPhone owner has a case to protect their precious device, but NovoThink Surge cases actually put the extra layer to use, gathering charge with a solar panel. You even get an app that lets you plan your solar needs based on how you use the phone.
Cyber-Rain Sprinkler Controller
Cyber-Rain may sound like a sweet name for a video game, but it's actually a way for automatic-sprinkler owners to save water. The controller coordinates with a networked PC to check local forecasts, and adjusts sprinkler schedules based on precipitation, humidity, and temperature. How long the $400 device will take to pay for itself probably depends on the size of your yard.
TED: The Energy Detective
What good is all this energy-saving gear if you can't measure how much of a difference it makes? The Energy Detective connects to your breaker panel and transfers data to a wireless transmitter connected to a wall outlet, which then sends the information to the gadgets pictured here. TED also connects with Google PowerMeter, a free Web app for tracking home energy use.
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