by Beth Buczynski: Time is quickly running out on 2012, and that means it’s time for top 10 lists! The best part about writing for a clean technology website is introducing readers to cool gadgets that make it easier to tread lightly on the planet. Of the hundreds of gadgets, gizmos, tools and toys we’ve featured this year, some are wildly futuristic while others are already available for online purchase. Some are based on little more than a neat concept, while others turn centuries of scientific knowledge on its head. Some are low tech, some are high tech, but all challenge us to buck the status quo and demand a better way.
So dear readers, here they are in no particular order. Ten of the coolest, smartest, or wackiest green gadgets we featured during the past year. Let us know which is your favorite by commenting on this post!
1. Self-filling Water Bottle
A company called NBD Nano pioneered a water bottle that can refill itself with drinkable water harvested from the air. In the novel design, the water bottle’s surface is coated with hydrophilic and hydrophobic coatings, and then a fan is used to pass air over the surface. The water condenses on the surface and, eventually, the water bottle refills itself. The design could operate using a rechargeable battery or solar cell to speed-up accumulation and filter the water.
2. Solar-Powered Water Purifier
Puralytics launched the retail version of the SolarBag, a water purification system that uses sunlight-activated nanotechnology to produce safe and sustainable fresh water. Unlike other solar-powered filtration systems we’ve featured in the past, the SolarBag does not need bright, direct sunlight to work. Even the ambient light on a cloudy day is enough to activate the nanotechnology embedded in the coated mesh insert.
3. DIY Aquaponics Kit
Thanks to the power of crowdfunding, Nikhil & Alejandro, creators of Back to the Roots mushroom growing kits, will be spreading the good news of aquaponics around the world. The simple design of this tabletop aquaponics kit allows kids and curious adults to understand exactly why these closed loop growing systems are so desirable.
4. Pee-Powered Generator
This story rocked headlines around the world: Four teenage girls from Nigeria assembled a working generator that’s capable of turning a single liter of urine into 6 hours of electricity. And it only took them two days.
5. Never-flat Bike Tire
Britek, a Colorado-based company, recently filed several patents for the “Energy Return Wheel“, an airless tire that’s said to not only eliminate flats, but also improve fuel efficiency and performance. The simple design of the home aquaponics kit allows kids and curious adults to understand exactly why these closed loop growing systems are so desirable.Instead of air, it uses rubber stretched over a series of rods to provide its cushioning. These rods can be adjusted, changing the tension of the rubber to suit different types of terrain. Think of how much waste could be prevented if this concept was perfected for larger vehicles!
6. “Waterless” Washing Machine
UK-based Xeros made a splash here in America with the debut of its “virtually waterless” washing machine that uses 90 percent less water than a conventional machine. The secret to being able to get clean clothes with less than a gallon of water is Xeros’ recyclable polymer bead technology, a revolutionary cleaning method that has been proven more effective than traditional “soap and water.”
7. A Multi-Color LED You Control With Your Phone
Simply screw the LIFX LED into a normal lamp or light fixture, download a free app from the App Store or Google Play, and you’re ready to experience complete control over your home or office lighting. The app allows you to dim the lights without getting up, change their color to suit your mood, and set night lights at the touch of a button. It also allow you to sync your home lights to your stereo system for an impromptu dance party, or set your lights to flicker when you receive an alert on your phone.
8. Tree Branch iPod Docking Station
RockAppleWood is California-based Etsy artisan who specializes in turning unwanted pieces of wood into handcrafted docking stations and speaker systems for iPhones and iPads. All of the wood used to make these unique pieces comes from reclaimed, fallen, and re-purposed wood from the Murphys, California area — a small town about an hour east of Stockton.
9. Garbage-Eating Drones
Unlike the drones that caused so much controversy in the news this year, this robot is designed to operate underwater, and instead of seeking out enemy targets, it will search for and destroy something equally sinister–ocean garbage.
10. nPower Peg
No sun? No wind? No geothermal heat source to tap into? No worries, you can still generate your own clean energy. The nPowerPEG harvests the energy we make naturally just by moving through our day. Walking, biking, running or hiking creates kinetic energy. Usually that energy is wasted, but with the PEG (Personal Energy Generator) you can capture and store it to later charge your personal electronics.