by Anna Stewart: It is commonly thought that creating an eco-friendly home or operating on clean tech is a task for the 1%…
Solar panel installations, solar water heaters and geothermal heat pumps are all revolutionary energy saving investments that will ultimately give you a huge return on your monthly energy bill and certainly deserve recognition. But, if you’re looking to start with minor adjustments in your daily life in order to go green or may not be able to afford those large investments, here are some of the most reasonable and innovative gadgets in green technology currently on the market!
Helios Smart by SolPro: Helios Smart is a solar-powered smart charger. The compact battery is small enough to hold in your hand and has three fold out panels that when left in direct sunlight for 90 minutes will have enough battery to charge your smartphone fully. It has two different USB ports to charge multiple devices at one time such as smartphones or tablets, and one microUSB port so you can charge your devices even when the sun isn’t shining. Many people aren’t aware that using wall outlets to charge devices can be a waste of energy because the voltage from the outlet has to be converted to match the voltage of the battery and can take 15% more energy. Helios eliminates this conversion with the “pass through” technology. This gadget is perfect for those adventurous souls who are constantly off the grid but need to stay safe and connected, or for a business person looking to charge their phone at a cafe on their lunch break.
Eco ATM: The EcoATM is a kiosk found in local supermarkets and malls, similar to a Coinstar or your regular old ATM. This machine allows you to responsibly recycle your old electronic devices and instantly receive hard cash. You can start by going to the EcoATM website and entering your zip code to find the kiosk closest to you. You can even get a price quote for your device before you venture out to the store so you know what to expect. EcoATM additionally pays the top market price for the devices, including those with minor external damages. Electronic recycling is essential to keeping harmful minerals, such as mercury and cadmium, out of our landfills. These devices can be disassembled and many of the parts reused, or the phones can be resold totally intact to new users.
The Jane Goodall Institute partners with Eco-Cell, another company that offers buybacks and recycling for used electronics. Dr. Jane firmly emphasizes the importance of recycling since doing so decreases the demand for minerals such as coltan that are used in manufacturing cell phones and are often mined illegally throughout chimpanzee habit. Eco-Cell provides you with a UPS shipping label and you simply ship your used electronics to the address listed on their website. Once the phones arrive at Eco-Cell, the reuse\resale value is assessed. If the phones can be resold, they do so and pass as much money back to you as possible. If the electronics are past their prime, they recycle them properly and pay you their recycling value.
Since the electricity produced in your home can be traced back to power plants that most often run on coal (one of the most detrimental forms of fuel) any actions one can take to reduce their electricity use in the home is a great reduction in carbon footprint.
Nest Learning Thermostat: Marketed as the next generation in heating technology, this thermostat learns the temperatures you like in your daily schedule after about a week of use, and then programs itself accordingly. To cut costs, it also automatically turns down usage when nobody is home. And to really ensure that you are aware of your environmental contribution, the Nest Thermostat has a green leaf icon that is illuminated when you choose a temperature that saves energy!
Smart Power strips: It is quite frustrating to know that even if you manage to remember to turn off all of the lights in your house before you leave for the day, there are gadgets in every room that are quietly still sucking up energy. That standby light that you often see on appliances when they are not in use but still plugged in means that appliance is still taking in energy in case it needs to boot up, which people have comically termed “vampire power drainage”. Traditional power strips exacerbate this problem by providing a strip of outlets that many people just leave their appliances plugged into all the time. Smart Power strips eliminate this issue by cutting off the power supply to all devices that are in standby mode. This can save you an average of 5 to 10% on your household energy consumption, and save you the trouble of always having to remember to unplug each device in your house.
Nellie’s recyclable dryer balls: Conventional dryer sheets are a one-and-done product, and when used with every load of laundry, that can quickly add up to a lot of non-recyclable waste. Aside from the environmental harm, these sheets can also cause harm to your own body. Dryer sheets are made of fabric softening and fragrance enhancing chemicals, many of which are classified as carcinogens (cancer inducing agents). When these chemicals get onto your clothes, they are absorbed directly into your skin and can cause significant neurological or tissue damage. Nellie’s recyclable dryer balls are a great alternative because they don’t contain harmful chemicals, they are guaranteed to last up to two years, and they actually have faster drying times so that cuts down on energy consumption as well.
LED light bulbs: Many people might be under the assumption that light bulbs that use less energy would be dimmer. But in reality, LED lights satisfy both standards, by being brighter and more energy efficient. LED lights convert 95% of the inputted energy into light and only 5% to heat, in comparison with traditional light bulbs which convert 5% to light and 95% to heat. They draw less power (fewer watts) for the same amount of light, and they may even look brighter because they focus light beams in one direction instead of wasting light by emitting a wide beam in all directions. LED lights are free of the toxic chemicals, such as mercury, contained in many of the fluorescent strip lights use in offices that later find their way into landfills and get absorbed into the soil. Since they are brighter, rooms require fewer light bulbs to be illuminated, which saves you money on your electricity bill. And finally, they last six times longer than traditional lights, which cuts down on manufacturing.
All of the products on this list contribute in someway to reducing a person’s overall carbon footprint, the total amount of greenhouse gases (such as CO2) produced to directly and indirectly support human activities. CO2 is released when you drive a car, when you heat your house, or when you power your appliances using electricity. Electricity production generates the largest portion of greenhouse emissions in the United States, with approximately 67% of electricity coming from the burning of fossil fuels. These six products will help you greatly reduce your energy consumption.