Saving the planet, the easy way

Gadgets, new investors and a political shift to make being environmentally friendly easier

Environmentalists have been urging consumers for decades to wake up to impending disaster and change their buying, driving and living habits to reduce pollution, cut energy consumption and help reverse global warming.

Traditionally, taking personal action to protect the environment involved inconvenience: recycling trash, riding a bike to work, carpooling.

Researchers working on environmentally friendly innovations have been more than inconvenienced. Innovative start-ups with environmentally friendly products used to beg unsuccessfully for venture capital crumbs and government investment.

Pro-environment has often meant "antibusiness" in some political circles, so politicians pushing environmentally friendly policies have had difficulty getting elected.

Helping the environment has been hard for everyone. But thanks to three quiet "revolutions," it's about to get a lot easier.

The gadget revolution

A new generation of green products appeals to the selfish, the lazy, the materialistic and the status-obsessed. New green gadgets don't require inconvenience on the part of the user. And that's why they could really make a difference.

A solar-powered wireless keyboard called the Genius SlimStar 820 gets its power from light. The SlimStar 820 comes with a wireless mouse that isn't solar-powered but still uses very little power. The mouse's batteries need to be changed less often than once per year, compared to every few months, as is the case with most wireless mice. The Genius SlimStar 820 is easier to own than conventional wireless keyboard/mice combinations.

Rechargeable batteries have been around for ages but have been widely rejected by consumers in favor of disposable batteries in part because of inconvenience. Who needs yet another charger? London-based Moixa Energy Holdings Ltd. recently unveiled a line of batteries with built-in USB connectors. By turning every PC into a battery charger, the company makes rechargeable batteries even more convenient than disposable ones because you don't have to keep going to the store to buy new ones. They're cheaper too, paying for themselves over time.

ScottEVest makes a range of solar-powered jackets, including the Tactical 4.0, a waterproof jacket with lots of pockets and detachable solar panels for charging cell phones and iPods. Instead of having to remember to charge your devices once you're at home, you can charge them all the time as you're walking around.

A company called DigitalXtractions makes and sells an outdoor webcam called the SCIRC t1. The camera gets its power from the sun and connects to the Internet using built-in cell phone electronics. It eliminates the chore of getting electricity and Internet connectivity to outdoor cams.

A new, self-contained headphone radio has solar panels on top that charge the batteries. If you prefer earbuds, you can buy an inexpensive (US$17) solar-powered radio with the panel on the radio. No more swapping batteries or charging. These radios have power all the time without action required of the user.

These products are just a small sampling of the green convenience gadgets available today. But several organizations, including Germany's Fraunhofer Institute and Japan's NTT DoCoMo have already demonstrated prototypes of the Holy Grail of green gadgets: The solar-powered cell phone. Google co-founder Sergey Brin already uses a solar-powered cell phone, according to a report in the Times of London, although details on it are not publicly available.

The all-in-one gadget of the future will be a media-playing camera phone that charges itself using whatever light is available. The addition of solar power technology will extend "talk" and "standby" times in the worst case, and eliminate charging altogether in the best case. Solar phones will be popular mainly because they'll be far more convenient.

Current generation hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius and Honda hybrids, are extremely popular in the U.S. in part because they're cheaper and easier to own than comparable nonhybrid cars (fewer trips to the pump).

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Mike Elgan

Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Kurt Hegetschweiler

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

It’s perfect for mobile workers. Just take it out — it’s small enough to sit anywhere — turn it on, load a sheet of paper, and start printing.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?