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Eco-Friendly Gadgets: Just Novelty Wind-ups? Print E-mail
Robin Forrester   
Wednesday, 29 October 2008
Eco-Friendly Gadgets: Just Novelty Wind-ups?It is estimated that only five percent of the electricity used by cell phone chargers is actually used to charge phones. The rest is just wasted while the chargers sit idle. Writing for The Guardian in 2006 consumer affairs correspondent Rebeccca Smithers reported, "It's now estimated that electricity use - through the sales boom of such items as electric toothbrushes and cordless phones - is set to double by the year 2011". So it seems we are destined to place an even bigger burden on the environment and the planet’s resources in the coming years. With this mind boggling information at hand, isn’t it time to super-charge a sales boom for eco-friendly gadgets?

How many times have you wished a gadget you use each day didn’t need to be plugged in, or your use of it restricted by the length of its cord? Or did a power cut leave you thinking you wish you could produce some of your own energy?

I would have to say I’m the ultimate gadget guy. I queued for four hours when the amazing Playstation 3 was released, I’ve flung my arms around aplenty with the Nintendo Wii and I could reel off a long list of even more gadgets I’ve patiently waited and saved for. Around my home you’ll find a plethora of gizmos sitting around looking “cool” but I still feel that sheer excitement of the next big thing around the corner meaning you can probably never have enough gadgets.

The gadget defined
A gadget can be a small device of an innovative nature with a particular function. Throw in some energy saving or alternate energy and you have an eco-friendly gadget! They’re always fun to use, but to save energy too is a pretty handy added bonus making the world of eco-friendly gadgets very appealing. Greg Walton, owner of thegreenshop, says “Changing the way we look at the world in an eco-friendly manner is the best way to educate us”, and some of today’s gadgets are doing just that. In this article we will explore how eco-friendly gadgets have evolved to lend a hand and help us live a little greener in the process.

So what are the rules of an eco-friendly gadget?
Eco-friendly gadgets have no rules but one, to be energy efficient. They come in all strange shapes and sizes, they can be crazy, whacky, inspiring and certainly ingenious at times. They come in pretty handy too, like the cute little pump-action torch powered by kinetic energy.

They’re even great fun to use, like the solar powered model planes that never really need to land – you need to see these sun-powered flying machines in action to believe them! They can also be any kind of practical device that does what it’s supposed to, but uses less or a completely different form of energy such as solar power.

You could even keep track of your energy with an electricity monitor in your home, which tells you just how much electricity you’re eating up and where. The Owl electricity monitor is an excellent example of one of these devices available and also gives you an accurate real time display of your consumption cost.

The Freeplay revolution!
We can’t pinpoint exactly where the green gadget revolution began, however the introduction of the groundbreaking Freeplay wind-up radio by Trevor Baylis in 1994
Definitely gave the movement a big kick-start. It also created a global awareness of the problems faced by so many with no access to power. This amazing radio changed the lives of countless people around developing countries by bringing education through music and talk to the masses where electricity didn’t previously exist.

When asked in an interview about what triggered such a phenemonel idea, Trevor Baylis replied, “The problem was that most of Africa didn’t have electricity and the only other form of electricity was through batteries, and where do you get them in Africa? I’m listening to some raunchy number on my wind-up gramophone with a big horn on the top, and I think, hang on, if you can get all that noise by dragging a rusty nail along a piece of paper like you’re using a spring, there’s got to be enough power in the spring to drive a small dynamo which in turn will drive a radio.”

The Sakku solution
The wind-up radio aside, you might be wondering if eco-friendly gadgets are just gimmicks and good fun. Indeed they can be great fun, but more importantly they help us save valuable energy. Let’s take the Sakku solar-powered bag for example.  I call it the brainy bag. This fantastic lightweight bag, which is readily available in South Africa, will collect the sun’s energy and use it to power up your phone, music player or other gadgets in your bag on the go! It doesn’t get easier than this, and sounds so much better than fumbling around for countless chargers when you’re already in a rush.

My garden of lights
I use my garden for winding down in the evenings and for entertaining friends after the sun goes down. My garden stays well lit during a power outage but not with a loud whirring generator hidden in the back somewhere. Just like Superman my power comes from the sun, with solar-powered lights.

Solar lights on the market now use high-powered LEDs (light emitting diodes), which are the new, space–age, tiny, super-powered and super-bright bulbs. For example a 22-watt LED will produce just as much light as a 100-watt regular light bulb while using at least two thirds less power. As if that wasn’t enough, it also costs less too and they’re fully charged in just a few hours. So now when the lights go out on your block, it doesn’t mean your evening has to end too, fantastic!

The future of eco-friendly gadgets?
So what innovative and fresh eco-friendly gadgets can we expect in the near future? One thing certain to cause a stir is the novel Shiro SQ-S MP3 player, the first player to boast a solar cell on its back offering practically unlimited playability. This is the ultimate music lover’s dream - a music player limited only by its capacity and not its power! I can guarantee this will be the first thing going inside my new Sakku bag.

How about the new Light-Energy mobile phone by HTW (currently in design stage)? Just 40 minutes in sunlight or room light will give you 25 minutes talk time! A ray of hope in a world with too many chargers!

Definitely not just a wind-up
From intelligent bags that charge our gizmos on the go, to crazy planes that never land and music players that keep playing, its obvious to see the world of eco-friendly gadgets is vast, innovative, fast paced and ever expanding. This is definitely the perfect time to start exploring the energy-saving options you could implement around your home. Challenge yourself to introduce something new into different parts of your home and know that you are part of the green gadgets revolution!

Robin Forrester is a staff writer at Harmonious Living.
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Disclaimer: Harmonious Living is written for and read by a community of individuals with strong and independent opinions. While the publishers of Harmonious Living are dedicated to providing a forum in which views can be openly expressed, those views do not necessarily reflect those of the publishers.
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