Living green isn’t just about turning the water off when you are brushing your teeth or using reusable cloth grocery bags. Rather, a green mindset should permeate every part of your existence – technology included. The good news being that there are several ways to easily apply an eco-conscious mindset to your electronic extracurriculars, with recycling old gear just the beginning. Best of all, the following tips and products won’t just you help you feel good about using technology and do more for the environment: They’ll also save you money, making every day that much greener on every front.
Buy Used/Refurbished Gadgets and Equipment
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, as they say. Buying used gear and gadgets – now a perfectly viable and cost-effective solution – means you are reducing the amount of new gear produced and sold, while also extending the life of the gadget or component you are purchasing. Just make sure to read the fine print: Some used equipment won’t carry warranties or be able to be returned.
Look for EPEAT or Energy Star Ratings
Many products nos carry EPEAT (Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool) and Energy Star ratings for a reason: To help consumers like you make smarter, more environmentally-friendly purchasing decisions. EPEAT specializes in computers, laptops, and monitors, providing performance criteria for EPEAT-certified products. For a list of manufacturers who follow EPEAT guidelines, click here. Energy Star, on the other hand, is a government-supported program that provides energy-efficiency ratings on everything from home appliances to TVs.
Prevent Phantom Power Drain
Did you know that when you turn off your bedside lamp, it’s still draining power from the electrical outlet? In an ideal world, anything with an on or off switch would be unplugged when not in use. Of course, this is extremely impractical, especially for those hard-to-reach outlets behind furniture.
There are solutions, however, such a smart power strips that sense when your electronics are in a dormant state and shut them off or report how much power they are drawing even when plugged in. See Wattstopper and Kill-A-Watt. Also check out GreenSwitch, which will cut power (say, at night) to all or selected devices plugged into outlets in your entire home, saving energy and money while reducing your carbon footprint. According to GreenSwitch, you can save an impressive 20% on energy usage with the product.
Charge Electrical Devices Wisely
How many times have you plugged in your iPhone, only to leave it plugged in for hours? Doing so longer than necessary is wasteful. Start by keeping an eye on charge levels, or even timing your charges. Also, if your gadget or device isn’t chargeable, buy chargeable Lithium Ion batteries for it instead of throwaway alkaline ones.
You can also use renewable energy to charge some gear and gadgets. We’ve previously covered solar charger products like the Solio Magnesium Edition, but there are also chargers that harness the power of wind like the HYmini and Gotwind to consider. Gotwind also makes a wearable Orange Dance Charger that converts kinetic energy from your sweet moves into charge. According to the company, an hour’s worth of dancing will give a Nokia phone enough charge for 15 minutes of talk time – funky stuff.
And speaking of kinetic energy, if you’re really diehard about a green lifestyle, you can even find products powered by renewable energy sources alone. Sanyo is developing a pedometer that charges itself through your movement. Meanwhile, Sony’s ODO camera lets you take one snapshot for ever 15 seconds you roll it on its unique head. Granted, the experience is pretty old-school, as there is no LCD to view images on: You’ll have to wait to see pictures when you download them to your computer. Practical? Maybe not. But you’ll never have to charge your camera again!
We’ve also seen a concept for a Bamboo phone that charges when you hand crank it and is made out of totally biodegradable materials. In fact, if you toss the phone into your compost pile, bamboo seeds implanted in the phone will eventually sprout into new plants. How’s that for eco-friendly?
Buy Recycled Accessories and Carrying Cases
Of course, the realm of technology is not limited to electronics alone. You’ll need carrying or storage accessories at some point, like a good camera bag. For example, you can buy the green way with products like Lowepro’s new Terraclime camera bags ($20-$80), which are made from 95% recycled materials. The series is a refreshing departure from standard black camera backs with an urban vibe and available in a bunch of cool colors. Even the plastic features are recycled from unused scraps from the Lowepro factory floor. Better yet, a portion of proceeds also go to Polar Bears International, an organization that helps save polar bear habitats from the impacts of climate change.
Lowepro Terraclime Camera Bags