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New Inventions for the Eco-Minded

by Meghan

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This past year, we’ve suffered economic catastrophe, witnessed the birth of the iPhone, capitalized on phrases like global warming, mass extinction, and terrorism, cheered an American super-swimmer to eight gold medals in Beijing, and caught glimpses of vanishing oil and automobile industries. Hollywood lost actors Heath Ledger and Paul Newman, and the United States welcomed its first African-American president to the White House. We couldn’t have squeezed much more into 2008. But somehow we did. While Warren Buffet was busy bailing Goldman Sachs out of financial turmoil and Apple was crafting the hottest gizmos since color TV, a few ordinary environmentalists were doing some inventing of their own. Here’s a list of some of the most zany green gadgets from 2008.

WIND-UP CAMERA
Who needs batteries when you can twist your camera into action? The Twist Camera, created by Australian product-design student John Rothapfel, is powered like a wind-up doll; a couple turns is all you need to bring the powerless toy to life. Simply twist the end to snap multiple photos with 5 megapixel quality. The gadget also comes with a hidden USB plug, which makes photo transfers and uploads a piece of cake. I have a feeling that digital and chemical photography will be passé before we know it.

ALL-NATURAL JACUZZI
I’ve never been a fan of the “turn off the heat, put on a sweater” school of thought. I’ve always known there has to be a way to have good, green fun while keeping warm and saving energy at the same time. Today I learned about the Dutchtub, a lightweight wood-burning Jacuzzi that you can use in your backyard, your friend’s backyard, or on a family vacation --- no electricity required! A fire pit attaches to the tub, so burning wood can crank the water up to 100 degrees in a couple hours. Now you don’t have to squint through the sliding glass doors, into your living room, to see a romantic fire while relaxing in the tub. The fire --- and perhaps even the romance --- will come to you.


KINETIC ENERGY-POWERED PHONE CHARGER
There’s no doubt iPods, iPhones, and iMacs are cool. But let’s face it, recharging them (and forgetting to unplug them after they’re juiced) isn’t. Lucky for earth-loving techies, there’s a new way to fuel your gadgets without burdening the environment. A product called Kinetic Energy fuels cell phones and iPods using --- you guessed it --- your own kinetic energy. Just strap the fashionable band around your arm or ankle, and when your cell phone dies while you’re exercising, dancing, or walking to work, simply plug your phone into the band’s connector. Australian designer Wilma van Boxtel received a “notable entry” award for her ingenious invention at the 2008 Greener Gadgets Conference in New York City.

PLASTIC-BAG BOOTS
Chilean industrial design student Camila Labra has made, I believe, the most chic boots you can buy --- from plastic bags. The flexible, light, non-toxic footwear is fashioned by fusing many layers of recycled plastic, and then quilting the inside with a cotton fabric for comfort. Even more genius: the line is named after Bangladesh’s capital, Dacca, which was notorious for its extreme use of plastic bags before 2002 (they’ve since been outlawed). For just 45 dollars a pair, you can be stylish without feeling guilty about harming animals, plants, and everything else that sacrifices its life for high fashion. http://botasdacca.blogspot.com

DIY SODA
Are you addicted to Diet Pepsi? Or bottled water shipped from Fiji? What about seltzer? And how guilty do you feel when the empty containers pile up in your pantry, until there are so many plastic bottles you’re too embarrassed to dump a bag-full at the local recycling center? If the answer is extremely guilty, have no fear. The Israeli company Sodastream makes home carbonation systems, each with 25 different soda flavors, carbonating bottles, and CO2 gas.

FLOWER POWER
Do you know how much energy your home uses throughout the day? If you don’t necessarily care to know the numbers but would like to understand whether you’re on the higher end of the energy-consumption scale, the FlowerPod is for you. It’s a digital flower, which is in full blossom if you’re energy use is moderate and wilted if you’re consuming more energy than necessary. Designed by Designnord of Denmark, the healthy looking blossom is a way to reward your family for using reasonable amounts of energy. After all, who wants to look at a shriveled flower?

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Photo credit: PC World.


According to the BBC, most people are confused by green product claims and want to know why companies mark their products as environmentally friendly. If you’re in this category of people, or if you’re simple not convinced you should buy green products, read this Greenpeace article about why greener gadgets matter. Also check out the latest Greener Products Survey results, released Jan. 8, 2009.
 

Photo credit: Ecoble.com.

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