In each issue of
Popular Science, our renowned What’s New section keeps you up to date with the most innovative consumer products currently on the market. Here on PopSci.com, we bring you a special expanded and eco-conscious edition of “The Goods.”
Helping the environment shouldn’t always demand a sacrifice. Click “View Photos” at left to launch the gallery and see our picks for the computers, phones and even barbecues that will ease your conscience in style.
Unnecessarily boiling extra water each time you brew a cup? Fill this electric kettle up, select what fraction of it you want boiled, and presto–35 seconds later, a steaming cup of H2O is yours. Meanwhile, the remaining water stays as fresh and oxygenated as the moment it sprung forth from your tap.
Eco Kettle $70;
Dell’s slim D630 was created with an e-ecoconsciousness. Not only is it the only laptop to gain gold status from the Electronic Product Environmental Assessment Tool, but everything from its packaging to its longevity has been greened out. An Intel core duo processor, great battery life and extras like a fingerprint scanner ensure that the word “sacrifice” never has to cross your mind. ** Dell Latitude D630 From $850;
Sometimes sharing really is good for you. Installed outdoors, each of these weatherproof Wi-Fi repeaters extends a broadcast signal up to 700 feet–use more than one for a wireless mesh system to expand the signal range. A solar accessory kit means no electrical source is needed to pump sweet high-speed Internet to an entire building, or even neighborhood.
Meraki Outdoor $100 plus solar lit (price not set);
For maximum impact, you really can’t beat trading your car/bus/motorcycle in for a bike. This bike has all the makings of a smooth commute: an aluminum frame, 27 speeds, reflective tires and a custom rack. Its on-board generator-light system will keep you riding after twilight. Your pedaling spins a dynamo and fuels a capacitor, which keeps front and rear lights burning even when you’re at a standstill.
If you’re energy-conscious enough to abandon the AC for a fan this summer, you might as well have one that gets the job done. Using an aerofoil shape, the single blade of this ceiling fan pulls cool air in better than your average three- or four-blader, with a fraction of the noise and electricity expenditure.
Sycamore Fan (available soon, price not set);
If washing by hand isn’t exactly an option but your kitchen is wanting in space, check out the DishDrawer. About half the size of an ordinary dishwasher, multiple drawers can be stacked on top of one another, but each is independently operated so that small loads can be cleaned with minimal waste.
Sure, winter is a way off, but it’s never too soon to begin preparing–especially when you’re talking about a hot tub. With no plumbing or electricity involved, this wood-fueled hot tub might look disconcertingly cannibal-kettlish at first glance, something you’re bound to forget about as soon as you find yourself soaking your cares away while your friends stare jealously on.
Tiki torches are so very yesterday. Each of these outdoor lamps is powered by a small windmill that converts gentle summer breezes into raw electrical output. Ah, summer. **
Compact fluorescent lights are great–they last 10 times as long as incandescents and are four times as efficient–but trace amounts of mercury in the bulbs means they’re far from perfect. Alto II lamps have about half the mercury of their counterparts.
Alto II $4;
Juice ‘Er Up
What fun is summer if going outside means having to abandon your energy-needy devices? Solar charger to the rescue! This one accepts nearly every cellphone, along with any USB-powered device–so there’s no need to leave your iPod at home the next time you’re forced to “rough it.”
Universal Solar Charger $70;
You might remember to turn off your computer at night, but how about its peripherals? This power strip does all its required surge-protection duties, but even better, it figures out the electrical current flowing through each outlet and turns off selected appliances when not in use. Set it up to automatically shut off your printers and scanners once your computer is down: you’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll reap the savings.
Smart Power Strip LCG4; $35
The Whiskey Whisperer
Unsure how to marry your love of recycling, electronics and whiskey? Fret no longer, your concerns have been addressed. These compact speakers have enough power and frequency range to satisfy the fussy audiophile within, and their casing repurposed from discarded whiskey barrels does double duty as an environmentally good deed and a perfect acoustical amplifier.
Pure Malt Speakers $300 each;
Office chairs are painful in part because a one-size-fits-all design rarely fits most. Thanks to plenty of cranks and levers, nearly every aspect of this chair’s fit is customizable, even the lumbar support. Made of 51 percent recycled material (and the chair is almost entirely recyclable at the end of its life) in a plant powered solely by wind energy, the chair is bound to ease your mind as much as your back.
Zody Chair $700;
Being careful about electricity usage is hard enough, and getting feedback only when you get your monthly bills just compounds the problem. The Wattson energy monitor measures your household energy consumption by syncing at the place where all circuits collide–your fuse box–while a simple digital display shows real-time usage. By plugging the monitor into your computer, you can view months’ worth of data at a glance and figure out once and for all if your lights-on policy really is worth it.
Wattson Approx $600 (U.K. only);
Tiny batteries are a pain to change, and winding isn’t for the forgetful–hence the Eco-Drive energy cell. A wafer-thin solar panel beneath the watch’s dial converts any type of light into electrical energy. Since it continuously recharges itself even under artificial light, the watch won’t stop once the days grow dark.
Eco-Drive From approx $155;
Naggy or Nice
Even if you unplug your charged phone, leaving its charger in the socket drains electricity. Every time you unplug the Nokia 1650, it sounds an alert to remind you to also unplug the charger. Seems small, but millions of kilowatt-hours of electricity would be saved every year if every charger was plugged in only when needed.
Nokia 1650 $74 (Europe only);
We’re unhappy that robots don’t yet do our bidding, but at least this lawn mower is a step in the right direction. Like a Roomba for the great outdoors, the Automower zooms up and down your lawn in a randomized pattern until every spot is trimmed. You specify its work area by outlining the lawn’s perimeter with “invisible” wire that disappears as grass overgrows it. The mower runs on a rechargeable battery and works in the rain and in temperatures up to 113F-unlike the good-for-nothing kid next door.
Long showers are great, but they wreak havoc during droughts, rack up the electricity bill, and suck for the person stuck with the dregs once the water heater’s depleted. This timer shuts off the water after a predetermined time has passed. A large clock counts down your precious minutes, but once it’s done, it’s done. There are even options to put a waiting period between showers (so you can’t just start up again once the water’s off). Sure, it’s brutal, but sometimes tough love is the best kind.
Shower Timer Approx $340;
Zero to 50 mph in 6.8 seconds, a top speed of 62 mph and a near-silent engine are great specs for any scooter, but the Maxi-Scooter has one other thing going for it: it runs on a battery. The first all-electric scooter gets about 68 miles between charges and takes 2.5 hours to rejuice.
Maxi-Scooter $11,000 (available soon);
Cup of Fire
Coal is lousy for your health, gas smells, and electricity is pricey–plus none are exactly swell for the environment. Still, it just ain’t summer without a barbecue. Enter the solar grill fueled by, you guessed it, sun. The concave mirror reflects and focuses the sun into the well of the grill, where an elongated cup holds enough burgers or tofurkey patties for the whole clan.
Solar Grill Approx $250;