2013 has been a breakthrough year for technology: Google Glass, the smartwatch, and 3-D printing all entered the tech scene and dazzled consumers.
Green technology debuts tend to fly under the radar, since they only appeal to a certain demographic. Let’s face it: bamboo keyboards and Bluetooth plant monitoring devices are not on everyone’s wish list.
None the less, there were quite a few green gadgets that made waves in 2013, many making headway in terms of solar technology uses and energy conservation. Here are a few highlights. Click here to view them all on one page.
1. Yeti 150 Solar Power Generator ($199.99)
As those on the east coast know from Hurricane Sandy’s power outage last year, it’s always a good idea to have a back-up generator (and while we’re on the topic, a 5-gallon gas can). Traditional gas-powered generators are cumbersome, noisy, and emit toxic fumes—not ideal for indoor use or at a campsite.
Enter the Yeti 150. Goal Zero’s Solar Power Generator can “power lights, laptops and more via built-in AC, 12V and USB ports. The Goal Zero Yeti 150 can be fully charged by the sun in 15 hours with the included 15W Bolder 15 Solar Panel.” Plus, it has the same name as the abominable snowman. Sold.
2. Belkin WeMo Insight Switch ($49.99)
As can be expected, Belkin is on the forefront of energy-monitoring device development. Back in 2010 Belkin announced the launch of its Conserve sockets, intelligent plugs which automatically shut down the power supply when a USB-connected device is fully charged. This year Belkin announced the WeMo insight Switch, which takes power conservation a step further.
Taking a cue from smart home technology, the compact plug allows users “to control and manage the energy usage and costs of home electronics from anywhere through their iOS or Android device.” You can also put your devices on a schedule and receive notifications when a connected unit is turned on or off—such as when a laundry cycle is finished.
3. Mophie’s Juice Pack Helium ($79.95)
If you’ve ever watched your phone battery reach its final stages of life as you desperately try to make last minute plans or find your way home via GPS, you understand the value of always having a way to stay charged and connected.
Mophie’s battery case provides iPhone 5 or 5s owners with up to 80 percent more battery life, without the bulk of most other battery cases. And, it comes in seven different colors. Let your 14-year-old, Nokia-faceplate-obsessed-self be free!
4. Parrot Flower Power App-Controlled Bluetooth Plant Monitor ($59.99)
Perhaps the most, er, unique, use of Bluetooth that we’ve ever seen, Parrot’s Flower Power monitor is a wireless sensor that you stake into your garden or flower pot. The device sends wireless signals to an app on your smart phone with info and recommendations about soil conditions, sunlight, fertilizer, and air temperature. You can move the device to all different plants, including your lawn. Perfect for those of us with a black thumb.
5. Impecca Bluetooth Bamboo Keyboard ($99.00)
Personal computing accessories like keyboards, mice, and earphones are rarely seen as a threat to the environment, yet their man-made components can take a toll—Ewaste now makes up 2 percent of landfill trash, but 70 percent of overall toxic waste. That’s why Impecca launched its Bluetooth Bamboo Keyboard, compatible with iPads, iPhones, Android Tablets, Netbooks and other Bluetooth-enabled mobile devices.
The bamboo is biodegradable, and has a finish which prevents from wear over time. Bamboo mice and earphones have been on the market for awhile now, and are an eco-friendly (and stylish!) alternative to their plastic counterparts.
6. Sowden SoftBrew (starting at $30.00)
Coffee lovers, rejoice. There’s alternative to single-serve coffee makers like the Keurig, and it’s environmentally friendly.
Sowden’s SoftBrew has a “back to basics” approach to brewing coffee, using a porcelain pot and hot water. The SoftBrew reduces the amount of coffee grounds used, eliminates the need for a daily paper filer, stays hot longer than glass or steel, and the filter and packaging is all recyclable.
7. Birksun 6 Watt Solar Backpack ($159.99)
As ThinkGeek smartly points out, when the zombie apocalypse comes, you’re going to need a good bag to carry all your stuff and an alternate power source. Thankfully, 2013 brought you the Birksun 6 Watt Solar Backback. It’s got your tech backpack must-haves like a water bottle pouch, easy-access side zipper, laptop sleeve and more, plus a solar panel which can charge the average smart phone 25 percent in one hour. Oh, and it’s TSA-approved for all travel before the apocalypse. Not too shabby.
8. Waka Waka Solar Powered Lamp and Charger ($69.00)
This year Waka Waka (the company with the same name as a Shakira song) introduced its Solar Powered Lamp and Charger, which charges phones and/or shines 40 hours of light on an 8-hour solar charge. Its two functions make it a perfect fit for camping or other off-the-grid activities.
Waka Waka also has a pretty powerful mission statement: to bring electricity to the 1.3 billion people around the world without access to it. This year the launched a major initiative to send Waka Waka Powers to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan.
9. MeterPlug ($59.95)
MeterPlug is an adapter which plugs in between an AC outlet and any appliance (think TV, spaces heater, washer and dryer). According to the website, it measures your energy consumption and sends that information over Bluetooth to your smart phone, where an app displays the cost of your energy used.
Some cool features include automatically turning off appliances that are on standby, turning on and off appliances depending on your proximity to them, and manually turning on or off devices within a 100 foot range. Although not technically shipping until March 2014, the MeterPlug was developed this year and due to a successful funding campaign, is now taking pre-orders.
Did we miss your favorites? Let us know in the comments below.