This year brought some incredible improvements in green gadgetry. From breakthroughs in OLED techonology, to better solar chargers, to improved battery capacities, we saw some exciting advances. However, there were also some electronics and gadgets that weren't so impressive.
Let's start with one of the most recent items to make us roll our eyes: Ultralast batteries. These are coated in a transparent film of green marketing, and it was disappointing to see the extent to which the eco-friendly advertising envelope could be pushed. However, we weren't fooled. Ultralast batteries have been cast out of the green social circles.
While encouraging recycling is commendable, selling plasticrap isn't. And using the premise of encouraging recycling while trying to push a useless gadget is especially offensive. This grocery scanner edges in on green by saying it warns users not to throw out recyclables, and consolidates grocery delivery. But, we recognize it for what it is - plasticrap with e-waste inside.
Reusable bags. Yes. DIY grocery carts. Yes. Greenwashed plastic crates on wheels. No. This darn near gets props from us except for one big mistake. The "eco" label it gives itself. There isn't anything special about it to make it stand out as green, other than it's a reusable basket. It isn't made from recycled plastics, manufactured by a charitable organization, doesn't offset the carbon emissions from manufacturing or offer some cool recycling program for busted baskets. Nope, it's just a reusable cart. And so, this "eco" cart misses the mark.
OK. An espresso maker that doesn't use electricity. That could be cool. However, it most likely doesn't work at all and ends up being used twice and tossed in a kitchen drawer to be forgotten until either spring cleaning or a move to another home occurs. This one misses the green mark.
Reuse is a key element to greener living, there's no denying that. Using what you have for as long as possible is a great way to lower your carbon footprint. However, there's a line that is crossed when it means buying plastic to reuse other plastic you probably shouldn't have bought in the first place. The Twist & Spout screws on to plastic bottles so you can use them to do things like water house plants. Thing is, it is utterly useless. This is a greenwashed gadget whose eco-repute isn't even questionable.
We TreeHuggers are always excited about alternative energy vehicles. But sometimes, even the most well-intended concepts are just plain silly. This car is designed to be powered by your gym workout. You can outfit it with various gym equipment and the work you put in means miles out. But, taking up far less energy, materials, and time would be a bike or a good pair of walking shoes. This one, unfortunately, missed the green mark.
Now here is an item with a green side that truly is up for debate. The new Macbooks are made from a brick of milled aluminum and while that makes them more durable and easily recycled, it also means they're made of a highly energy intensive material and go through a highly energy and resource intensive manufacturing process. While there isn't a definite decision on the fate of this one, it does lean towards more greenwashed than green. There's room for improvement here, and we encourage Apple to keep working away at the drawing board.
Speaking of computers that don't go the distance, this seems to be the case with HP's new green line of Pavilion PCs. This PC line just barely goes the distance for standard ecolabel certifications, but does nothing to go above and beyond to stand out as a truly green option. There was definitely more effort that could have been put into this before slapping the green marketing on it.
Here is one that is definitely debatable as a green item. On the one hand, this digital photo frame uses the latest OLED technology, and can allow you to display photos without using paper, chemicals, ink and so on. But on the other hand, it uses up electricity and probably will end up as a novelty item and not as the center of attention in a room. It's awfully expensive, and despite the OLED screen, probably not worth the money put into it. Perhaps if it were solar powered, we'd give it a thumbs up.