For the environmentally-conscious consumer, a love/hate relationship with electronics is inevitable, because while gadgets and gizmos and technology can make our lives much more productive, efficient, and enjoyable, the downside is that many of those items are either rendered obsolete by new technology in a relatively short amount of time, or they're cheaply made and tend to get borked quickly, or they're dependent on components that require replacing regularly (batteries, especially). All of those scenarios lead to excessive amounts of e-waste that has the potential to be a major environmental hazard over the long run.
However, there's a new player in the arena that is giving us a glimpse at the future of sustainable electronics, and one that's so tough to write about without giving readers a buzzword hangover that I'm not even going to attempt to avoid to restrain myself. So hang on to your shorts.
From Blueshift, an open-source electronics company based in Portland, Oregon, comes a portable audio product that's just packed full of awesomesauce. Their Helium line of portable speakers are powered by supercapacitors (the first of their kind), built with open-source hardware, packed inside a beautiful bamboo housing, offer a high quality sound, have a Bluetooth or wired connection, and (wait for it) are being crowdfunded.
"Electronics today are all kind of the same. They're built by huge corporations. They're made from plastic, and they run on batteries that fail in just a few years. They're designed to be sold at big-box retailers. Until now, we've all been stuck buying electronics that are designed around someone else's bottom line.
At Blueshift, we're designing electronics to fit your life. Devices that last, that sound great, and that charge in minutes - so they're always ready to go." - Blueshift
According to Blueshift, the supercapacitors that drive these speakers can be fully charged in just five minutes, can allow the speakers to play at full volume for six hours per charge, and will last for about 500,000 charge cycles. Yep, you read that right - a lifespan of half a million charge cycles.
The speakers are available as a Bluetooth or a wired setup, and come in mono or stereo versions, so buyers can pick the configuration that works best for their situation. They aren't cheap, but then again, cheap is as cheap does, and sometimes sustainable solutions simply cost more because they last longer and are built with an eye toward quality and durability.
Blueshift currently has their Helium speaker project up as a crowdfunding campaign on CrowdSupply, with an expected ship date for the devices for their backers in January of 2014.