Green technology guides often feature attractive, sustainable and energy-efficient products that also happen to, well, suck. In this article, we’re highlighting only products that that will stand up to the competition in each product category. Your purchases can reflect your conscience without sacrificing your desire for performance. Forget non-functional green accessories and add-ons—today we’re tackling the gadgets you care about most: desktop PCs, laptops, peripherals, home entertainment gear, phones and more.
In most cases, wireless mice are powered via disposable AA or AAA batteries or though a built-in rechargeable battery. Such is not the case with the USB 2545 mouse from Cables Unlimited. The 2545, with the help of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) and induction technology, is a battery-free mouse that is constantly supplied with power via its special mousepad. No disposable batteries means you aren’t throwing Duracells (and your money) in the trash every few months, and while rechargeable power is preferred, the creation of such batteries has a very negative impact on the environment.
Just because the 2545 is eco-friendly doesn’t mean it lacks the features you need for productivity. With six mouse buttons (left, right, center, auto double-click, and two on the left side), as well as two scroll wheels (there is an extra one horizontally across the middle of the mouse), the optical 2545 should satisfy most when it comes to day-to-day computing.
Keyboards don’t exactly sound the alarm when it comes to environmental awareness, but the less plastic used for items like computer peripherals, the better, right? Enter the Virtual Laser Keyboard, or VKB, from I-Tech. At $170, the VLK is a little more expensive than your 104-key QWERTY board, but its compact size (about the size of a Zippo lighter), and unique user interface make the VLK a winner. Once connected to your computer or smartphone via Bluetooth, the VKB shoots a laser-based QWERTY layout out onto whatever surface it’s sitting on. The lack tactile response from a depressed key may take some getting used to, but once you get beyond the lack of physical keys, the VKB is a compact and eco-friendly alternative to standard keyboards. Plus, if you find yourself working in clean rooms all day or need a germ-free alternative to standard keyboards, the VKB has no moving parts and is easy to clean/disinfect.
Our one major gripe with the VKB: No USB? The VKB uses Bluetooth, which is great for the PDA and smartphone crowd but less so for desktop users.
Eco-friendly headphones are hard to come by, since plastics are found in virtually all of them. However, Sennheiser is doing its best with the PMX80 to make these sport headphones environmentally conscious. Sennheiser starts with the packaging, using less material overall and making sure that what they do use completely bio-degradable. Since the packaging of any product is typically thrown away after you open whatever it is you’ve bought, bio-degradable materials are a great way to reduce a company’s negative impact on the planet. The PMX80’s are sport headphones, meaning they come around the back of your neck instead of going on top of your noggin. While the PMX80 still rely on plastics for construction, the design and build material make the headphones sweat-proof and water-resistant. So after your next five-mile run, you can toss your PMX80’s into the sink and keep them as clean as they day you bought them.
ThinkSound takes the term eco-friendly and applies it to its products in every way possible. From the PVC-free cables to bleach-free and recycled material-based packing, to the wood and cotton from renewable sources, the rain (9mm) and ts01 (10mm) in-ear headphones are environmentally-conscious.
The smaller “Rain” headphones are designed with premium sound in mind, and the ts01 model brings enhanced bass and a lower pricetag ($80 versus $100). Both sets of headphones use wooden housing for “crisp, accurate music reproduction”, and come with four sets of silicon ear inserts. The Rain and ts01 are available in two finishes – Black Chocolate and Silver Cherry.
DIY projects are always fun, and getting an eco-friendly end result is even better. DIY cardboard speakers from Merkury are such a project, and at $14.95 they’re hardly a considerable investment. The speakers included in the kit are the same as you would find in a standard speaker setup, but the housing is made of recycled cardboard. Once assembled (the final product leaves you with two 3.25-inch cubes), Merkury includes a set of colored pencils so you can decorate the speakers however you want. If that isn't cool enough, the speakers actually fold flat for easy, hassle-free transport.
When it comes to imaging devices (printers, scanners, all-in-ones), the term “eco-friendly” really refers to power consumption. While the specifics of the Energy Star label aren’t as crystal-clear as we would like – all we know is that newly certified models use less power actively and in idle mode than older products do – energystar.gov states that imaging devices are major culprits when it comes to wasting power in the home or office. The Energy Star moniker is applied to a bevy of different products in this category, but we like the Kodak 6150 above other products because of ink usage. The 6150, as well as other printers and AIOs from Kodak, tend to be more resourceful with ink than the competition. This, combined with the Energy Star certification, and you’ll save some green on your electric bill as well as your home office expenses.
The 6150 also comes with a plethora of standard all-in-one features, including WiFi, Ethernet, built-in fax, printing speeds up to 32 ppm, and photo printing. Two-sided printing is also a great eco-minded feature, and should save you plenty of paper over the life of the 6150.
When we think of green computers, we think about power. The fewer watts consumed by a desktop or laptop solution, the better. Aleutia is a UK-based computer company that keeps this philosophy in mind, and its D1 Mini Atom PC is no exception.
Inside the D1 Mini, which measures in at a tiny 7.88”x12”x2.92”, you’ll find an Intel Atom D510 (dual-core, 1.66 GHz), integrated GMA 3150 graphics, 4 GB of Kingston DDR2 memory, one 40 GB Intel X25-V SSD, integrated LAN and audio, and a slim DVD burner. The D1 Mini retails for about $550.00 USD, or 359 British Pounds. The configuration includes the 4 GB RAM option as well as the SSD upgrade. For storage, you can go with a 320 GB magnetic hard drive or a 40 GB SSD from Intel. We prefer the SSD to the magnetic hard drive because it’s quieter (makes no noise whatsoever), produces less heat and provides a much faster environment for the operating system (Ubuntu Linux 9.10, 64-bit) to live in. While the D1 Mini ships with Linux, it has been fully tested with XP, Vista and 7, so if Ubuntu isn’t your cup of tea, don’t be afraid to install Windows.
By Aleutia’s numbers, the D1 Mini is roughly two-thirds the size of Small Form Factor (SFF) machines offered by the competition (which Aleutia lists as HP, Fujitsu-Siemens and Dell), and typically uses 80 percent less power. At peak consumption, the D1 Mini uses 23W, and only about 19W on average.
The D1 Mini isn’t a computing powerhouse by any means, but it isn’t pretending to be. The D1 Mini is a great machine for someone looking for an office computer, a machine that can run productivity suites and get online without much effort, but is limited when it comes to multimedia applications. You could buy a more able desktop for $550, but the D1 has energy efficiency and a small size that most companies cannot touch at any price point.