Digital Christmas: Green gadgets

23 Nov 2011

Piggy Power Bank 2.0 from New York firm NEON GREEN. This swish green device is a solar-powered key-ring charger and back-up battery for iPhone, BlackBerry, smartphones and other devices

We take a look at some eco-friendly gifts that might be a good option for your pals or loved ones this Christmas. From PC power-saving devices to an eco briquette maker, the emphasis is on being leaner, greener and possibly saving yourself some money in the long run.

Solar-powered back-up pack

Based in New York and LA, NEON GREEN Soular Powers is a nano brand that was founded in 2010. It says it aims to bring renewable energy’s appeal via a “pop culture movement”. The company has adapted a playful take on the word ‘solar’, creating the word ‘soular’ for its purposes.
NEON GREEN has created solar-powered back-up packs as part of its portfolio, which also includes soular (sic)-powered chargers.
The back-up packs created by NEON GREEN have a built-in flexible and thin-film solar cell and rechargeable Piggy Power Bank that passively captures energy from the sun, storing it for future recharging of your portable gadgets. Ideal for when you are on a long hike or camping trip, or if you’re thinking of heading to a summer music festival next year.

Neon Green Piggy Back Up Pack

The NEON GREEN Piggy-Back-Up Pack-GI Joe, for instance, retails at US$119 and you can purchase it online.

Piggy Power Bank

Piggy Power Bank 2.0

NEON GREEN has also created the Piggy Power Bank 2.0 , a soular (sic)-powered key ring charger and back-up battery for iPhone, BlackBerry, smartphones and other devices. These fashionable mini-battery chargers connect to most devices as a back-up power supply. The Piggy Power Bank works by collecting and storing the energy of the sun. Its 800 mAh lithium battery also charges and stores power when connected to the USB port of your computer.



The ecobutton is a retro-fit computer device that is aiming to make a difference to your PC power usage, as well as helping you reduce your carbon footprint and save on electricity.
The ecobutton itself is illuminated by three small LED lights and sits on your table/desktop next to your keyboard. It connects to your computer via a USB cable.
Each time you take a break, or leave for a meeting, you press the ecobutton and your computer is put into the most efficient energy-saving mode available. The company calls this ‘ecomode’.

However, the ecobutton only works on PCs for the minute. It is compatible with Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7 – 32 and 64-bit versions.

The company says a Mac version will be available in due course.

One appealing feature of this green gadget is that it rewards you every time you use it, showing you how many carbon units and how much power and money you have saved. The ecobutton’s founders say the aim is to motivate behavioural change on sustainability.
You can purchase the ecobutton online.

Eco briquette maker

Eco Briquette Maker

This unique home-heating device is sure to appeal to many, especially with rising energy prices this winter, as you can heat your home using waste paper found throughout the home.
All you need to do is soak waste paper in water, insert in the Eco Briquette Maker, then squeeze the excess water off and dry completely. Each briquette that you make will burn solidly and heat the home for up to two hours.

You can buy the Eco Briquette Maker via the Electric Ireland Store. It costs €19.99 inclusive of VAT. Click here.

Eton solar powered portable speaker system

Soulra XL solar powered portable speaker system

For a greener power consumption alternative, the Soulra XL, created by Eton, is powered using a 72 sq-inch enhanced monocrystal solar panel. It has a rechargeable lithium ion battery pack and you can use it to play or recharge your iPod or iPhone.

The speaker system features eight speaker drivers, and has an 22W output with bass boost.
The Soulra XL charges up fully in the sun after five hours, but this depends on the sun’s intensity, with eight hours of playback, also depending on audio volume.

The device comes with an AC adapter so you have the option of plugging the system into an ordinary wall socket and recharging its lithium-ion battery.
The only downside is that the length of play time may vary depending on where you live and the intensity of the sun.

Solio Bolt

Solio Bolt solar charger and battery back-up

The Solio Bolt is a solar charger and battery back-up. The 1Amp USB output of the Solio Bolt means it has the potential to charge devices at the same rate as a typical wall charger. The Bolt itself allows a pencil to be inserted into the centre when you are charging it. You point the pencil towards the sun so it acts as a sundial. You adjust the Bolt each time the pencil casts a shadow. The device has a single LED push button.

The company behind the Solio brand is Better Energy Systems, based in Oakland, California. lt designs hand-held solar-charging, lighting and energy-storage devices.
Above image courtesy of Solio Bolt
Some futuristic green devices to come:

The Biome Smart Terrarium

This iPad-controlled system means you can grow plants and flowers all via your iPad. Created by the designer Samuel Wilkinson, the Terrarium contains sensors that monitor your plant’s needs, such as water, nutrients or light, providing your Apple device with the information.

The Biome device was developed for a recent exhibition ‘Slow Tech – Designs for Digital Downtime’. There’s no information on Wilkinson’s plans to market the Biome. Check out the Biome Smart Terrarium here.


Corona’s solar-powered lighting system

Outdoor solar-powered lighting system

New York company Corona has pioneered an outdoor solar-powered lighting system. It is very nifty and will look quite futuristic in your garden. The Corona solar light’s solar photovoltaic cell converts sunlight into energy during the day, and its LEDs then automatically start to glow when the sun sets.
A unique attachment system allows the Corona solar light to have multiple installation options: you can mount it on a wall, stake it to the ground, or place it on an outdoor table. The Corona design team are awaiting patent approval for their products.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic