For many, technology represents our best hope for radically rethinking our lives to become more sustainable, more efficient, and more eco friendly. This technology, designed to revolutionize the way we live, work, commute, and play, offers a chance for us to mitigate the effects of our modern day lives. It’s too late to turn back the clock, no one wants to give up conveniences like cars or climate-controlled homes – not to mention the almighty internet. Persuading people to do so is likely futile. Perhaps we should be doing the opposite, instead. Our insatiable appetite for advancement and modernity got us into this mess, let’s enlist it to get us out of it as well. Enter eco tech.
5 essential eco tech ideas
Eco tech is often on the cutting edge of technology and innovation doesn’t come cheap. An average solar panel roof installation, for example, can cost upwards of $20,000 – a sum that the average family doesn’t typically have just lying around. I mean, I certainly don’t.
The solution is to take advantage the affordable eco tech (it does exist!). It has the ability to create eco-friendly change in your life without breaking the bank, too. Here are the top five eco tech innovations, accessible to most families.
Perhaps the best-known contender in the eco tech world, Nest is a Google product designed to regulate and control temperatures within the home. Nest reports that users see an average of a 10-12% reduction in heating costs and a 15% reduction in cooling costs. And all of this without an accompanying reduction in comfort. Nest users report that their homes are a more comfortably consistent temperature after installing Nest.
Also, priced around $250 and controlled by the ubiquitous smartphone, Nest is a simple and affordable way to track, control and reduce heating and cooling costs, and thus, a significant source of energy expenditure within the home.
There’s an App For That
There are hundreds of apps to help you create a more eco-conscious life, and I discovered one of my favorites quite recently. The Bulk app, created by zero waste icon Bea Johnson, helps you locate bulk stores based on proximity to your current location. Doing so allows to easily locate stores where you can bring your own packaging (like jars, cloth bags, and bottles) to make zero waste shopping a snap. Bulk stores sell everything from honey to pasta, and by providing your own containers and even logging bin numbers onto your phone instead of using twist ties you’ll be able to drastically reduce your packaging waste. Every. bit. counts.
Everything is Automatic
This nifty little device plugs directly into the diagnostic port in your car (which, I just found out, every car manufactured since 1996 is likely to have) and takes the information generated by your car’s computer system and relays it directly to the Automatic app on your smartphone. Not only does this magic device decipher that bewilderingly obtuse “check engine” light and tell you what’s really going on, it also helps you drive more efficiently.
Of course being car-less is the greenest choice, but for those unwilling or unable to make that choice, Automatic allows you to receive valuable information about how your driving habits affect the fuel consumption of your vehicle. Accelerating too fast can waste gas, as can excessive speed. Automatic gives you accurate feedback about your driving habits, allowing you to identify and change the way you drive to make it as eco-friendly as possible. You could even set a goal to gradually reduce the amount you drive, and use Automatic to track your progress. Best of all, this little device is only $80.
This is one of the coolest eco tech inventions I’ve come across, harnessing the crowd-sourcing capability of smartphones and blending it with eco friendly data analysis. The Tzoa enviro tracker consists of a small device you attach to your belt loop or backpack, which then evaluates the air quality of your surrounding environment and sends the information to an app on your smartphone. You can use the data to measure and improve indoor air quality, identify mold, allergens, exhaust, and pollution within your community, and then upload the data to create crowd-sourced maps about local air quality and pollution levels.
Plug It In, Plug It In
This isn’t one specific product but a handful which accomplish the same thing – limiting the power vampire ability of plugged-in products (think TV’s chargers and computers) to drain energy when they’re off or in standby mode.
Typically these devices work by replacing standard electrical outlet altogether, or providing a secondary device to layer over an existing plug. Devices can be controlled and powered to completely shut off (via WIFI) or sometimes even with a simple switch. Doing so allows you to easily limit the energy consumption of your home’s electronics to when you’re actually using them. These devices are usually fairly inexpensive, running from $7-$25 each.
Eco tech can serve as an immensely valuable tool to allow you to track, measure and control your home, work and play environments. Being able to measure something is often the first way to change it – it’s not enough to say you want to use less energy for example, but setting an easily measurable goal like reducing your energy use by 20% and then being able to track your progress in reaching that goal? That’s incredible (and research suggests that specific, measurable goal like this are way easier to keep than vague ones).
The one cautionary note to this piece on eco tech is that more isn’t always better. Before you run out and stock up on gadgets and gizmos – no matter how green they are – take a few moments to evaluate their place in your life by considering;
- Will you use it long term?
- Could you achieve the same result in a low-tech way without buying a new device?
- What happens to the device if it breaks or wears out?
- Can it be recycled?
The key is to consciously understand the life cycle of a product and make sure you’re making the greenest choice at every step. Sometimes this means going back to the dark ages and using a clothesline instead of one of those new-fangled dryers, sometimes it means going space-age with technology like this and allowing futuristic gadgets to assist you in mitigating your environmental impact.
Feature image courtesy of Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock