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Archive for March, 2011

Classifying the following gadgets as crazy is far from a stretch. However, determining whether these gizmos are crazy cool or crazy ridiculous can only be decided by consumers. One thing I know for sure is that there are some green-minded and extremely creative people developing interesting products.

Source: International Energy Association (IEA)

Estimated electricity consumption in the residential sector from “information and communication technologies” and “consumer electronics,” 1990-2030.

Technology has become a large part of our daily lives. In fact, the global gadget habit is seen by many as an opponent of sustainability. With millions of tons of electronic waste being produced each year, e-waste has become a mounting global problem. Therefore, it is vital that we think outside of the box to create biodegradable and energy efficient alternatives to the products we use in our daily lives.

1. Orange Power Wellies – Feet Powered Gadget Charger

EnviroGadget: Orange Power Wellies

This gadget takes a new approach at sustainable energy by using the heat of your feet. The boots harness enough energy from the heat to power small electronic devices. It takes approximately 12 hours to produce enough energy to charge your cellphone for an hour.

2. MetaCell – Portable BatteryEnviroGadget: MetaCell

This portable battery charger is powered by saltwater or even more accessible – urine! It is simply ready for use anywhere. Rumored to be developed for the South Korean military, the battery combines the chemical properties of magnesium with the sodium in saltwater or urine to create a low voltage current. The battery generates enough electricity to power flashlights or even laptops.

3. Edible Christmas Cards

EnviroGadget: Edible Christmas Card

Are you one of those people who have a hard time letting go of really sentimental cards? Don’t throw it away…just eat it! A British design company has created edible sprout and potato-based Christmas cards. The cards are printed with food coloring rather than ink. It is a great way to speed up compost!

4. Waterpebble – Shower Usage Monitor

EnviroGadget: Water Pebble

Do you have that one pesky roommate that uses up all of the hot water? Do you shudder at your water bills? The creators of the waterpebble have found a convenient way to monitor your shower usage. The pebble uses three lights to display whether you have used too much, just enough or a planet-saving amount of water. The waterpebble records the amount of water consumed the first time that the monitor is used. It then subtracts a minimal amount each time you shower to gradually determine what is “just enough” and minimize your water consumption.

5. Biopac Biodegradable Pint TumblersEcoGadget: Biopac Biodegradable Pint Tumblers

Perhaps the best green gadgets are not the most complex, but rather the simplest and most useful. Pictures of college parties are littered with infamous red party cups. This eco-pint is a great alternative to petrochemical based plastic cups. The tumbler material is derived from corn starch and is 100% biodegradable and compostable. You can now be the coolest and greenest one at the party.

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Green Jobs

Image Credit: Examiner.com

Is it possible that a healthier environment can contribute to a healthier economy? Sounds like a win-win to me. During his presidential election, President Obama promised to invest $150 billion dollars over the next 10 years to create 5 million new green jobs. With the Bureau of Labor Statistics’  upcoming 2012 national survey of green jobs, it will be possible to see the landscape of the green economy and opportunity for sustainability-minded communication professionals.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines green jobs as:

  • Jobs in businesses that produce goods or provide services that benefit the environment or conserve natural resources.
  • Jobs in which workers’ duties involve making their establishment’s production processes more environmentally friendly or use fewer natural resources.

When you think of environmental jobs, PR is probably not the first to come to mind. Although much of the green job revolution has been focused on valuable green-collar jobs, there is an undeniable place for PR in this mix. The role of public relations in the environmental movement goes beyond the spin and connection to greenwashing that some associate with it. The need for better communication of environmental issues can be seen in Suzanne Shelton’s annual study of consumer attitudes toward environmental issues.

Let’s test your green consumer knowledge. Which of the following environmental terms do you believe resonate most strongly with consumers?

  1. Conservation
  2. Green
  3. Energy Efficiency
  4. Sustainable

If you guessed “2-green”, you are way off. Shelton’s research revealed that only 61.5% of consumers have a positive association with the word “green.” The correct answer is “3-energy efficiency,” with 88.2% indicating a positive association with the term. 63% of participants feel positively about “sustainable,” and 74% feel positively about “conservation.”

Green PR

Image Credit: The Green Market

Shelton reasoned that “energy efficiency” trumped the rest because it is a term that consumers understand. Being energy efficient is an easy task that consumers can actually do. But what does it mean to be “green?” To some this term might simply be too broad. It is scattered all over advertising and product claims. Shelton believes that “green” has become a term strongly associated with boosting sales.

What does this mean for PR practitioners?

It is time for PR to move past marketing buzz to effectively and meaningfully communicate environmental issues with the public. Public awareness was listed last, but not least, in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ five categories of green jobs. The need to create a more environmentally informed public goes beyond public affairs to socially responsible corporations.

Regulations such as cap-and-trade have a strong effect on many U.S. companies and their employees. It is vital that communication professionals understand environmental concepts, so they can communicate effectively on behalf of their organizations.

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While mouths are watering over the iPhone 4, where are all of the old flip phones? I must admit that inescapable clumsiness has left me with more than a few phone mishaps and a drawer full of old cell phones. Even worse, many more phones are laying at the bottom of a landfill contributing to the mess that the government has deemed e-waste.Nokia-5110

It is hard to believe that only ten years ago we were relying on phones such as the Nokia 5110 for our mobile communication. Quickly advancing technology and our modern addiction to it comes with some negative side effects.

The E-waste Problem

Producing and processing the raw materials for one cell phone creates over three tons of mining waste. With the quick turnover of cell phones, old devices are constantly being tossed aside or in the trash. The NRDC estimates that in the U.S. alone 100 million cell phones get thrown away each year. When disposed of improperly, cell phones, along with other electronics, release toxic arsenic, mercury and cadmium into the environment.Photo Credit: www.thetechnologicalcitizen.com

E-waste has become a mounting global problem. The United States produces over three million tons of e-waste each year and China is not far behind. The most controversy stems from the exportation of its disposal. Despite regulations, e-waste is often exported by developed countries to developing ones.

Green Business Opportunity

Green businesses are emerging out of the e-waste. Companies such as ecoATM are providing creative solutions to the e-waste problem. The San Diego-based company works to maximize reuse of electronic devices through the use of automated self-serve kiosks. The system uses advanced machine vision and electronic diagnostics to evaluate and buy back used electronics directly from consumers for cash or store credit. The machine visually identifies and assesses a phone’s condition in seconds.ecoATM

After the electronics are reclaimed, they are either reused or recycled. The company notes that many cell phones are retired when they have over three quarters of their life left. The devices selected for reuse are sent to refurbishment companies that sell them back to consumers. When devices are past usability, they are mined to extract precious metals and spare parts.

Users of the ecoATM can be green and make significant cash. Not a bad deal, is it? The average visitor to the ecoATM recieved $10-15 for their old device. Some are paid as much as $75 for their used phone depending on its age, condition and demand in the secondary market. The company also offers free corporate services  to handle old company phones, pagers and other portable electronic devices.

Currently, ecoATM is only located in parts of California, Kansas and Nebraska. With recent investment in the company, ecoATM hopes to expand nationally by late 2011. Meanwhile, we must be aware of the consequences of the modern technology addiction. Is there an app for that?

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