Back when car phones were suitcase-sized and small portable telephones seemed impossibly futuristic, cell phones were far from a necessity. Fast forward twenty years, and it’s hard to imagine life without them. But along with all the convenience has come mountains of toxic electronic waste and heavier energy consumption. Could phones with sustainable wood cases, apps that encourage renewable energy use or even chargers that convert WiFi signals to energy be the answer? Check out these seven brand-spanking-new phone innovations and decide for yourself.
AT&T ZERO Charger Slays Vampire Energy
By now most of us know that, as long as they’re kept plugged in, phone chargers are notorious for continuing to draw power even when not in use. But it’s annoying to constantly unplug chargers, especially when outlets are located in inconvenient places. AT&T has come up with an interesting solution called the ZERO Charger, which zaps that vampire draw by shutting down automatically when your phone isn’t actively charging. It’s not available quite yet, but you can sign-up to receive an email as soon as it’s available in stores from the AT&T website.
LG Goes Green with Remarq QWERTY Phone
The newest green cell phone to hit the market is the LG Remarq, a slider handset with a full QWERTY keyboard so you can get your text on a whole lot easier. The Remarq is made from 19 percent recycled plastic, contains no hazardous materials, and 87 percent of its parts can be recycled once it has lived out its (regrettably short, as with all cell phones) life. Other eco-features include a low-energy charger and an app to measure your carbon footprint. The phone also has a 1.3 megapixel camera, a MP3 player, a microSD card slot, stereo Bluetooth and a personal organizer. Get it May 9th for $19.99 with a two-year Sprint service contract and a $50 mail-in rebate.
RCA AirPower Charger Steals Energy from Wi-Fi
So maybe you zapped those energy-sucking vampires at home, but when you’re out and about, how can you power up your phone without plugging it in? Be a vampire yourself. The RCA AirPower Charger actually absorbs energy from WiFi signals – whether they’re your own or not. Some might call that stealing, but hey – you’ll never have a dead phone.
Originally developed as an emergency power supply, this technology is still being refined and RCA hasn’t explained exactly how it works other than to say that the portable device would be fully charged after about six hours of exposure as you pass through or hang out in hotspots.
iPhone App Measures Wind Speed
You’d have to be really dark green – and a bit of an eco geek – to need this app, but hey, when it comes to iPhone apps, there really is something for everyone. Just hold your iPhone into the air with the microphone pointed in the direction of the wind for at least 20 seconds, and the app will calculate the wind speed based on the decibel level. It’s potentially useful for people who use small mobile wind turbines to provide power on the go.
NTT DoCoMo Touch Phone Made of Surplus Wood
Perhaps the most annoying thing about modern gadgetry for eco-minded people is all that plastic. It’s impossible to avoid completely, but some new phones are cutting it back dramatically. The NTT DoCoMo is a touchscreen phone with a case made from sustainable surplus wood, from trees cut during thinning operations to maintain healthy forests. It also contains no artificial colors or paints, has a slim profile and a smooth and shiny surface.
Roto Charger Powers Your Phone with Your Muscles
Why plug in a charger at all when you could simply use the power of your own muscles? Okay, so the Roto Charger isn’t practical for everyone, but this manual wind-up charger – developed for use off-the-grid and in remote places – could definitely cut back your electricity consumption. For a wind-up device, it’s actually unusually efficient, providing 30 minutes of standby time or three minutes of talk time for every one minute of winding.
Recycle Your Old Phones at Target for Earth Day
Got a bunch of old cell phones, MP3 players or other small electronic devices sitting around waiting to be recycled? Take them to your local Target. The retail chain has launched a new recycling program in all of its U.S. stores in honor of the 40th Earth Day. Target is a bit late getting into the recycling game, as this is the first time they’ve offered any kind of recycling bins at all, but it’s a welcome change. They’ll also be taking used printer cartridges and the requisite paper, glass and plastic.
And starting soon, consumers will have a much bigger incentive to recycle old phones – money. A new venture called eRecyclingCorps, founded by former executives at Sprint and Radio Shack, will partner with wireless carriers to offer credit toward a new phone when old ones are turned in for recycling.