It’s hard for individuals to change the world. Much of the waste and pollution that plagues the environment is simply out of consumers’ hands.
But small efforts still matter. When it comes to items we use, the focus should be on using products for a long time rather than springing for the latest thing; finding ways to use less energy; finding ways to use less single-use plastic, and using recyclable items.
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1. Smart thermostat
There are people who leave their air-conditioners running on hot days even when no one is home, just so they can arrive at a cool house when they get home. A smart thermostat, such as the Google Nest Smart Learning, lets you control your air-conditioning and heating systems from your phone, so you can avoid such wastage by switching on your AC right before you get home. You can pre-program it to adjust based on the day’s activities and weather, and it also monitors energy consumption so you can, ideally, watch your electricity usage drop over time. When programmed effectively, smart thermostats are meant to save energy and money.
2. USB batteries
Rechargeable batteries can be used hundreds of times, versus the one-time use of traditional alkaline ones. USB batteries work like alkaline AA batteries, but after they run out of juice, you just have to take off the top to reveal a USB plug. Charge it as you would any USB gadget. Sure, they don’t last as long per charge, but if you keep a few charged at all times you’ll never run out and will have the satisfaction of producing less waste.
Read more: 10 life-enhancing tech products under $30
3. Solar-powered security camera
It just makes sense. Home security cameras that are placed outdoors can draw from a free source of energy: the sun. Not only can solar-powered items lower your electricity bills, but they’re also guarded against power outages. (Of course, there are risks like not getting enough sun on cloudy days.) Brands like Arlo Pro and Zumimall make kits combining cameras and solar panels.
It’s not just security cameras. Garden lights, for instance, also come as solar-powered and let you avoid cords and plugs.
4. Biodegradable phone case
It’s unhelpful that every new phone model requires a different phone case (not to mention new screen protectors and sometimes even cables), meaning you can’t extend your phone case’s usefulness once you switch phones. No one else will want it either as the phone model becomes obsolete. We get rid of more than 1.5 billion cases every year.
To save plastic from entering the landfill, consider purchasing biodegradable phone cases. Pela, Casetify, and Wave manufacture biodegradable phone cases. (Always check how biodegradable products should be disposed of. Often they must be composted.) Pela and Casetify also accept old cases of any kind for recycling.
5. Purifying water bottle
It’s estimated that more than 1.3 billion plastic bottles are used each day. With all types of reusable water bottles and filters available, there is little reason for most people in developed places to be buying bottled water.
If you’re trying to cut down on single-use plastic, filtering water into reusable bottles (if it’s not clean enough out of the tap) does the job. But there are bottles with all kinds of features that you can have fun with, including ones that help you monitor your water intake while keeping your drink well-insulated.
LARQ has recently gained popularity on social media for its rechargeable smart bottle that is said to purify water in under a minute and self-clean while maintaining your drink’s temperature.
6. Home garden kits
By growing your vegetables, you can help reduce the packaging in landfills and reduce the amount of produce you consume that had to be shipped long distances. But not everyone has outdoor space for a garden. This is where home garden kits come in—and a lot of them are smarter than you’d expect.
Brands like AeroGarden Sprout and Click & Grow provide kits that make growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables at home more accessible. Features vary for these countertop gardens, but some can automatically supply the right amount of water, light, and nutrients to plants, depending on the type of seed chosen.
7. Smart LED bulbs
You’ve probably made the switch to LED bulbs already; it’s not even easy to find incandescent bulbs anymore. LED bulbs cost more upfront, but not only do they use less energy (saving the average U.S. household about 240 USD per year in electricity cost), they also are meant to last well over a decade before heading to the landfill.
What do smart LED bulbs bring to the table? Mainly the fun factor of being able to control your lights from your phone. It’s also convenient, if you really don’t want to get out of bed or off the couch. There’s something you can’t do with incandescents.
One of the most popular smart bulbs in the market comes from Philips. The brand’s Hue range includes smart LED bulbs, light strips, and even portable lamps that can be app-controlled.
8. Smart plug to monitor your energy use
Want a gadget to tell you how and where you can cut down your home’s energy consumption? There are smart plugs for that.
Parce One, for instance, makes an adapter that you plug into your wall socket. On the most basic level, you can set it to turn your appliances on and off at certain times, so you can save energy even if you’re not home or like to fall asleep with the TV on. What’s more, it monitors the energy consumption of items that plug into it and over time learns your habits. Eventually, it can be set to switch your appliances on and off automatically based on its learnings and provide you with tips on ways to save energy.
9. Electric car
They’re generally more expensive than cars that run on gas. But if cost isn’t prohibitive for you, electric cars have been shown to indeed be better for the environment overall, even taking into account the manufacturing process and the charging, which can be carbon-intensive in their own ways. The next time you need to get a new car—consider electric.
That said, switching to bicycles would be even better.
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