Even though it's a good idea to be environmentally-conscious year round, with Earth Day coming up eco-friendly gear is top of mind. The ways to go green are much more vast than simple recycling, however. There's a budding and growing category of green tech and apps that can feed your tech addiction without hurting Mother Nature. These are the best eco-friendly gadgets and apps, from a smart thermometer to a carpool app to a charger that automatically turns off when your device is fully charged.
SoundBender 2.0 ($12.99)
Do you find yourself disappointed with your iPad's volume? You don't need a battery-sucking Bluetooth speaker to pump it up. The SoundBender 2.0 can do that sans power. This magnetic iPad amplifier improves your tablet's quality and clarity. It's pretty small, so you can easily toss it in your bag when in a hurry, and it comes in several bright colors. It even works with Apple's Smart Cover, so you won't have to remove your case to get the audio experience. Available in Black, White, Red, Pale Blue, Hot Pink and Gray for just $12.99.
Bracketron Stone GreenZero Charger ($24.95)
Bracketron's Stone GreenZero Charger lets you charge your mobile devices in an eco-friendly and responsible manner. The $24.95 charger automatically shuts off when your device is fully charged, and with one click you can begin re-charging. Its portable design lets you take it wherever, and it works with any smartphone with a USB cable.
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The first step to becoming more green is knowing where you're using too much energy. iViro helps you do that, performing a detailed energy analysis with heating, cooling, lighting, hot water and appliance energy consumption breakdowns. The free iOS app gives you estimates of what you're paying yearly for each of these, as well as CO2 emission updates. It then gives suggestions of how to save money and strategies for how to save energy.
Click and Grow ($79)
The $79 Click and Grow smartpot is for the gardener without the green thumb. After adding batteries and filling the water tank, you can forget about tending to your plant and simply watch it grow. The device gives your plant the appropriate doses of water (recycling the rest) and fertilizer, and you only need to add a new plant cartridge if your old plant has died. Instead of tossing out the plastic container that your plant comes in, though, you keep the reusable potting container, so you're reducing your overall waste. You can get a Starter Kit with Mini Tomato, Chili Pepper, Cockscomb and Basil, then get refills of 10 different plants.
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GoodGuide is a free Android and iOS app that uses barcode scanning to determine whether the products you're thinking of buying are safe, healthy and green. Users can choose the issues they care about -- from animal welfare to energy efficiency -- and then GoodGuide lets you know if that product passes or fails on your criteria.
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This $249 smart thermostat learns your schedule then programs itself to accommodate your needs. Users answer a few questions like the highest and lowest temperatures they'd like their house to reach when they're not home and what hours you'll be away, then Nest sets at an energy-efficient Away temperature. Since thermostats control half of your home's energy, it turns out that when you correctly program your thermostat, you can save 20 percent on your heating and cooling bill, not to mention energy.
Goal Zero Switch 8 Solar Recharging Kit ($99.95)
Whether you're in the great outdoors not near a plug or you just want to reduce your carbon footprint, Goal Zero's $99.95 Switch 8 Solar Recharging Kit recharges your mobile device using the sun. Its 8W Lithium-ion battery recharges your smartphone in 1 hour, and only takes 4 hours to recharge itself via USB (5 hours from the sun).
Instead of driving four separate cars to the same huge corporate building, doesn't it make sense to save energy by all hopping in one vehicle? That's the point ofAvego, the free Android and iOS app that helps organize carpools in real-time. Users can browse rides in their area and contact that person, then the driver receives an automatic payment based on the distance traveled. You can review rides and share it with the Avego community, too.
Grove iPhone 5 bamboo case (Starting at $79)
For those who don't want to hurt the environment by purchasing a plastic or rubber iPhone 5 case, consider theGrove iPhone 5 bamboo case. Made from bamboo, the case is filed, sanded, soaked and oiled before it's shipped to you. The case doesn't block access to your iPhone 5's camera or ports, and a solid surface material interior that's laminated to the bamboo makes it even stronger. You can get a plain bamboo case for $79, or select one of many etched designs for $99. For the truly creative, you can customize an etched case for $129.
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