Eco Nation Universal Eco Speakers Eco Product Review

Maybe I’ve been out of the loop but I didn’t know such amazing things as these existed – build your own speakers. Well you don’t actually really need to build much as the electronics are done for you but these Eco Speakers are great.

I received them as a present so no idea where they came from but it was like a nod back to my childhood. With the complicated bits done all for you, all that’s left for you to do is put the cardboard backing together in a box shape and then decorate it to your heart’s content.

Eco Nation speakers

Which I haven’t done yet but I will when artistic inspiration hits me. The speakers are powered by the mp3 player, iPod or laptop you connect it to so you don’t need another power source. They’re probably useful as travel speakers but as they’re made of cardboard you’ll have to be careful not to rip them as they’ll be difficult to repair easily.

Fun as a gift and quite useful round the house, have found myself using them more than I would have thought. Available online from places like Amazon, Eco Nation Universal Eco Speakers cost between £7-20.00 depending on what type you get.


GreenSmart Laptop Sleeve Eco Product Review

While actual computers have a long way to come in terms of being green, what we put them in is already there. GreenSmart has just released a range of environmentally friendly laptop sleeves and has sent us one to review.

The 15.4″ Akepa laptop sleeve – named after an endangered small yellow bird found in Hawaii – is made with what the company calls Neogreene.

A nice play on words. It’s a completely water-based material with none of the toxins or chemicals found in neoprene. And it’s soft to the touch inner lining is actually made from 100% recycled plastic bottles. The bottles are ground up, washed and made into fiber, spun into yarn and woven into fabric. The overall process actually uses less energy than making polyester out of refined petroleum.

Akepa laptop sleeve

The company has a good policy too, not only does it try to manufacture and ship its products as greenly as possible, it donates 10% of its profit to the World Wildlife Fund.

The actual sleeve itself is well constructed. It’s strong with a double zip and has an elasticated hook on the inside for er hanging it up maybe? There is also a ventilated gusset meaning you can put your laptop in it while it’s still warm and it’ll be able to cool down okay. It comes in a range of colours – blue ice, grape, melon, azalea and the black version we received. Currently the design is inspired by the Bird’s Nest Stadium.

At almost $40 it’s not the cheapest on the market but certainly not the most expensive, and for something as well made and eco-friendly as it is I would suggest it’s a bargain.

The 15.4″ Akepa laptop sleeve is available from GreenSmart priced $39.95.

Solar Charger Backpack Eco Product Review

Anyone who regularly uses gadgets to keep their business and social life running smoothly will have been caught out, at some point, by a lack of charge. Running out of battery life on your cell phone or music player is a bit like having a part of you temporarily disabled, and it always seems to happen when you desperately need to make a call, or have a long stretch of time ahead that only a great album can while away for you.

All is not lost for green gadget enthusiasts, however, as a savvy company have developed the ultimate in practical charging accessories: The Infinit IV2.1 Solar Charger Backpack. This neat little bag features a 2.4W solar panel, which is discretely positioned in the front of the backpack, and used to charge up its internal battery. You can then take the green energy and use it to power up your cell phone, GPS device, iPod, or any other gadget that will accept power from a USB port.

Finally, an eco product that is as stylish as it is green

The solar panel is about the same size as a book, and looks stylish enough for you to take the bag from work to home without fearing being laughed at on the way. The bag is durable, black and understated, with a neat design and hard-wearing material. Not only does the bag look better than you would expect for a first-generation eco gadget, it also has a number of features to recommend it, including a retractable USB cable, an AC adapter plug, a removable rechargeable battery, eight different adaptors and a waterproof sack to cover the whole thing and protect it from the elements.

Great storage to take you from home to office to camp site

The Infinit has a great range of pockets and compartments to put all your gadgets, all of which are protected by a red interior netting. The main section of the bag is big enough to take binders and accessories, and there is a second slightly smaller section which is ideal for carrying your laptop safely. Your music player has its own section, which lets you thread headphones through to keep the device dry when you listen. Finally, a reinforced base and toughened handles make sure that the bag can take more weight than you would expect, without sagging.

Using the bag to charge your devices

The Infinit battery is easy to use. All you have to do is pop the battery in to a standard USB cable to charge, and you can remove the battery if you want to charge your devices without carting the bag along at the same time. Using the adaptors which you get with each gadget such as your cell phone or iPod make it easy to charge them, simply by plugging them in. an indicator lets you know when everything has charged up, and how much charge you actually have left in the battery itself. To get the battery back to full power, all you have to do is plug it in to the solar panel and let it do its stuff!

Overall, the Infinit is a highly stylish and convenient way of being green and getting some spare power for your favorite gadgets along the way. You can buy the Infinit IV2.1 Backpack for around $180, from a number of online retailers.

[Image credit: EnviroGadget]

The ecobutton – cool, clever and green

If you look around your house right now, how many appliances do you have which are currently sitting on standby? While it was thought that gadgets left switched off, but still on standby, used little energy, we now know that this is not true. As we have the ability to monitor our fuel consumption through gadgets such as the Owl, we are learning just how much electricity is being used even while we sleep, because of appliances being left on.

Annoyingly, many television manufacturers and other gadget providers have still not cottoned on to the fact that we are looking to save energy and cut costs. This means that even brand-new televisions still only have a stand-by option, and in order to make them more economical we have to switch them off at the power socket.

One of the worst offenders for using energy needlessly has to be the humble laptop or PC. More of us are working from home or spending our leisure time surfing, which means that office appliances are draining more of our electricity more or less constantly. It’s quicker and more convenient to keep your machine on standby when you pop away from it, even overnight, and most of us tend to simply shut the lid of a laptop or send our PC to sleep until we get back to working on them.

The last thing busy workers want to be doing is shutting down their monitor and PC every single time they pop away for a coffee, only to have to come back and re-boot it all and find the documents or sites you were working on. So, what’s the solution? I can tell you!

Cutting costs, cutting carbon

For under $30, you can now get your hands on a very funky gadget. The ecobutton™ has been designed to work with your PC or laptop to activate the most economical sleep mode available on your machine, whenever you need it to. This little carbon-reducing button has the ability to power down for you when you step away, only to bring the computer on in an instant as soon as you are ready to work again.

The ecobutton™ features a smart illuminator to remind you to press it before you leave your PC or laptop, so you never forget to power down before walking away. Saving energy and time, the little button is a genius of quiet, understated effectiveness. The savings you make through using the button are displays on the button’s screen, showing you exactly how much electricity you have saved (in terms of cost), and how much you have reduced your carbon footprint. Another addictive little gadget, the ecobutton™ will serve as a gentle reminder to you to do your bit for the environment even as you work.

There are currently about 30 billion computers in the world. Imagine the potential savings if we all invested a small amount, to make them more efficient? You can buy your own ecobutton™ by visiting their dedicated site:

Wind-up radios…not such a wind-up after all

Wind-up radios may seem a little outdated, but in fact they’re enjoying a resurgence as a funky and cool way to save on energy, while getting access to your favorite music and talk shows. Clockwork or wind-up radios are obviously powered by human energy, rather than batteries or electricity. They work through an internal electrical generator run by a mainspring, which is wound by a hand crank on the case.

Turning the crank winds the spring, and a full winding charges enough for several hours of operation. In more modern versions of the radio, clockwork function has been replaced by batteries which care charged manually through the winding action.


Originally designed for use in emergency zones that were left without electricity, and then taken up by the camping community, the humble wind-up radio is now being applauded as a low-cost, high-efficiency way of saving electricity for green homes. They’re also handy in situations such as holiday homes, as traditional radios with batteries run the risk of degrading if they are not used for a while.

Trevor Baylis invented the wind-up radio in 1989, in response to the AIDS crisis in developing countries. He wanted it to be used by people with no access to batteries, and developed his product for this purpose. It was quickly adopted by military and emergency services. 1996 saw Trevor Baylis founded Freeplay Energy PLC, and began producing commercial models for general sale to public consumers.

What features do wind-up radios have?

Prices for wind-up radios start from as little as $14.00 for a basic model. However, if you want to get enhanced functionality and a smarter spec, it’s worth paying a little more. My personal favorite is the Eton FR360 solarlink, which has been designed for festival goers who want to access news and music when they’re camping out.

The Eton features four different power methods – batteries, solar power, wind-up power or an internal NiMh re-chargeable battery pack. It has a splash-proof case to prevent mishaps and protect against harsh weather conditions. It’s relatively lightweight, compact and looks pretty smart, giving you everything you need for accessing radio on the go.

The radio covers AM/FM and shortwave bands and comes with a built-in flashlight as well as USB mobile phone charging capabilities. This means that you have far more than just music when you invest in one, as you can get light and power simply from winding the crank.

Designs such as the Eton demonstrate that people’s opinions of the humble wind-up radio are changing, and eco manufacturers are working hard to increase functionality and accessories to accommodate this change. You can buy the Eton online, for around $100 from and other retailers.

Sony Ericsson Elm Phone Eco Product Review

Wait a minute. A mobile phone being reviewed on an eco-friendly bog? Yes that’s right as this Sony Ericsson Elm is one of its new range of Greenheart phones.

Along with the C190, Aspen and Hazel phones, the Elm (or J10i to give it it’s product number) is one of the first environmentally friendly phones from Sony Ericsson so I had to try it out. I chose the Elm as I like ‘candybar’ phones, having trying the flip and slide ones which disagreed with me. Also I like Sony Ericsson phones, I’m not one of these people who upgrade every year so had one (the W810i) for almost five years but it recently started playing up, so I bought a new Sony Ericsson. But not this one, I bought a cheap Walkman phone and it was awful. Truly awful, Slow, unresponsive, small memory, I couldn’t set up the shortcuts I liked etc so I came to the Elm with both hope and apprehension.

Sony Ericsson Elm

I’m not going to review the phone in depth as this review is more about the eco-friendly aspects, but I’m pleased to report that it’s fast, smooth, comfortable, user-friendly and if you like the shape of thses sorts of phones I don’t think you can go far wrong. Sony Ericsson surprised me by abandoning the Micro Memorystick format in favour of Micro SD (which isn’t included) but apart from that it’s a wonderful phone and even has apps to update Facebook and Twitter if that’s your thing. Oh and you can turn text messages into conversations like on an iPhone if you like too.

Anyway, the first you notice when buying the phone is the minimal packaging. It comes in a small phone – about a quarter of the size of other ones I’ve had – and there aren’t any plastic bags involved. The phone itself come in a material pouch and there aren’t any instructions. There is some basic symbols on box about how to insert a sim card but that’s it, you have to go online to find the full instructions. Also the headphones, USB cable and charger all come loose in the box.


Talking of the charger, it’s a Greenheart one so is low-energy. And when you have finished charging and unplug the lead from the phone a handy reminder to turn off the plug on the wall to save energy pops up. The battery is actually excellent and a full charge last me three or four days, much longer than other phones I’ve had.

Along with the e-manual, minimal packaging, low-energy charger, the phone is made from recycled plastics, free from hazardous chemicals and uses a waterborne paint. There’s also a rather strange app called Walk Mate Eco which counts your steps and tells you how much CO2 you’ve saved today. And that’s it, there’s no customisation or anything you can do with it really. I would at least like it tell me how many calories that equates to as well. And it only works in your pocket or bag as I was testing it with it in my hand and as I was keeping it steady it didn’t think I was moving.

There’s a lot going for the Elm, not just it’s eco-friendliness, so it should appeal to mainstream phone users as well. I’ve listed some of those features below. You can find more about Greenheart here.

• Noise shield, clear voice and intelligent volume adaptation
• Natural fit – human curvature and ergonomic keypad fits in the palm of a hand
• Social networking – Facebook, myspace and Twitter
• 5.0 megapixel autofocus camera
• Google search and Google Maps
• Media player

The Sony Ericsson Elm costs vary depending on what plan you have. Mine was from O2 and on special offer on Pay As You Go for £100.

Trevor Baylis Eco Lantern Product Review

Trevor Baylis is one of the greatest modern inventors. Creator of the wind up radio, the developing world has benefited greatly and what has followed is a slew of wind up products. I’ll always remember the wind up Eco Media Player the most though, mainly for this awful video below. It’s almost painful to watch, but I still love the idea of his products and his vision.

Click here if you can’t see the video

The Eco Lantern is designed for camping trips where you don’t have easy access to mains electricity. A one minute wind will give 20 minutes of light from the five bright LEDs in the lantern. And it really does work, wind away for a minute and switch it on. The light is indeed bright and white. Although it wasn’t as bright as I expected, that was until I turned it upside down. Hanging it from the loop (an additional ‘S’ shape hook is included and you can also slip it onto a screw or nail) and the illumination seems much greater.

Eco Lantern

Pressing the on button for a second time switches off the white LEDs and illuminates two orange LEDs on a strip around the outside of the lantern. These are called the ‘night lights’ and give off a soft glow. At first I thought these were too soft and pretty useless, but when using it in a confined space the light is actually quite nice and works as described.

The only gripe I have is that a mains charger isn’t included. There is a car charger, which will fully charge it in three hours but what if you go to your camping trips on public transport and want to charge it before you leave? The winding action is housed in the base and a minute of winding is easy enough. When you haven’t used it for a long it suggests a three minute charge and that is a little tougher. My arm started to ache a little doing that, which I put down to lack of going to the gym, so I’ll suggest passing it around to your camping buddies.

Available from Ethical Superstore, the Trevor Baylis Eco Lantern costs £21.95.