Explainer: 11 green inventions that go too far
The green movement has gained a lot of momentum in recent years, no doubt prompted by rising energy costs, a weak economy and environmental disasters like the BP oil spill.
Some have been quick to capitalize on the trend, losing practicality in the frenzy to attain another kind of green — the kind that shows up on a balance sheet. Others create extreme concepts that will never become everyday realities, in order to raise awareness.
Either way, the results can be just plain nuts.
Dance-powered portable charger
For once, the spastic, uncoordinated limb-flailing you call dancing can actually serve a purpose outside of embarrassing you at parties. Last year, UK-based mobile and internet service provider Orange actually released several prototype armbands that harvested energy through the kinetic power of the dance. Based on that, I would hazard a guess that the Chicken Dance might be the most efficient way to charge up a cell phone. Orange
The Picnic Plus is a solar-powered gadget docking station, insulated cooler and speaker system all-in-one. It's one of those “kitchen sink” gadgets that doesn't just take green too far, it takes everything too far. There's no way that it can do any of this well. $84.99 Sports Authority
Wind 'N Go shaver
According to the manufacturer, winding up this eco-friendly electric shaver will net you enough juice for a full shave. Of course, if you really want to go green, non-electric shavers have been around for decades – I believe they're called razors. $43.90 Athena Brands
If you already chronicle every waking moment of your life on Twitter, you will love the Tweet-a-Watt system. This open source project can be installed yourself using a $90 kit and a $20 Kill-a-Watt power monitor. Once completed, the system will monitor the energy usage in your home and tweet that information to your Twitter account. So, to recap, you fire up a gadget that lets you brag to your Twitter followers about how little power you are using. Not only is it slightly ironic, it is a very slow way to get popular. $90 adafruit
Man-powered Ferris wheel
When I was a kid, I was wary of going on rides at the fair because it always seemed like the only thing separating a good time from an untimely death was a rickety safety bar, a carny and maybe some duct tape. My fear would be especially acute if I were faced with this human-powered Ferris wheel in Southern India. It doesn't use fuel or electricity; instead four or five men spin the bars and dangle from the beams, using their body weight to turn the wheel. Environmental Graffiti
I don't know about you, but I like to brush my teeth while standing underneath a waterfall in a sun-drenched natural spring. It doesn't get any greener than that — unless I started using a Soladey Solar-Powered toothbrush that is. It doesn't vibrate or spin or anything. Supposedly, there isn't even a need for toothpaste. It transforms light into negative ions that mix with saliva to break down the molecular bonds that attach plaque to teeth. It's all very confusing and scientific, which must mean that it's good. Good for selling to gullible people, that is. $51 Japan Trend Shop
Water-powered desk clock
This clock is eco-friendly because it doesn't use batteries or electricity from an outlet. All you need to run this clock for 12-14 weeks is some tap water and a dash of lemon juice. That's all well and good, but setting the alarm at the beginning of week 15 might prove problematic. You don't want to be late for work because you forgot to water your clock. $16 - $40 Bedol
Taking public transportation is green, but taking a pedal-powered bus is greener. See the sights and work up a sweat with 15 other people on the Buscycle, an awareness initiative created by Heather Clark and Matthew Mazzotta and 60 volunteers in the summer of 2005. Though the Buscycle's goal was quite noble, "redefining how we move as a culture," I will admit that it is hard to see how this experience is at all different from the misery of being an oarsmen on an ancient warship. The Buscycle Project
NoPoPo are hydro-electric batteries that utilize liquid combined with carbon and magnesium to generate long-lasting power. They can be charged using just about any liquid from soda to sake, but if you are in a real bind, urine or blood will suffice. Let's hope that you are never in such desperate need to power a portable gadget that you are forced to pee into a tiny dropper — or stab someone. $74 Japan Trend Shop
Poo-powered VW Beetle
This VW Beetle is roaming the streets of Bristol in the UK thanks to poo-power. That is to say, it runs on biogas, a fuel derived from the breakdown of organic matter like manure or sewage into methane. There is no doubt that this is a viable, sustainable source of energy (the waste from 70 homes in Bristol generates enough methane to power the car for a year) — but I shudder to think what filling stations might smell like in the future. GENeco
Edible shoe cream
This isn't a gadget like the previous items, but an edible shoe cream is certainly worthy of a mention in a list about green inventions gone wrong. While there is certainly nothing wrong with replacing everyday toxic substances with biodegradable versions, there is just something unsettling about shoe cream that you can spread on a slice of toast and eat for breakfast. $9 greenfibres
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