7 Offbeat Off-the-Grid Green Gadgets, Inventions, and Innovations

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DutchTub, wood fired hot tub. Designed by Floris Schoonderbeek.
DutchTub, wood fired hot tub. Designed by Floris Schoonderbeek.

Who says you need electricity to have a good time?  These off the grid innovations can light up, cool down, and even serve you a hot cup of joe – all with absolutely no electricity required.  From magnetic fields to photoluminescent materials, tomorrow’s gadgets promise to take green technology to new levels…and they’re sure to start up some great conversations!

Instead of using electricity, this refrigerator is cooled by magnetic fields.  The Technical University of Denmark is still perfecting the magnetic fridge and expect working models to be available by 2010.  The unit is expected to be at least 60% more efficient than standard refrigerators.

Photo by Ian Kath
Photo by Ian Kath

The world’s simplest espresso maker, the Presso uses hot water and manual pressure to make a great espresso.  The Presso is completely recyclable and made of durable materials.  The big downfall of manual espresso makers is temperature – warming the mug and heating up the machine mechanisms usually means better coffee.

The Gravia Floor Lamp was designed by Clay Moulton and won 2nd place in the 2008 Greener Gadgets Design Competition.  The LED-lit lamp depends on human energy to set in place a weight that then uses gravity to generate power, providing about 4 hours of light.  The creator claims the Gravia lamp will last up to 200 years with 8 hours of use a day!

Is it an oddly shaped flash drive?  No, it’s a wind-up camera!  The Twist Camera, designed by John Rothapfel, doesn’t operate on batteries and never needs plugged in – simply give the end a twist and it’s powered up and ready to snap your photos.  The built in USB plug makes it easy and convenient to transfer images to your computer and the device should be able to support 5 megapixel quality, rivaling most mobile camera phones.

Photo by After-Lite
Photo by After-Lite

Another electricity-free way to shed some light on things, the After-Lite is guaranteed to last for 8,000 hours and harvests energy from both artificial and natural lighting.  A photo luminescent material stores the light, using it to produce an almost eerie green glow that can last until the morning hours before starting the process again.

It may look like a fashion accessory, but Kinetic Energy is actually a mobile power source that can be used to recharge your phone or iPod on the go.  The band straps around your ankle and stores your kinetic energy as you move about.  A standard connector is included and a multi-adapter is available as well so you can recharge your gadgets completely off the grid.

The Dutchtub wins my vote for the most entertaining no-electricity-required gadget. This wood burning jacuzzi is lightweight and easy to transport so its a perfect vacation companion.  Just throw in some wood and get the fire going for some good green fun.  Water temperatures usually reach about 100 degrees within 2 hours depending on the outside temperature and the type of wood used.

58 thoughts on “7 Offbeat Off-the-Grid Green Gadgets, Inventions, and Innovations”

  1. Although the DutchTub is off-the-grid it is not green by any standard. Burning wood releases loads of carbon dioxide (which is the current buzzword) into the atmosphere along with all sorts of metal oxides and other soot.

    I also vaguely remember the Gravia floor lamp being featured on Slashdot a while back. It turned out that the four hour power time was an exaggeration and it actually lasted 15 minutes on each lift of the weight.

    In fact, the Slashdot link is here: http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/20/1446256 and the miscalculation was by a factor of 1000. Presumably Clay didn’t actually BUILD one of these devices to test it…

    I’m quite interested in seeing that fridge however. If it really is 60% more efficient it will be a big improvement. The most useful and effective application of the technology would be in air conditioners which are pretty bad for the environment presently.

  2. I think the wood-fired hot tub violates the “green” portion of the title of the article. Burning wood is far from green.

    The gravi-lamp has been thoroughly debunked. Quick back-of-the-envelope calculations show that it could not possibly produce more than a few minutes worth of light. It's designer (Clay Moulton, a student at Virginia Tech) has admitted that he never did the calculations to support its claims, and has recanted them. Unfortunately, the contest judges didn't do their homework either before giving the award.

  3. Burning wood releases exactly the amount of carbon that the tree sequestered while it was alive. It's a closed loop as long as the timber was grown in a sustainable method. The excess carbon in our atmosphere is caused by burning hydrocarbons which sequestered carbon eons ago. The carbon in trees is released by burning or by natural decomposition in the same quantity.

  4. LMAO @ you green knuckleheads. When are you going to get it through your heads that carbon dioxide is at best a trace gas in the atmosphere. Water vapor is the key, not co2. Dolts!

    Imagine a 100 story sky scraper. By comparrison the amount of co2 in our atmosphere would equate to the WAX covering the tile in the first floor of said sky scraper.

  5. Your argument would be like saying Sarin gas “couldnt possibly have killed a room full of people, its only 1 part in 100,000”.
    The propertys of the gas are important, and its effects can outweigh its ratio. In Co2's case, its because it reflects heat in ways water vapour does not.

  6. Sarin? Oh my, great analogy. Fact is there has always been co2 in the atmosphere, way before man invented the internal combustion engine. Do you understand why dinosaurs were the size that they were? Because there was more co2 in the atmosphere back then than there is now – fact.

    Here's another tidbit for you… when Mt Pinatubo blew it spewed more shit into the atmosphere in two days than man ever has or ever will. We are still here, aren't we?

    Again, co2 is at best a trace gas. Get over it. Study sun spot cycles and clue yourself in.

  7. That's some waxy buildup.!

    If we assume that 1 story = 10 ft, a typical handwave, then a 100 story building is about 1000 feet and as Google will show you, (0.038%) * 1000 feet = 4.56 inches, and 0.038% is the percentage of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere. Personally, I'd avoid any buildings with four and a half inches of wax on the floor.

    If I told you once, I told you a million times… don't exaggerate.

  8. Okay, I'm a chemist. And I want to say please verify your facts.
    The effect that water vapor has on the heat reflected towards and away from the surface of earth is so massive that if there was no water vapor in the atmosphere our planet would be approximately 31 degrees Celsius BELOW our current temperature! This is resultant because at the wavelengths that thermal radiation travels at (between 3,000nm and 100,000nm) water vapor is practically opaque! That means that the said thermal radiation would reflect off of it the majority of the time.
    On the other hand if all Carbon Dioxide was removed from the atmosphere of our planet the temperature would drop by a much smaller amount, approximately 15 degrees Celsius. This is because Carbon Dioxide is relatively transparent at the wavelengths of thermal radiation.
    I mean at least look at Wikipedia if your going to pretend to know what your saying. Second section of the global warming entry it gives a breakdown of the effect of the effects of different greenhouse gasses. I wish you people would at least make have a try at getting your facts straight.

  9. I didn't realize a 100 story building was a straight vertical line. I thought it would look more like a box, if anything…

  10. You're not calculating volume. The Sears Tower is about 100 stories and it has 4.5 MILLION square feet of floor space alone. That's not including the space in between the floors…

    So the wax analogy is about right.

  11. Facts are facts. CO2 is not new in the atmosphere. Volcanoes and meteors have caused all sorts of things to end up in the atmosphere for as long as they have been around. CO2 is a trace gas… no arguments there.

    The trouble is caused when we move from measurable facts to predictions about what would happen if the facts changed.

    Science has measured that the average global temperature has gone up in line with the level in CO2 in the atmosphere. Science has also measured that temperatures were much greater than today back when the dinosaurs lived and the level of CO2 was greater. There is no doubt in my mind and the minds of any scientist who has studied these facts that there is a link between atmospheric CO2 and global temperature. Trace gas or not, it's clear that CO2 is important.

    Most scientists predict that even a small rise in global temperature would be a very bad thing for humans on this planet. But predictions are not facts. I accept that they may be wrong.

    I'm not willing to take that chance, however, so I visit sites like this one to do what I can to help prevent it. If I'm wrong, the world will continue on as it is, if you're wrong, we'll all die in a fiery hell.

    What are you here for ?

    You might also want to read up on sun spots yourself…

    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v443/n7108

    This is proper, peer reviewed stuff. It has credibility. It says that sunspots have a short-term effect on global temperature but no long-term effect. Sunspots are not responsible for the rise in global temperature we have seen over the last 30 years.

    This is not peer-reviewed but is much more accessible: http://astroblogger.blogspot.com/2007/03/sunspo

  12. From Wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_warming#Gre… ):

    “Naturally occurring greenhouse gases have a mean warming effect of about 33 °C (59 °F), without which Earth would be uninhabitable.[18][19] On Earth the major greenhouse gases are water vapor, which causes about 36–70 percent of the greenhouse effect (not including clouds); carbon dioxide (CO2), which causes 9–26 percent; methane (CH4), which causes 4–9 percent; and ozone, which causes 3–7 percent.”

    So Carbon Dioxide is responsible for between about 3 °C and 8 °C.

    If you're going to complain about someone's fact checking, make sure you get it right yourself. (OK, I know I'm being pedantic… but you started it. 😛 )

  13. The comment below the image is misleading. It starts with “Instead of using electricity” and ends with “60% more efficient than standard refrigerators.” These two fragments are incompatible with each other.

    The link is also broken.

    The page on the magnetocaloric fridge at the Risø research institute is here: http://www.risoe.dk/Risoe_dk/Home/Research/sust

    The magnets are permanent but a cooling liquid is pumped in between them which uses electricity. They also move the magnetocaloric material (Gadolinium currently but the Cambridge guys have found something better) in and out of the magnetic field using an electric motor. Since these are both mechanical processes I don't see why a very small windmill wouldn't do the job quite nicely if you wanted to take one camping…

    I haven't been able to find anything in there about a 60% efficiency improvement however, when compared to the function of a normal fridge, there is no compression of a gas involved which is the most energy intensive part of a fridge. The PhysOrg page I linked earlier says 40% more efficient which is a rather suspicious number. I suspect “only 60% of the energy of a normal fridge” has been turned into “60% more efficient” somewhere along the line.

    So, it's the only one that's not “off-the-grid” and at the same time it's by far the most interesting (and green) innovation.

  14. Its amazing what we do on less than 1% of our brain. I think thats what they say we use but I can't remember. See I use less than that!!

  15. That's a great thing this wood heated Hot tub. Now that Global Warming Hoax is finally out in the open we don't need to feel bad about burning wood.

  16. Jesus Christ. Give the guy a break. You friggin wackos are insane about some shit. The hot tub isn't “green” enough for you? Oh, wait, you probably would rather see some dumb ass sit there and pedal for 12 hours and heat the pool water with friction generated from the pedaling. Cmon guys. Lets be real about some things. What if the wood had already fallen and not been cut down? Is that ok? Or are we disturbing the natural system of life by picking up that tree and using it for a fire or, say, to knock you on the fucking head with. How's that? I'm all for changing our habits, gas consumption, etc. But there has to be a line somewhere that we can all just chill the frig out about everything. If he said it was solar, you would have found a way to complain that the factory that produces the solar panels actually emits more harm for the environment than if you were to throw a downed log or 2 in once a week. Get over yourselves guys. The guy is just trying put a blog with some interesting info on it.

  17. Jesus Christ. Give the guy a break. You friggin wackos are insane about some shit. The hot tub isn't “green” enough for you? Oh, wait, you probably would rather see some dumb ass sit there and pedal for 12 hours and heat the pool water with friction generated from the pedaling. Cmon guys. Lets be real about some things. What if the wood had already fallen and not been cut down? Is that ok? Or are we disturbing the natural system of life by picking up that tree and using it for a fire or, say, to knock you on the fucking head with. How's that? I'm all for changing our habits, gas consumption, etc. But there has to be a line somewhere that we can all just chill the frig out about everything. If he said it was solar, you would have found a way to complain that the factory that produces the solar panels actually emits more harm for the environment than if you were to throw a downed log or 2 in once a week. Get over yourselves guys. The guy is just trying put a blog with some interesting info on it.

  18. @ People saying wood burning is not green —

    Burning wood is MUCH more green than burning coal, as wood is a renewable resource. The CO2 released into the air is taken up by trees which are then burned again. It's cyclical, meaning it has virtually zero footprint.

    This is assuming the trees are grown at a rate matching the rate of burning, which is more and more becoming the case. Logging companies are beginning to log only new growth forests which they then replace. Coal on the other hand, takes millenia to replenish. If we were burning the coal at the rate it was being produced, it would also be zero footprint. This is obviously impossible for us to do with our current energy consumption.

  19. @ People saying wood burning is not green —

    Burning wood is MUCH more green than burning coal, as wood is a renewable resource. The CO2 released into the air is taken up by trees which are then burned again. It's cyclical, meaning it has virtually zero footprint.

    This is assuming the trees are grown at a rate matching the rate of burning, which is more and more becoming the case. Logging companies are beginning to log only new growth forests which they then replace. Coal on the other hand, takes millenia to replenish. If we were burning the coal at the rate it was being produced, it would also be zero footprint. This is obviously impossible for us to do with our current energy consumption.

  20. When you use electricity there is an 80% chance that energy came from fossil fuels that were harvested from below the earth. When you burn wood the source is a co2 absorbing tree. There for the wood is far more green because it is offset by a tree that absorbed all the carbon that it took to make that wood…

  21. When you use electricity there is an 80% chance that energy came from fossil fuels that were harvested from below the earth. When you burn wood the source is a co2 absorbing tree. There for the wood is far more green because it is offset by a tree that absorbed all the carbon that it took to make that wood…

  22. Dear Jessica,
    The burning of wood is considered CO2-neutral because it releases the same amount of carbon that it absorbed during its life as a tree.

  23. I love your Comments. Critical “Green” thinking is exactly what everyone needs. No one seems to be questioning anything anymore!

  24. I love your Comments. Critical “Green” thinking is exactly what everyone needs. No one seems to be questioning anything anymore!

  25. Everyone would be advised to consider the greener aspect of our purchases. The energy we consume in for instance heating our hot water is enormousn not to mention the dollar cost for us as consumers. Look at the alternatives…

  26. Everyone would be advised to consider the greener aspect of our purchases. The energy we consume in for instance heating our hot water is enormousn not to mention the dollar cost for us as consumers. Look at the alternatives…

  27. Wow, I am impressed! I don't think we will find these on Whirlpool parts but they should be available already for wide use, some of these gadgets and innovations really worth a close look.

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  29. This covers all the bases = saves you money, helps the environment, helps your health, makes you feel better, it's so easy to do and it costs less than $50.00; Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time! Add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: “if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off” Available at http://www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without felling guilty. It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. And after using one of these you won't know how you lasted all those years with wadded up handfuls of toilet paper. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt far exceed the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways. Blog; THE BUTT OF TOO MANY JOKES;http://jeff9.livejournal.com/1603.html

  30. This covers all the bases = saves you money, helps the environment, helps your health, makes you feel better, it's so easy to do and it costs less than $50.00; Save money and the Earth and be clean at the same time! Add Bathroom Bidet Sprayers to all your bathrooms. I think Dr. Oz on Oprah said it best: “if you had pee or poop on your hand, you wouldn't wipe it off with paper, would you? You'd wash it off” Available at http://www.bathroomsprayers.com with these you won't even need toilet paper any more, just a towel to dry off! Don’t worry, you can still leave some out for guests and can even make it the soft stuff without feeling guilty. It's cheap and can be installed without a plumber; and runs off the same water line to your toilet. You'll probably pay for it in a few months of toilet paper savings. As for water use a drought is always a concern and must be dealt with prudently but remember the water use of industrial users far exceeds the water use of household users and in the case of toilet paper manufacture it is huge. The pollution and significant power use from that manufacturing process also contributes to global warming so switching to a hand bidet sprayer and lowering your toilet paper use is very green in multiple ways.

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