Best Green Tech Innovations of 2010

Recently Popular Science released its list of the six top Green Tech innovations of 2010, whichrun the gamut from low to high tech sophistication. These innovationsdirectly benefit the planet or are better for the environment than thetechnologies they intend to replace.

1. The Groasis Waterboxx

The Groasis Waterboxx was the best new innovation of the year. Theinnovation is an irrigation-free plant incubator that could help makearid lands fertile. Deforestation and over-farming have helped decreasethe productivity of about 70 percent of the world’s arid and semi-aridlands, this could displace 50 million people by 2017.

However,even arid places have enough water, if the roots can access the moistsoil beneath the surface. This innovation helps plants to survive longenough to be able to get their roots down to where they can find water.

The Waterbox is a donut shaped tub that is placed around a freshly plantedseedling. The evaporation-proof basin is filled with four gallons ofwater and it supplements this water with condensation. The tub dripsabout three tablespoons of water a day into the soil, sustaining theplant while encouraging its roots to grow deeper in search of morewater. After about one year, the plant reaches the moist soil layer, and the box can be removed and reused on the next sapling. Each Waterboxxis expected to last 10 years.

In tests in the Sahara, 88 percentof Waterboxx-sheltered trees survived, versus 10 percent of trees withtraditional cultivation. The inventor is now working on a biodegradableversion that decomposes and feeds the developing tree. One of thefactors that gives this innovation widespread applicability is its lowprice of $27 per box. Each box can grow 10 trees in its lifetime,translating to a cost of $2.70 per tree, making it affordable even inpoorer nations.

2. Philips EnduraLED

Philips EnduraLED bulb is far more efficient than traditional light bulbs and it is evenmore efficient than compact florescent light bulbs. This LED producesthe same amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent using just 12 watts.The EnduraLED’s produce a warm, white glow. The bulb lasts approximately 25 times as long as an incandescent and energy savings cover the costin about four years. Its efficiency is similar to compact fluorescentlights, but without the mercury. It retails for about $40.

3. ecoATM

Only 3 percent of cellphones worldwide get recycled; the rest end up leaking toxic metals into landfills. Now ecoATM has the first phone-recycling kiosk. To identify the phone’s model, itvisually scans the phone’s exterior and compares the images with anecoATM-maintained database of 4,000-plus mint-condition handsets. Italso tests the phone’s electronics and looks for cracked LCDs andcosmetic damage. The kiosk erases the phone’s data as well as payoutcash based on the phone’s resale value. The first 10 ecoATMs havealready recycled 33,000 phones, at an average payout of $9 per handset.The company plans to roll out 500 more kiosks next year and expand toother portable electronics.

4. AMEE Explorer

AMEE. Explorer is the world’s smartest carbon calculator. Three years ago, AMEE, acarbon-data company, made the best and most sophisticated programmingtool aggregating thousands of previously incompatible data sources andenvironmental models. Now AMEE has added the free, user-friendly Website Explorer.

5. Calera

Coal and natural-gas power plants are one of the largest man-made sources of carbon dioxide. But by paying to build a Calera facility, a plant can trap about 70 percent of the CO2 emissions coming out of their smokestack while producing and selling constructionmaterials. Calera’s process combines the CO2 with calcium fromunderground brine or seawater to produce calcium carbonate, which canact as a cement. Calera has had a demonstration plant that has beenrunning since 2009 and this year it began planning the first commercialfacility.

6. Neah Power Infinity eL

NeahPower’s direct-methanol fuel cells are lighter, greener batteries thatare also less expensive than other fuel cells. Its novel silicon-basedelectrode has 40 times as much surface area as most fuel cells,producing more charge while using less platinum catalyst. This fall,Neah introduced Infinity eL, its demo product line. The company commonly tailors its tech to specific applications, however, Neah cells couldreplace current lithium-ion batteries, including those found inelectric-cars and laptops.

Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, sustainable investor and writer. He is the owner of THE GREEN MARKET, one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. He is also the author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, green investing, enviro-politics and eco-economics.

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