Thursday, April 30, 2009


Green sites are constantly admonishing me to unplug my appliances. Apparently even when we're not using them, the toaster, the laptop, the printer, the fax, the shredder, the microwave, the camera, the video player, the stereo, etc etc are still draining electrical power. These, we are being told, should be unplugged when not in use.

Ok, I'm slow to jump on this one. It's a small inconvenience to pull the microwave out from the wall and plug it in each time I make tea - which, through the course of a chilly Kansas day might be as many as six or seven times! Less (duh) in Arizona. The problem is remembering to unplug the darn thing post-brew. I don't think it's going to happen. At least not consistently.

So memory (or lack thereof) is human attribute that inhibits certain green behavior. (Lack of memory is part of my story too frequently - like when I forget to take my green bags into the grocery store.)

A second problem is that my cell phone, when unplugged from the wall, runs out of juice too quickly. Nothing is more annoying than being out-and-about and having my cell go out right in the middle of a call. To make sure they have the longest possible charge, I like to keep them plugged in for a couple of hours at a time.

So inconvenience (or perceived inconvenience) is the second issue for me. My distaste for inconvenience is simply an attitude problem. I'm spoiled. But that I recognize myself for the shallow human-being I am doesn't change the fact that I want what I want when I want it -including the ability to chat on my cell phone to anyone about anything without having to worry about dead batteries.

So I've been looking for a fix for these human character flaws. Here are two related ideas that should take care of both:

For most of my kitchen appliances and for the equipment attached to the pile of wires beneath my office desk, etc, power strips that automatically turn off my equipment when I'm not using it seems like the answer. No memory required. If, like me, you keep a lot of things plugged in near your computer - fax machine, printer, camera - or a lot of appliances - juicer, can opener, blender - a power strip with a use sensor is the perfect answer. I found three. The Wattstopper is the pricier one ($90 from the manufacturer's site), I could find no reviews anywhere, so buyer beware.

The Smart Strip is a lot less money ($32-$42, depending on the model), but the reviews on it are mixed. If you have a complicated entertainment set-up, I'd read the reviews carefully before opting for this. Both of these gizmos serve as surge protectors too.

The last one, the Intermatic Power Strip with Digital Timer, seemed to have pretty much what the other two had, but for $19!! Do you think the "na na na" at the end of the URL address is the rough equivilent of sticking out your tongue at the higher priced products...?

For my cell phone, I want one of those timers, the kind you would use to turn the lights on and off at preset times when you're vacationing. This plugs into an outlet, and then usually you plug a lamp into the timer. But I'm advocating for plugging my cell phone charger into the timer. That way I can set the timer for as many hours as my phone needs for a full charge, and then turn the charger off.

The main issue here is that I have to lay out money for these. But check around. Ebay,, Radio Shack, Look for a bargain.

And one more thing. Here is a link to a very thorough but readable article about changes you can make to the SETTINGS on your cell (because you only need make the change once) to save your cell phone battery, And here's a great one on how to improve the life of any piece of electronic equipment that uses batteries, These will save you money, as well as greening your electric usage.


  1. Smart Strip just $26.98

  2. The fact that you consider "the toaster, the laptop, the printer, the fax, the shredder, the microwave, the camera, the video player, the stereo, etc etc" necessary survival items is the problem. A smart extension cord is not the answer to a perception that all that gear is needed to live a basic life.

  3. To Anonymous: Actually, I don't personally have a toaster, a fax (mostly because I don't have a land line), or a shredder. But the point isn't what I have or don't have. It's that most of us do use some of these things (or other things - e.g. my most-used appliances after my laptop are my hair dryer and curling iron). We could use less electricity if we choose these sensor strips to turn them off for us. I think it is unrealistic to advocate to people that they give up all their appliances. Most people won't (including me and my hair toys, you and your computer use). Better we should do what we can to educate people to easily minimize their footprints. I believe that people will take on a few green behaviors, begin to identify themselves as green, and then learn more about it and make even bigger adjustments. It's a process.

  4. To Anonymous: who wants to live a "basic" life, anyway?

  5. Not me! Although I admit to having given up TV, since if I'm patient, I can watch all my favorite shows on my laptop the day AFTER everyone else watches them! As a starving student, this has been a great cost-savings!