Sep 272009

Easy-bloom Plant Sensor

I love gardening but unfortunately, gardening doesn’t love me. Any plants left in my sole care generally have very short and unhealthy lives. It’s not because I dislike them or neglect them or have any ill-intent; I’m just a bad plant mother.

However, to make up for this defect, I’ve very sensibly married a man with some kind of instinctive plant-ESP. He plants, prunes, re-pot, fertilises, waters and harvests without inflicting mass-planticide, so I’m blessed with a lovely garden way beyond my just desserts. (I get to do weeding and pest control – I’m good at the death stuff.)

Matthew Glenn is an American technology product developer suffering from a similar plant-disability to mine, who realised that millions of unintentional plant-murders like us desperately need help – and came up with just the gadget.

The EasyBloom Plant Sensor is a white plastic gadget resembling an electric toothbrush body topped with green plastic flower petals. Switching it into either ‘recommend’ or ‘monitor’ mode, you plant the sensor into a particular garden location where you’d like to grow a plant (or next to a plant you’re currently killing) and leave it there for 24 hours to gather information on things like temperature, light, humidity and soil moisture.

Then you plug the sensor into your computer (do I really need to tell you to wipe the dirt off first?)
Some computer magic happens, somehow all the environmental information is applied to algorithms gathered from botanists (what?!) and the Plant Sense software will either recommend plants that will suit the location – or diagnose what’s wrong with your ailing plant and tell you how to fix it.

There’s even a web-based app that keeps track of all the plants in your garden. (Do they publish lists of mass-plant-murderers, I wonder?)  Unfortunately, at this stage, the gadget only works within the USA; but hopefully the makers will aim for world garden domination soon.

Bottom line: Turn your brown thumb green
How much : US $ 60

Sep 232009

Paper Water Bottle

Wherever you go these days, the horrendously overpriced single-use disposable plastic water bottle has become quite the trendy accessory, with an estimated 22 billion of them ending up in landfill each year.

The global bottled water market is expected to be worth US$ 86 billion in 2011. Most  bottled water is now supplied in plastic PET bottles, made from petrochemicals.

The first PET bottles (polyethylene terephthalate) appeared in 1975, ironically at the height of the OPEC world oil crisis.

Within a decade, the recyclable glass bottle was a rarity. Greenpeace estimates that 10 percent of the world’s plastic now ends up in the ocean, much of it in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an oceanic desert twice the size of Texas that supports very little life and is filled with exceptionally high concentrations of suspended plastic debris.

The disposable plastic water bottle has quickly become one of the world’s great environmental threats.

Not only do we waste hundreds of millions of dollars on something that is freely available to most of Australia’s population, but in Australia alone, a year’s supply of bottled water costs the planet over 300,000 barrels of oil a year.

That’s how much of one of the world’s most precious resources it takes to package, ship and refrigerate a product that is already piped to every single suburban premises for next to nothing, according to Sunday Age calculations.

This is why the 360 Paper Bottle is so astoundingly cool. It’s the first totally recyclable paper container,  made from renewable bamboo stock with micro-PLA film.

Developed by a US branding agency, it’s still in early product distribution stage. Let’s hope it catches on.

Bottom line: An alternative to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
How much : Still in concept stage

Sep 222009

Despite our over-the-top consumption of fizzy drink, double caramel macchiato soy lattes and alcopops, it seems that plain old H2O still plays a fairly important part in the average human diet.

Until recently, however, water had fallen from grace in our consumption-driven society; possibly because marketing-types were focused on water-with-added-value, not imagining that people who lived in a society rich enough to have clean drinking water literally on tap would be silly enough to part with good money to buy it.

Well, we live in a society that is indeed astoundingly, unbelievably silly, to the tune of about $ 400 million spent on bottled water in Australia alone (and more on the evils of the disposable plastic bottle in tomorrow’s post.)

Meanwhile – we have the Swiggy. These reusable plastic water bottles attach to each wrist and hold up to 5.5 ounces (that’s around 160 mL) of water, although there’s no reason they couldn’t hold an equal quantity of vodka, gin or both.

The Swiggie was invented by a Texan woman who collapsed from dehydration while running on a hot day.

Clearly running on a hot day in Texas without water is somewhat foolish; however despite its silly name and that loud yelling video that launches the instant you click on the website, there’s something kind of cool about Swiggies.

In fact, for extra cool, the Swiggies people suggest you can even pop your swiggies in the freezer before you go out jogging. (Though that sounds like a bad idea to me; wouldn’t they become really heavy and uncomfortable and freeze your wrists?)

Bottom line: Break the drought and accessorise with water
How much : US $ 12.95 for a set of two,  plus postage

Sep 082009

I know from personal (albeit long-ago) experience just how hard it is to kick the smoking habit.

It’s a disgusting habit, true; but smoking is not just a chemical habit, it is a physical one.

Nicotine patches just don’t cut it with the desperate wannabe ex-smoker; our fingers tremble, our lips purse, we crave that long, deep sucked-in mouthful of toxic gases, that slow, dirty, sighed-out exhalation of cancerous smoke, the smell of the 4000 carcinogenic chemicals burning into our lungs.
And don’t forget the social side of smoking; non-smokers see only the ostracism and don’t realise that there is a dark underbelly of smoker camaraderie, impervious to race, gender, class and job description.

Giving up smoking means giving up the long trip down in the elevator to the windy exile of the grotty smoker’s corner outside the marble foyer; the thrill of joining the ragged assortment of outcasts desperate for their fix; the secret membership of the stinky club that crosses the corporate boundaries, the excuse to ditch the office when the going gets tough.

Here is a gadget as dodgy as the willing market it is bound to find. Egar is a rechargeable electronic cigarette containing no tobacco. Instead, you buy cartridges containing water, propylene glycol, nicotine and a ‘scent that emulates a tobacco flavour.’

“There is no visible flame, no smell and you can beat the smoking ban and smoke indoors in public places. Egar gives you the same satisfaction and taste of a real cigarette – without the negative side-effects.”

It even releases a ‘vapour mist’ that looks – but doesn’t smell – like cigarette smoke.

Sounds deeply unsatisfying, but if you’re addicted to the coffin nails and the patches just don’t do it for you, this may be your only hope!

Bottom line: Quit smoking and still visit the outdoor ashtray with Cheryl from Accounts
How much : Starter kit is Au $ 75, then $5 per cartridge