Category Archives: Healthy Planet

Eco-Chic: 7 Must-Haves for a Stylish, Eco-friendly Summer

A couple of summers ago, our Solar/Dynamo Waterproof LED Flashlight and Handy Dynamo Radio were featured alongside a number of other eco-friendly brands in “The Green Outdoors: Backyard & Beyond”, an article written by Sophie Novack for Organic Spa Magazine.

Because summer’s not quite over, and because we think our flashlight (and the other products featured in the article) are as great as ever, we wanted to share the write-up from Organic Spa Magazine (or you can find a link to the original post here).

Enjoy reading and happy adventuring!

Aug13_green outdoor_1

Summer is a time to enjoy the great outdoors, whether in your backyard or at a campsite. The best gear should be environmentally friendly, in the spirit of truly delighting in nature, but ideally also preserve our daily comforts. Here are some of our newest and greatest eco finds for the season.

PRETTY LITTLE TENT

The Alite X Free People tent is a lightweight and stylish place to sleep two on a summer night. The mesh canopy is ideal for ventilation, and comes with a waterproof rainfly, in case of rain. Designed in collaboration with the clothing brand, Free People, in a range of colors. $168, freepeople.com/alite-x-free-people-tent-28046068/

POWER PACK

Aug13_green outdoor_7With a compact solar panel and battery pack for charging, the Guide 10 Plus Adventure Kit is the ultimate eco-efficient, weather resistant, portable power charger. $ 159.99, goalzero.com

PETITE WATER PURIFIER

SteriPEN relies on eco-friendly UV-light technology to keep your water safe while camping. The world’s smallest, lightest UV water purifier, the light kills over 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in 48 seconds, so you can feel safe drinking water on the trail without having to carry some along. It can be charged through a computer, outlet, or solar panel, via a micro USB B port. $119.95, steripen.com/freedom/

Aug13_green outdoor_3

A BRIGHT LIGHT

This Solar/Dynamo Waterproof LED flashlight is equipped for all terrains and situations. It is water-proof, flood-proof, floats on water, and is built with durable casing to prevent shock from loose wires. The flashlight can also be recharged with solar power or by the hand crank, so you’ll never worry about being left in the dark. $19.99, solarrific.com

CRANK IT

Small and extremely portable, the Handy Dynamo radio weighs in at 0.32 pounds and is powered by cranking—one minute of cranking yields 10 minutes of radio time—and includes a built-in cell phone charger, too, ensuring you’ll never be too disconnected. $19.99, solarrific.com

OUTDOOR TRACKSAug13_green outdoor_6

The ECOROX Waterproof Bluetooth Speaker is equipped to bring 10 hours of playtime to your most exciting adventures. It is lightweight, compact and 100 percent waterproof and shockproof; the speaker floats face-up and can safely be placed directly in a lake, river, or pool. Plays music from any Bluetooth-enabled device and answers calls over a built-in speakerphone.$129.99, ecoxgear.com

Aug13_green outdoor_2ECO COOK STOVE

The BioLite CampStove uses twigs and other biomass rather than non-renewable petroleum gas to create the fire, reducing your carbon footprint. It also doubles as an off-grid power charger, with surplus electricity available to charge small electronic devices. $129.95, biolitestove.com

Out and About in the Pacific Northwest: A Solarrific Reviewer Weighs in on Our 4W Solar Charger

solar charger leaning against a tree with waterfall in background
One adventurer brings her 4W solar charger on hikes throughout the Pacific Northwest. Pictured: Ramona Falls, Mt. Hood National Forest

Where do YOU go solar?

For many fans of solar and dynamo products, exploring the great outdoors means embracing alternative energy, where the main source of power isn’t electrical outlets, but the sun.

When traveling abroad, solar- and dynamo-powered products are also key to staying connected.

Northwest Adventures

One Solarrific user has been taking her 4W solar charger for a ride (and a hike, and a ferry) on day trips and camping excursions in Oregon and Washington.

And that’s fitting, because traveling these days often means relying on a smartphone for directions and maps.

This can get tricky when you’re sleeping under the stars with no way to recharge. The 4W Solar Charger turned out to be useful in these—and many more—situations.

solar charger on picnic table with tent in background
Direct sunlight is best for getting a solar charge. Pictured: Manchester State Park, Washington.

Staying Connected

For our traveling reviewer, sharing what she’s up to via Instagram, Facebook, etc. is particularly tempting when embarking on epic adventures, like hiking a seven-mile loop to Ramona Falls.

Nevertheless, as she discovered, sharing your agenda can really eat up your phone’s battery.

Easy fix: setting up the 4W charger over a lunch break helps you get the shots you want whether or not everything was fully charged when you left home.

Get a Boost from the Sun

Our outdoor adventurer knew that getting away from the crowds with an overnight stay in Manchester State Park, Washington, also meant getting away from electrical outlets.

The 4W charger provided peace of mind, as it was the perfect way to keep phones ready for use without worrying about saving that last 10 percent of battery life.

solar charger on car dashboard
(Solar) Dashboard confessional: just leave it on the dash and drive to your destination.

Passive Solar: Just Leave It on the Dash

Driving from Issaquah, Washington to Portland, Oregon wasn’t an all-day trip for our intrepid traveler, but she observed that three and a half hours on the road was plenty of time to leave the 4W charger on the car’s dashboard to charge her iPhone.

The 4W charger’s optimal location is in direct sunlight, so leaving it on a flat space in the sun like your dashboard is the perfect way to stay charged.

 

Solar-Powered Flight: A 2015 Journey Around the World

Solar-Impulse-viewAt Solarrific, we try to stay abreast of new developments in the world of alternative energy, specifically when it comes to solar advancements.

That said, we’ve been watching in awe over the past several months as the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2) began its mission to circumnavigate the world—exclusively by use of solar power.

The History of Flight

When one looks at the history of flight and exploration, it seems there has been little in terms of recent momentous aeronautic innovation that has served to inspire modern society.

We can likely recall such events as the Wright Brothers’ first flight (December 17, 1903) or the first man to land on the moon (Neil Armstrong, July 20, 1969). For some, these are fond memories, for others, pages from a history textbook. This begs the question—what new flight technology is there to inspire the world and to create new memories and inspiration for people today?

The answer is: plenty.

The Next—Solar—Frontier

The name Bertrand Piccard may ring a bell. He was one of the men responsible for the first non-stop voyage to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon in March 1999. Since then, he has worked with fellow pilot and founder André Borschberg to bring his vision to fruition: to build a solar-powered aircraft that uses no fuel that is capable of circumnavigating the world.

The former has been achieved with the Solar Impulse 2 (Si2), and the latter is already in the works. (To learn more, watch Piccard’s 2010 Ted Talk here.)

The Si2 is capable of flying during the day and at night without need for fuel outside of its massive panel of over 17,000 solar cells that power lithium batteries. Piccard and Borschberg work with a team of approximately 90 engineers, mission controllers and technicians to accomplish research, testing and development of the airplane.

Fun Facts about the Si2
  • The Si2 has a wingspan that is larger than a Jumbo Jet, yet weighs less than your average SUV.
  • Piccard and Borschberg will alternate turns flying the aircraft for 5-6 consecutive days at a time each.
  • The pilot is in an unpressurized/unheated cabin that is temperature-controlled using high-density thermal insulation.
  • The pilot’s seat is equipped to handle multi-day (five to six days at a time) ergonomic needs including reclining, toileting and has even been used for in-flight yoga!
Where’s the Si2 Today?

On March 9th, 2015, the Si2 began its journey around the world with a take-off from Abu Dhabi. There will be 13 legs to the journey, and the Si2 is currently on its 7th leg in Nagoya, Japan (as of today’s date).

Solar-Impulse-cockpit

The aircraft is set to take off for Hawaii as soon as a weather window has been identified. Information about the current location of the aircraft, along with captain’s log can be found here. You can also sign up for their newsletter for periodic updates or contribute to the cause by purchasing your own solar cell.

For more information about the Si2 and its journey, head to www.solarimpulse.com.

3 Versatile, Eco-Friendly Products for City-Dwelling AND the Great Outdoors

SONY DSCMemorial Day Weekend is the holiday that lets us know summer’s nearly here. And, since barbecues, road trips, and camping weekends are just around the corner, it’s officially time to prepare for outdoor adventures.

But what’s a resident of a big city to do when it comes time to venture out into the wild? Limited apartment or condo space often requires city-dwellers to own fewer possessions than their suburban counterparts, and storing outdoor gear can be inconvenient.

First, try to find gear that can do double-duty, helping you transition smoothly from the city to the great outdoors. This keeps the bang-for-your-buck factor high and your environmental impact low. Here are three products that can help you save money and minimize your footprint as you gear up for the great outdoors.

Pocketful of Sunshine

Solarrific’s Solar Charger with External Battery for Mobile Phones will keep your devices powered up anywhere you go. The external battery is the size of a tube of lipstick and the slim solar panel straps conveniently onto a messenger bag or backpack and fits inside when not in use. You can use it sitting in the park or the campground as long as there is sunshine. This is especially useful if you like to Instagram your vistas and trails—photo apps are a great way to capture the scenery, but they can be real battery hogs!

4W Solar Charger with 2000 mAh External Battery for Mobile Phones and Small 5V Digital Devices. Comes in 3 colors: black (C5018), orange (C5019), and camouflage (C5020).
4W Solar Charger with 2000 mAh External Battery for Mobile Phones and Small 5V Digital Devices. Comes in 3 colors: black (C5018), orange (C5019), and camouflage (C5020).

Reuse, Rewind, Renew

Whether you’re prepping s’mores or trying to fix something under the sink, the Handcrank Head Lamp has got it covered. This ultra bright LED light won’t ever need a new light bulb or batteries. It just takes a little elbow grease to keep things running smoothly and save a few bucks.   

L2012-handcrank-headlamp
Handcrank headlamp with 3 ultra-bright LEDs (L2012)

Say No to Bugs

It’s a long-held truth that some people are just tastier to mosquitos than others. Rather than smelling like chemicals all day, check out the Solar Mosquito Zapper. This is perfect on the patio, porch, or camping pad if any buzzing bloodsuckers are nearby. A small solar cell keeps it charged so you can use it anywhere you’d like to be without leaving a big, muddy carbon footprint. 

Solar-Powered Mosquito Zapper (G4041)
Solar-Powered Mosquito Zapper (G4041)

Now that you have a few earth-friendly, solar-powered tools for both city-living and outdoor adventures, get ready to make this the best summer ever.

9 Ways to Celebrate the Earth—All Year Long

Today is Earth Day, and homosapiens all over the world are celebrating the Blue Planet in a myriad of ways. Also, since Earth Week lasts from April 20th to the 24th, this week is the high point of environmental activities and awareness all around the globe.

leaves in sun

But what about during the rest of the year? Here are some practical ways to show your love for our green earth—today, for the remainder of the week, and all year round.

Today:

1. Plant a tree. Earth Day often coincides roughly with Arbor Day, so it’s the perfect time to take part in this recognized Earth Day activity.

2. Celebrate with NASA. In addition to events being held on Earth Day in California, Virginia, and Washington D.C., NASA is inviting people to share your views of Earth via Instagram, Twitter, Google+, or Vine—using the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome.

3. Attend an Earth Day fair. Search for events in your area here.

This Week:

4. Purchase clean-energy products. At Solarrific, we are celebrating Earth Week with discounts on the following products (while supplies last):

The following radios are only $10 each, this week only (click images for product information):

Solarrific European Style Dynamo Radio
European Style Dynamo Radio (R1005)
4-in-1 Flashlight/Radio/Alarm/Charger (R1006)
4-in-1 Flashlight/Radio/Alarm/Charger (R1006)
AM/FM/WB dynamo crank radio cube
Solar/ Handcrank AM/FM Radio Cube (R1007)

Our Clip It/Squeeze It Flashlight is $5 (click image for product information):

Clip It Squeeze It Flashlight (L2017)
Clip It Squeeze It Flashlight (L2017)

Our Solar Cap Light is $10 (click image for product information):

Solar LED Cap Light (L2028)
Solar LED Cap Light (L2028)

5. Prepare eco-friendly meals. Using locally produced, organic ingredients that have little impact on the environment, devote this week to making special meals that use fewer resources than traditional boxed dinners. Clean up afterwards by using the low-water dishwashing method.

6. Pick up trash. This week, be mindful of noticing litter in and around your community, and place refuse in the trash when you see it, rather than walking on. Even better, contact a local community group and help them with their trash pick-up efforts.

 Year-Round:

7. Travel smarter. Find a carpool service or better utilize public transportation.

8. Make your garden green. Transform your outdoor space into a clean energy oasis by planting wildflowers and oxygen-producing trees, enhancing your landscaping with solar-powered lights, and installing a solar-powered water fountain.

9. Join a group. Volunteer, donate, or educate yourself and your family about the environment by becoming a part of a local group. Here’s a list to get you started.

However you choose to celebrate the earth, be it with small changes within your own home and family or by participating on a larger scale, we invite you to make Earth Day every day!

Solarrific Gives Back: To Indonesia’s “Friends of the National Park Foundation”

Occasionally, due to the nature of our products, we at Solarrific are approached by nonprofit groups seeking assistance with their philanthropic efforts in remote areas throughout the world.

And while we are not always in a position to do so, we are delighted when we have the means to provide support to groups which are striving to achieve social good and better the world as they know it.

Akane and FNPF's lead forester
Akane and Pak Basuki, FNPF’s lead forester

Late last year, we were approached by Dr. Akane Nishimura with one such request.

Nishimura works with a small Indonesian non-profit called Friends of the National Park Foundation (FNPF), and wrote us in November 2014 with a request for help in fulfilling one of the group’s needs: solar flashlights.

According to Nishimura, FNPF has a thriving reforestation and orangutan habitat restoration project in Borneo, Indonesia. They also promote conservation and eco-tourism in Borneo’s Tanjung Puting National Park, which is home to one of the world’s largest remaining orangutan populations. Unfortunately, their project, the forests and orangutans are being increasingly threatened by forest fires and agricultural development.

Akane stands with Pak Rasid and Pak Ledan in front of a native tree planted in 2007 as part of her dissertation research
Akane stands with Pak Rasid and Pak Ledan in front of a native tree planted in 2007 as part of her dissertation research

“I did my PhD research with FNPF, and I have witnessed their struggles firsthand,” says Nishimura. “I have seen anthropogenic fires burn thousands of acres of rainforest while the government was unable or unwilling to help; I have seen bulldozers clearing land inside of park borders; and I have seen maimed orangutans that were caught searching for food in palm oil plantations. I have also witnessed the bravery and tenacity of the local people: they fight fires with minimal equipment, and they sleep on bare floors in remote wooden huts for weeks on end to plant trees and to prevent illegal logging and hunting.  In Indonesia, the task of conserving nature, increasing awareness, and promoting responsible use often falls to NGOs like FNPF.”

Because the FNPF staff live and work in such a remote area, they don’t have access to consistent electricity or quality outdoor gear. Therefore, Solarrific’s in-kind donation of   two dozen L2026 flashlights was intended to offer convenience and assistance while staff members engaged in conservation activities.

Upon her return in January 2015, Nishimura graciously provided an update regarding her work and how our products were useful during her time in Borneo, as well as photos of the products in use. Here is her update.

“Friends of the National Park Foundation (FNPF) is a small Indonesian NGO that has successfully pioneered reforestation and orangutan, bird, and turtle conservation projects throughout Indonesia.

feeding ex-captive orangutans
feeding ex-captive orangutans

I had the good fortune of doing my dissertation research in conjunction with FNPF’s reforestation project in Tanjung Puting National Park (TPNP), which is home to one of the world’s largest remaining orangutan populations.

Although it is a national park, TPNP and its flora and fauna are under constant threat from palm oil plantations, gold and mineral mining, slash-and-burn agriculture, illegal logging, poaching, and droughts and forest fires exacerbated by El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events. Environmental policies are weak and rarely enforced, so the work of local NGOs like FNPF has been crucial to conservation and restoration activities in and around TPNP.

FNPF staff and local farmers with their Solarrific flashlights, at Padang Sembilan
FNPF staff and local farmers with their Solarrific flashlights, at Padang Sembilan

This past December, I traveled to TPNP and was able to deliver solar/hand-crank waterproof LED flashlights that were very generously donated by Solarrific. The FNPF staff was very appreciative as they don’t have access to the conveniences of modern living and can’t afford quality equipment. These flashlights are extremely useful, as the sun sets early in the tropics and there is no electricity! As an added bonus, during the rainy season, they will be able to charge the lights with the hand cranks.

ecotourist-planting_5643
an eco-tourist plants a native tree seedling at Pesalat


I distributed the flashlights to FNPF staff at three different locations: Pesalat,
Jerumbun, and Padang Sembilan. Pesalat was originally lowland tropical rainforest with some peat swamp forest. Since the influx of migrant families from other parts of Indonesia in the 1940s, Pesalat has been used for agricultural and hunting activities. Despite the establishment of the national park, illegal burning and hunting continued in this area until 2003 when FNPF began reforestation activities. Since then, invasive species and anthropogenic and ENSO-related fires have been a problem, but FNPF has been successful in excluding fire and has planted over 100 hectares of formerly forested areas with native tree species. Pesalat is now used as a reforestation showcase site for visiting eco-tourists.

Padang Sembilan is a 500-ha agricultural area that has been poorly managed. Although it is located within the park boundaries, the government has basically turned a blind eye. During the dry season, fires from slashing and burning in this area often jump to other parts of the park. Recently, FNPF has partnered with the local farmers to institute best management

native seedling nursery at Padang Sembilan
native seedling nursery at Padang Sembilan

practices and more sustainable farming methods. They have established a native tree seedling nursery and are educating locals about the environmental and economic benefits of agroforestry and mixed farming.

Jerumbun is located just outside the park borders, but the area serves as a buffer zone and is being threatened by palm oil, mining and fires. FNPF staff have pooled their meager savings to buy property there with the hopes of establishing an education center.  FNPF’s site is flanked by a new palm oil plantation and an abandoned gold mine that has become a sandy wasteland. In October

new compost at Jerumbun
new compost at Jerumbun

2014, their site was also threatened by anthropogenic fires. FNPF is currently building a more permanent post and is experimenting with new agroforestry methods for their education center.

Solarrific’s donation will be a boon to all these activities and will make the lives of the FNPF staff a little easier. On behalf of FNPF, thank you very much for your generosity!”

 

15 Reasons to Go Solar in 2015

orangesunsimmeringThe United Nations has declared 2015 the International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies.

This initiative is intended “to raise awareness of how optical technologies promote sustainable development and provide solutions to worldwide challenges in energy, education, agriculture, communications and health.”

And what greater source of our light to appreciate than our ever-loyal sun? There is no better time to consider—and embrace—solar technology. Here are 15 reasons why going solar in 2015 makes sense.

By doing so, you will reduce energy costs related to household utility bills (specifically, electricity).

Even if solar systems and products cost more upfront, they end up being more affordable to use and maintain over time.

solar panelSolar technology is continually being improved, meaning increased efficiency and lower production costs—which eventually mean savings for the end user.

Handheld solar products don’t depend on electrical outlets for power, making them portable and useful.

The energy gained from the sun is renewable—free and unlimited.

The increasing demand for solar is producing jobs at an ever-increasing rate.

Solar systems and products often require little maintenance over time.

Reduce the need to purchase batteries to power devices.

Decrease your environmental impact (billions of batteries are thrown away each year, all of which end up in landfills.

When using or purchasing solar energy systems, tax credits or rebates may be available, on federal, state, and local levels.

Use of solar-powered devices decreases greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar products and systems are not noisy; they silently produce energy.

Helps prevent the depletion of natural resources.

Solar power is versatile; useful for both high-powered and low-powered devices and applications.

Handheld solar products are reliable in emergency situations.

Whichever of the above reasons help motivate you to make the transition into using solar energy, you can be assured that the change will benefit you and your family for years to come.

Rafea: Solar Mama—New Film Inspires

“Rafea is a Bedouin living on the Jordan-Iraq border. She and 30 illiterate grandmothers from around the world will travel to The Barefoot College in India to become solar engineers. If she succeeds, she will power her entire village, but can she rewire the traditional minds of her Bedouin community?”

That’s the question posed by the new documentary, Rafea: Solar Mama. Programs like those provided by The Barefoot College have helped bring about technological and cultural progress in rural areas of the world, progress that starts small but has the power to bring about big changes.

“If a woman with a few years of schooling who has never left her village is able to learn solar engineering in a matter of months, what is impossible in the world?” asks the film’s director, Jahane Noujaim. “We do not believe that a film alone can change societies and cultural taboos… but the people that watch them can.”

That’s the kind of vision that inspires us at Solarrific. To put it simply, it’s why we do what we do. Take a moment to view the documentary’s trailer below and learn why people all over the world are being inspired by Rafea’s story.

Rafea: Solar Mama - watch the trailer here
Rafea: Solar Mama – watch the trailer here

Rafea has gone on to solar electrify 80 homes in her village in Jordan, and now dreams to create a solar engineering training center for women in Jordan. To learn more about how you can support sustainable development in impoverished parts of the world, visit The Barefoot College’s website.

5 Mother’s Day Solar Gift Ideas

Give Mom her place in the sun this Mother’s Day with a solar-powered gift she won’t soon forget.

If your mom is a gardener, we have a number of products that will help transform her outdoor space into her own private oasis. And best of all, for Mother’s Day we’re offering ten percent off of the following items on our Amazon store.

The solar water fountain kit, which contains three design pattern attachments, makes any small container into your very own water fountain. This kit is the perfect way to create a relaxing outdoor environment, either on your patio or in the garden.

Solar Water Fountain Kit
Solar Water Fountain Kit

This floating solar fountain on a lily pad adds natural beauty to any pond, pool, or large water container. Minimal maintenance is required.

Floating Solar Fountain on Lily Pad
Floating Solar Fountain on Lily Pad
This lovely solar-powered, lily pad and flower light display is a great way to decorate a pond, both during the day, and at night, when the stored solar energy powers the LEDs to the lights.
Floating Solar LED Lily Flowers
Floating Solar LED Lily Flowers
For gadget loving moms, the solar/handcrank AM/FM radio cube is compact, easy to use, and makes a great portable gift.
AM/FM/WB dynamo crank radio cube
Solar/Handcrank AM/FM Radio Cube
And don’t forget about our solar/handcrank flashlight keychain! This is a great safety tool and it’s compact, lightweight, and portable, too.
Solarrific solar dynamo keychain flashlight
Solar/Handcrank Keychain Flashlight

 

 

Full Speed Ahead! Mass Transit Trumps Traditional Transportation

Photo credit: amoytrip.com
Photo credit: amoytrip.com

It’s been nearly a month since the world’s newest high-speed rail line entered into operation.

China’s Xiamen-Shenzhen Railway (which tops out at 250 kilometers per hour and has reduced travel time between two important cities by more than half) is one of technology’s modern marvels.

But it’s certainly not the first—or the only one—of its kind.

The world’s first bullet train, or “shinkansen,” debuted in Japan for the1964 Tokyo Olympics. It saw immediate success, preliminary numbers reflected 100 million passengers served in less than three years. It has now transported over seven billion people.

Other nations, seeing the viability of this alternate form of transportation, followed suit. From 1967 to 1992, such European countries as France, England, and Germany introduced high-speed lines of their own. Then, in 2003, China opened a 200 kph line, and in 2007, a modern, high speed line. The country’s railway network now spans over 100,000 km, including 10,000 km of high speed lines.

What is considered “high-speed” now varies amongst countries, but this type of transport operates much faster than typical rail traffic, usually around 150 to 200 miles per hour.

Fast can also mean efficient. In many cases, solar panels are used to generate electricity to supply power to trains, tunnels, and stations—making an already economical means of transportation even more productive. (For obvious reasons, we find this particularly exciting.) And, as transportation, energy, and pollution crises affect the globe, it makes sense to think smarter about the generation of power, rather than depending so heavily on fossil fuels.

When it comes to transportation, there are additional ways to conserve energy, even if such a luxury as a high-speed rail isn’t available.

For one, consider going car-free. The availability of public transit has made this more feasible than ever before. By using buses, trains, and subways, you help decrease pollution, congestion, and can even save yourself time, in certain cases. Better yet, buy a commuter bicycle and pedal to and from work each day.

If you absolutely must keep your car, here are some ways to decrease its negative impact on the environment:

  • Consolidate trips
  • Carpool whenever possible
  • Avoid idling
  • Stay up to date on oil changes and emissions testings

We want to know: When it comes to transportation, how do YOU reduce your environmental impact? Tell us in the comments below, or like us on Facebook and share there!