earthbarcode.jpg Earth Day, which is Wednesday, April 22, is the antithesis of a shopping holiday. The best thing you can do for the planet is to reduce the amount of stuff you consume. But if you’ve been looking for an excuse to invest in technology that can help you lower your carbon footprint, Earth Day may be the day you’ve been waiting for. Since big changes like an electric car or a LEED-certified home are out of reach for most people, we suggest five devices to help you save energy at home and reduce the amount you throw away. These are all items you can pick up right now as part of a little Earth Day splurge. You might even grab an extra one of these gadgets for your tech- and green-savvy parent to get your Mother’s Day or Father’s Day shopping done at the same time. If you want to earn Earth Day bonus points, ride your bike to the store, and don’t forget your reusable cloth bag. There’s no better day than April 22 to start getting into these good habits. 1. Solar-powered electronics charger: Charging electronic devices like smartphones and tablets is a big energy draw at home. If your power comes from coal or other non-renewable resources, that means your cell phone is spitting carbon in the air every time you charge it. Green your charging with a solar powered gadget charger like the Solio Bolt Battery Pack + Solar Charger. It’s designed to give power to everything from your iPhone to your Nook. It also stores power so you can use it during an emergency power outage if necessary. 2. Human-powered gadget charger: The sun isn’t the only green source of energy out there. You produce plenty of energy when you walk, run, bike or otherwise move around. Designers hope that, in the future, this kinetic energy will be able to power everything from clocks to mice to music players. One kinetic energy device you can purchase right now is the nPower Peg. Place it in your purse or backpack, and it stores up energy from the movement of your body. When you need to charge your smartphone, MP3 player or other device, you can plug it right in. It sure beats running to the nearest coffee shop in a desperate search for an outlet – and it’s green, too. 3. Power strip that monitors your electricity usage: A smaller, less expensive way to reduce the amount of power you use around the home is a power-monitoring power strip like the P3 International Kill A Watt PS-10. Not only does it offer the energy-saving benefits of a power strip (see next paragraph), it tells you how much energy you are using and how much it is costing you. This digital monitor gives you extra incentive to power down devices and remove battery chargers when they are not in use. Power strips are a great energy-saver around the house anyway. Plug a set of infrequently used set of devices into one (for example, your TV and all its associated electronics like a DVD play), then flip the switch on the power strip. It turns everything off with the flick of the wrist (or ankle). Many electronics continue to draw power even when they aren’t on, so turning them all the way off will save a surprising amount of electricity. 4. Better rechargeable batteries: One of the problems with many gadgets is they go through a lot of batteries. Even if you buy batteries that are environmentally benign, you may still end up dumping dozens of them in the trash each year. Rechargeable batteries are a good way to avoid this bottomless battery dumping. However, since they require a special charger and often don’t work very well, many people don’t like them. USBCell from British company Moixa has finally come up with a better solution. Its AA batteries come with a built-in USB charger so you can plug them right into your computer. The company claims they can be recharged hundreds of times before you have to get rid of them. Get them on Amazon and at some Best Buy locations. 5. Water filter: Bottled water is a big drain on the environment. Manufacturing all those plastic bottles uses a ton of energy and produces lots of health-damaging fumes. Recycling them also takes energy, and many bottles that don’t get recycled (which is a high percentage) end up in our oceans. Plus, with the worsening drought in places like California, more people are learning that bottled water can have other consequences. Instead of investing in all that plastic, invest in a high quality, in-sink water filter like the AquaCera EcoFast. You can install it yourself, and you only need to change the filter once a year. Even though a good water filter is spendy, it pales in comparison to what many people spend on bottled water.