Sustainable Living: 5 Best Ways To Beat The Heat And Spare Your Wallet

Heat like the sort the East Coast has been experiencing has many different effects but perhaps the most ubiquitous is just how lazy it makes us.  No one wants to tackle insulating the attic when its 100 degrees outside, even if it would make your home significantly cooler.  So let’s take it slow.  Here are our top five small, simple steps you can take to beat the heat: guaranteed to make a difference you can fell but the environment and your bank account won’t even notice!

1. Got AC?  Let it sit around 78 degrees.  While you might be tempted to set it to “arctic”- running your unit at temperatures lower than 78 will not cool things down any faster or more effectively.  What it will do however, is force the system to work harder, use more energy and force you to pay up more at the end of the month.  Think of your AC as a baseline tool to be used in conjunction with other tricks.
2. Fan of a good fan?  Try placing one or two frozen water bottles in front of your fan, it is effective, low-cost and low impact.  But the best part?  You’ll never have that panic-stricken moment of “did I leave the AC blasting at home?”  Frozen water bottles aren’t just low maintenance, they’re no maintenance.
3. Sheets to the wind. This is one old wives’ tale that you can trust.  Plus, we love it because its so simple; just hang a damp sheet in front of your window and the sheet will cool air entering your home.  It is also a great way to dry your sheets when they come out of the wash as using the dryer heats up small homes quickly. Which leads us to…
4. Unplug your life.  Turn off any heat-generating devices: the dryer, the iron, the hairdryer, the toaster and oven.  Even small electronics, like laptops, when used frequently can generate heat that you may not notice to the touch but contribute to rising indoor temperatures.  A great excuse to put down the tablets and phones and head out to a barbeque!
5.  Spice. Hydrate. Repeat.  We all know that body temperature can also be changed from the inside out.  Heatwaves are a great excuse to order delivery (you can’t use the oven after all) from your favorite Thai, Indian or Ethiopian place.  It is no coincidence that cultures originating from sizzling parts of the globe typically have equally sizzling native cuisines.  The wisdom in spicing up your insides is that it generates sweat – activating the body’s natural cooling system. In terms of your liquids it is also important to keep very well hydrated and drink much more water than you normally would.  A simple glass of ice water might be the most effective coolant of all, though a cold beer with your spicy Mexican food is also advisable!

Cheers to staying cool this summer.

Green Tech: Unlocking the Power of Play

Jessica O. Matthews and Julia Silverman are on a mission to show the world that the value of play can not only be measured in smiles but in very real economic and social terms.  Both Harvard students had volunteered traveled extensively in Africa and also shared a passion for soccer: the continent’s (and the world’s) most popular game.  In an engineering class they got the chance to marry these two passions, capitalizing on an opportunity to improve living conditions in African through the continent’s love of soccer.
What does such an ambitious project look like?  A sOccket, a small generator cleverly disguised as a soccer ball that charges as you play with it!  Three hours of LED illumination is stored in the sOccket per every half hour of playtime.  It can also charge small electronic devices like a cell phone.

This ingenious solution isn’t just making an economic impact by delivering renewable light energy to many rural areas.  There are important health benefits as well because most of the developing world still relies on on kerosene lamps that pose huge safety hazards: the fumes inhaled by children in kerosene-light homes is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes a day.

The sOccett vs. huge public health threats is been a game that’s garnered the attention of an international audience.
Today there are more than 6,000 sOcckets “kicking around”, literally, from Africa to Mexico to Brazil.  Uncharted Play, the organization founded by Matthews and Silverman to distribute their product received overwhelming support from corporate sponsors principally because of how easily and effectively the tool integrates into daily life.  As Matthews explained, “Why don’t we give you something that you already like to do and get what you need.”

And sOccket has yet another a new fan, President Obama.  During his recent trip to Africa his team set to work distributing the item to many African nations and on a tour of a facility that manufacturers the ball he even showed off some of his soccer skills! A huge goal for the two Harvard girls who knew just how powerful play could be.

Tech News: Cybercafes Get A New Interface

While the cybercafé has grown increasingly rare in North America, in many developing nations it remains the gateway to the Internet and a gathering place integral to community life.  Such is the case in many African nations where these local cafés are still very relevant and the standard way to get online.

The typical scene in these cafes is a crowded one, both with people and bulky computer units that that serve a very limited number of users at a time given the space and energy they require.  Internet connection is often slow, machines unreliable and energy costs huge.

The system could be much more efficient for customers and owners alike. Which is why Google is rethinking the “user interface”, not of a new digital software but of the physical space of the internet cafe.  What, exactly does this look like?  A tablet café.  By replacing desktops with tablets the entire experience of getting online has been transformed for locals in Dakar, where Google is piloting the program.

The first major advantage of the program is economic: tablet cafés make good business sense.  Owners stand to save a significant amount of revenue on electricity, savings that Google Africa hopes, “can be reinvested in faster connectivity to bring in more customers.”

From a social-change standpoint, potential benefits of the program are even greater.  Though customers do not own the tablets, the impact of putting cutting edge technologies into the hands of under-served populations is immeasurable.   Customers emerge with something much more valuable than a tablet: technological literacy that corresponds with some of the most advanced devices and operating systems in the world.  The potential for the democratization through knowledge here is huge.

Finally, from a community building perspective the physical layout tablets afford is inherently more social and much closer to that of a traditional cafe.  Rather than hunched over in separate cubicles customers can sit comfortably on couches, chat and share with total ease.

Do you think tablet cafes are the future face of internet access in the developing world? Can the barriers to sustainability of the program be overcome? Share your thoughts with us!

Tech Tips: 5 Way To Maximize Your iPhone’s Battery

Dim Things Down

One of the simplest ways to maximize battery life without compromising user experience is to dim down the brightness of the screen light: the lower the light the more effectively you are using your device.  Just use the handy slider to test out different degrees of light intensity.

Settings – Brightness – Wallpaper

Skip the Bluetooth

Wireless transmission of data really puts a drain on your battery, especially during large chunks of the day when you may not need this feature (like when you aren’t using your headset/earpiece or are using your computer/tablet or primary device).  By switching Bluetooth off you can extend your battery life significantly.

Setting – Bluetooth – Off

The DIY Approach

Your iPhone is programmed, by default, to fetch data automatically (this is called “Push” in apple terms).  While this is perfect for getting email instantly, it is no always necessary and uses a lot of battery power.  By fetching your emails manually, you can receive mail only when you want to read it and enjoy a much longer battery life.  This approach is a user favorite and has made a big difference for many iPhone users.  Checking your mail manually on an iPhone 5 is even easier than tapping “refresh”: simply pull down the top of the browser and the page updates!

Settings – Mail – Contacts – Calenders – Fetch New Data. Here, you can turn off Push completely, schedule it for intervals of your choice or, select “Manual”.

Curb Your 3G Use

If you have an iPhone 3G or later model you know the joys of a very fast 3G of 4G LTE network connection.  But this faster browse-ability comes at a battery cost.  If you are in a bind and not trying to load webpages turning off your 3G/4G LTE connection will help you avoid that that red battery icon no one likes to see.

Settings – General – Slide Enable 3G to “Off” on some models or Enable LTE to “Off” on the iPhone 5 or newer

Bring Airplane Mode Down to Earth

Contrary to popular belief, Airplane Mode isn’t only for jet-setting, it is a setting that can save your battery!  Remember, this mode disables all data services, translation: no calls, texts or data. So its really best if you are just saving enough juice of a quick call in the near future.

Setting – Airplane Mode “On”

The Giants of Iowa: Reuse, Re-rigged

The world of reuse is sometimes relegated to all things tiny: tiny homes, tiny devices, tiny art.  But in Iowa reuse is going not just big, its going gigantic, 8 stories to be exact!  That’s because in the middle of Iowa’s rolling farmlands there is, surprisingly, a mountain climber’s paradise where a number of unused grain silos have been converted into ice climbing walls.

In the fall of 2001 Don Briggs, a professor and climbing enthusiast, was helping a friend till his farmland in the municipality of Ceder Falls when he made a bet that he could scale one of the silos looming in the distance.  In the end, he won the bet and discovered that the most workable way to reach the peak was to ice climb it.

Briggs has now developed an intricate icing process by rigging hoses at the top of the structure which slow-drip downwards creating a semi-malleable wall of ice that changes depending on wind and weather conditions.

Since the silo opened for business it has attracted both beginners and experts alike and exposed a community famous for their flat farmlands to a taste of mountain life, close to home.  To learn more check out Silo Ice Climbing.

Startup world – The Quirkiest Kickstarters of the Year

Posted on January 14, 2013 | Amazing tech, Fundraising, makers, Start-up

In many ways Kickstarter is a digital world of the unexpected, where startup dreams are realized (well, at least funded) and the underdog is given a shot at making it big. Since the it’s launch in April 2009 the site has facilitated more than 30,000 creative, grassroots projects and over $350 million dollars has been pledged by more than 2.5 million people. But as the funding platform matures it is becoming more and more evident that the runaway success stories are anything but predictable. Here is a look back at some of the most head-scratching, logic defying and awesomely strange Kickstarter darlings of the past year.

The Ostrich Pillow: Home of the power nap.

Ostrich Pillow

Wait, what? The Ostrich Pillow’s unique design instantly creates a micro environment in which to easily take a relaxing, restful power nap in public. According to the pillow’s founders “Its soothing soft interior shelters and isolates your head and hands (mind and body) for a short break, without needing to leave your desk, chair, bench or wherever you may be.”

Amount raised: $200,000 from 1,846 backers in 30 days.

Where are they now? The pillow is currently being sold by Studio Banana Things for $99, though the extra shut-eye you stand to gain from comfortable public napping could be priceless.

Ostrich Pillow packaging

The 5 O’clock Shadow: When a coat collar isn’t enough.

Wait, what? This functional beard face mask began as a ski accessory but quickly became a winter necessity for all activities. All 5 O’clock Shadow beards are hand knitted in Salt Lake City with a cotton-polyester backing for comfort and two elastic straps for stability.

Beard face-mask startup

Amount raised: $3, 911 (Which we think is pretty good for knitted facial hair)

Where are they now? Apparently anywhere people have cold faces! And, it’s not just for men, as you can see on the in the product’s photo gallery many women are now embracing the comforts of bearded living.

The Griz Coat: It’s not a costume. It’s a lifestyle.

Wait, what? The Griz Coat called is the calf-length, faux-fur, toothy, clawed, brainchild of a pair of 30-year-old twin brothers. Karl Reichstetter, a graduate of the Dartmouth Tuck School of Business, who first conceived of the idea, decided to move forward with it because of what he saw as “a hole in the bear-coat market.”

Griz Coat

Amount raised: $14,000

Where are they now? Griz Coats are alive and roaring.  A single coat costs around $200 and there are a variety of styles to choose from. Apparently many people agree with the coat’s Kickstarter page that claims that “… the Griz Coat is highly appropriate for: Halloween, Bay to Breakers, Monday morning meetings, most weddings, Tuesday morning meetings, high school reunions, and first dates.”

TGT: Big Isn’t Always Better

TGT micro wallet

Wait, What? Perhaps not as silly as the other items on our list, the TGT micro wallet, made from fine Italian leather, aims to eliminate the discomfort experienced when carrying bulky wallets in pant pockets.

Amount Raised: $317,424

Where are they now? More than 7,000 people crowdfunded TGT and thousands more have purchased the product since. So, what’s the secret to mega success of this tiny wallet? We can’t be sure but we would venture a guess it has something to do with the noble goal to “respect the silhouette of the butt.”

TGT micro wallet design

It seems that men’s accessories, odd as they may be, dominated crowd-funding last year. What trends will top the list for 2013? We’d love to hear your wild predictions!

Sustainable Living – body heat makes a comeback

Like many trends in the sustainable living movement it seems that, while we are constantly make new developments, many  draw their inspiration from ancient practices. And what’s a more ancient challenge than keeping warm?

Our ancestors had some pretty creative ways of tackling this issue especially during long, cold nights when space and money were limited. The simple and efficient solution was to harvest body heat. This meant that entire families shared beds, coworkers were often bedfellows and it was even quite common to share a bed with a stranger. Just a century ago the bed was simply not thought of as a private space.

Power of body heat

But don’t worry no one is suggesting that you do the same! Engineers and architects are, however, rediscovering the huge potential of harnessing body heat for an affordable, efficient energy alternative.

Swedes, for example, know all about the high cost of surviving the winter, which is probably why they are so advanced when it comes to body-heat technology. Thanks to savvy engines, they found a way to heat Stockholm’s Central station by intercepting and redirecting the heat released by some 250,000 daily commuters. Not only does this system heat the station but it generates enough excess heat to warm-up a 13 story building 100 meters away.

Stockholm's Central station

Perhaps it comes a no surprise then that the Swede-saturated state of Minnesota is leading the U.S. charge in body-heat harvesting. In Minneapolis, where winter temperatures can reach a soul-crushing five degrees Fahrenheit, the Mall of America astonishingly operates without any kind of central heating system. The mall’s engineers accomplished this by using passive solar heating and eight acres of skylights combined with the extra 100 watts of surplus natural heat emitted by a single body at any given time.

sustainable body heat harvesting - Mall of America

Though the home of haute couture might not often look to the American heartland for style inspiration, when it comes to the power of body heat Paris had a lot to learn from the Mall of America. This year Parisian architects from Paris Habitat revamped an urban metro station with the express purpose of making the structure self-heating. Their efforts were so successful that they were able to also heat a nearby public housing development.

Paris Habitat self-heating urban metro station

If the idea of body heat makes you a little squeamish, you’ll be glad to know that the heat generated is not actual body heat. The building’s ventilation systems traps the body heat which then heats a network of underground water tanks. Hot water then fills the heating pipes.

At ExchangeMyPhone we love the idea that simple, ancient technology can be redesigned to use existing energy that would otherwise be lost. Do you think we will be seeing more of body heat technology? Give us your two cents, or perhaps better said your 100 watts, in the comment section below.

Phone recycling: New York’s ExchangeMy(Pay)Phone

Posted on November 26, 2012 | Amazing tech, eco-economy, iPad, mobile, New York, phone, Re-use, Recycling, tablet

At ExchangeMyPhone sometimes we feel like we are the only ones who love to “geek out” about phone recycling but as it turns out we have company…a lot! In fact, the City of New York shares our niche passion but only when it comes to a very specific type of phone: the pay phone. Remember those? Yes they still exist, actually there are 1,500 pay phones in Manhattan alone. But in a town where even some toddlers are iPhone clad, most of the pay phones sit idle collecting soot and taking up space.

pay phone recycling

So what’s the solution?  The city government has teamed up with developer City24x7 to launch a pilot program to turn 250 pay phone booths into free information kiosks in all five boroughs.  But wait, there’s more. These kiosks are interactive, touch screen devices that connect users to all kinds of vital information: from where the nearest Pinkberry is located, to live transit updates and evacuation routes in the event of a natural disaster.  The development of this new communal software leverages the neighborhood watch philosophy by putting “vital messaging onto our streets and into our hands; providing everyone with access to urban communication when and where they may be.”


The cornerstone of  City24x7′s Smart Screens is the the democratization and proliferation of mobile media, or as they put it, “built with access for all.”  The devices provide geo-specific content on a high contrast screen for the visually impaired, they have a Wayfinder key-fob access point for the blind, headphone jacks/induction loops for the hearing-impaired and are wheelchair accessible as well as multilingual.

The 32-inch touch-screens are made from ATM strength glass so defacement is not a top concern.  Really the only possible buzz kill could be the potential germ swapping, which, if you live in New York you are already well aware of.  But according to City24x7 they’ll be more sanitary than an ATM. “They’re built to be cleaned with a jet hose,” said CEO Tom Touchet, the former executive producer of the “Today” show. “They’re waterproof and dust-proof.”

re-imagined pay phones for New Yorkers

So not only are these re-imagined pay phones good for New Yorkers, they are good for the city budget.  The installation and operation runs at no costs NYC but, after the pilot program, 36% of revenue will go to fund other city programs.  Furthermore, with the information kiosks as a platform, local government will be able to remind citizens about bike-shares, free events and even how to get their tax refund.  Now what payphone can do that?

Christmas for Mac Enthusiasts – iPad mini and more

Posted on October 24, 2012 | Amazing tech, iPad, Mac, Tech tips, Upgrade, Weigh In

Yesterday, at the California Theater in San Jose, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Vice President of marketing Phil Schiller took the stage to unveil their highly anticipated, pint-sized iPad Mini. However, that wasn’t all. To the oohs and ahhs of the audience, they also announced an upgrade on the iPad and revealed a whole host of new Macs.

With the unveiling of so many goodies, here’s our rundown of the latest Apple gadgets:

iPad Mini:

The smaller iPad has a 7.9-inch display with a 1024 x 768 resolution. It is 7.2 millimeters thick, 0.63 pounds, comes in white and slate black. The insides of the iPad Mini are on par with Apple’s other mobile devices, including a new processor called the A5, the Lightning connector and a 5-megapixel camera. With a starting price of $329 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, the tablet is the least expensive iPad ever made.

But how does it stack up against the competition? At the event, Mr. Schiller did a side-by-side comparison of the Mini to Google’s Nexus 7 tablet. He noted that the iPad Mini was thinner, lighter and more durable than Google’s tablet, and still had a bigger screen.

However, Apple’s competition is certainly fierce. Google Nexus 7 tablet costs $200 (about $130 less than the iPad Mini) and has a higher resolution screen than the Mini. Amazon recently introduced seven new Kindles, including a 7-inch tablet for $160 and an 8.9-inch tablet for $300 (it is also expected to launch its 10-inch Kindle Fire next month). Barnes and Noble’s Nook tablet, which starts at $200, has also sold well. Not to be out-done Microsoft is releasing its own tablet, the Surface, on Friday.

4th Generation iPad:

According to Tim Cook, Apple has sold 84 million iPads since their debut in April 2010. Their latest upgrade features an A6X processor, 5 megapixel iSight camera, expanded LTE chipset, front-facing camera with FaceTime and 720p video capture, faster Wi-Fi, and Lightening connector. The new iPad is priced at $499 for a 16 GB model, $629 for a 16 GB model with 4G LTE.


Apple also introduced a family of new Macs, including upgrades for the MacBook Pro, iMac and Mac Mini. The 13-inch MacBook Pro notebook includes a high-resolution Retina display (similar to the display technology on the current iPads and iPhones) and is 20 percent thinner, and a pound lighter, than the previous generation. It will start at $1,700. They also described updates to the company’s Mac Mini and iMac, with the latter becoming a razor-thin (80% thinner and 8 pounds lighter than its predecessor) all-in-one computer that starts at $1,299.

What do you think? Are you excited to get your hands on the newest Apple gadgets?

Don’t forget, we purchase iPads so, if you’re looking to buy a new iPad Mini or iPad, come to us first and sell your old devices to subsidize your upgrade.

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