10 Inventions That Will Have You Seeing Green

10 Inventions That Will Have You Seeing Green

by Heleigh Bostwick, April 2012

It's not easy to be green. For a product or invention to be given green certification or an “ecolabel,” many conditions have to be met. But whether an invention has an official green seal of approval or simply has environmentally friendly features, one thing is for sure, there seem to be no limit to what you can create. From modular roof gardens to sheetless music readers and solar-powered suction cups, here are ten eco-friendly inventions that have the notable distinction of not only being patented, but in being successful in the marketplace.

1. Solar-Powered Parking Meters

In 2010, the city of Los Angeles began replacing its older parking meters with state-of-the-art solar powered meters—that also accept credit card payments. In fact, L.A. boasts the largest number of solar-powered parking meters in the U.S. and it's all thanks to inventor Gary W. Speas. He holds U.S. Patent No. 4827206, whose assignee to the patent is POM Inc., a company that's been manufacturing parking meters in the U.S. since 1935. 

2. Biodegradable Garbage Bags

The garbage bag, as we know it today, was first introduced in the 1950s, but its greener version didn't make an entrance until 1971. Determined to find a better solution to all the plastic bags piling up in landfills (the average plastic bag can take up to 1000 years to decompose), University of Toronto chemist Dr. James Guillet invented the first reasonably degradable plastic bag that would decompose when exposed to direct sunlight. His patent happened to be the 1 millionth patent issued in Canada.

3. Staple-Free Stapler

Each year, billions of metal staples are manufactured in factories and end up in landfills. For those wanting to go green in their office, this “staple-free” stapler (U.S. Patent No. D641602) is a handy gadget to have. The small cube cuts out a tiny strip of paper through a stack of papers and uses the strips to “stitch” up to four pages together. Just think—you'll never run out of staples or have to remove staples before putting paper into paper shredders. Invented by Cameron Snelgar of Vancouver, Canada, the stapler is sold by Made by Humans..

4. Water-Powered Desk Clock

Invented by Mark A. Bedol and Kohar Scott, this desk clock with an alarm is powered solely by water. It keeps time perfectly by converting the ions in the water into clean energy power—no batteries or electricity needed. The “clock” received U.S. Patent No. 598787 and is made and distributed by Bedol International Group of Claremont, CA.

5. Environmentally Friendly Insect Repellent Formula

Bugaway Brands currently uses this patented, environmentally friendly insect repellent which contains natural ingredients such as citronella oil and D-limonene in its line of trash bags. Called Lymonessa, it was first formulated in 1991, but the original inventor abandoned it due to regulatory difficulties. It was discovered and reformulated by Bugaway Brands who applied for and was granted U.S. Patent No. 7201926.

6. Portable Universal Charger

According to PlanetGreen.com, the average number of gadgets in a U.S. household is between 20 and 40. This translates to just as many gadget chargers, not to mention a whole lot of wires. To help reduce the impact of so many chargers that often become obsolete in a matter of months, IDAPT developed an innovative range of universal chargers (U.S. Patent No. 8009451), based on a patented system of interchangeable tips that is compatible with over 4,500 devices and can charge up to two devices simultaneously with just one charger. The Universal Charger IDAPT i1 Eco is made of entirely recyclable materials and has an auto power-off switch to prevent wasting electricity. It's a guilt-free solution to forgetfulness.

7. Solar-Powered Suction Cup

Although you might wonder about the usefulness of a solar-powered suction cup, it turns out that it is indeed very useful. Many products have been developed that are powered by solar cells. But until now, there wasn't a suction cup with a solar cell incorporated into it that would enable a variety of objects to be readily powered. The solar-powered suction cup (U.S. Patent No. 7837162) was invented by William E. Adams and is manufactured and distributed by Adams Manufacturing, Portersville, PA. According to the patent description: “The contacts of the solar cell may be positioned so that an object can be hung on the suction cup and be powered by the solar cell. One can also provide a sensor and transmitter or alarm in or on the suction cup and connected to the solar cell such that when the suction cup is moved an alarm will sound.”

8. Einstein “Refrigerator”

Perhaps the earliest green patent was held by none other than prolific inventor Albert Einstein, who, along with co-inventor Leo Szilard, received U.S. Patent No. 1781541 on November 11, 1930 for what's often referred to as the first eco-friendly refrigerator. The refrigerator uses no electricity, but instead relies on changes in pressure between liquids and gases to cause a drop in temperature. The original assignee of the patent was Electrolux Corporation. 

9. Modular Green Roof System

What can be “greener” than growing a garden on your rooftop? That is exactly what this modular green roof system helps people do. Invented by Donald J. Mischo (U.S. Patent No. 7900397), the roof is comprised of 10 modular panels that provide enough space suitable to support live plant growth. In addition, the design is such that the panels can be installed on a roof deck in a side-by-side position that allows water to flow under them. The panels come preseeded for convenience. American Builders and Contractors Supply Company located in Beloit, WI is the assignee.

10. MusicPad Pro Plus

Invented by Michael M. Hamilton, the MusicPad Pro Plus (U.S. Patent No. 6483019), whose official patent title reads “Music annotation system for performance and composition of musical scores,” is a system that electronically stores and displays sheet music. According to the patent description, an Internet server stores the music, then a computer accesses the Internet server and downloads a particular musical composition, which is stored in the computer's memory. Musical compositions are then retrieved by the computer and can be viewed by multiple visitors—without harming a tree. The musician reads the compositions from the viewer. The assignee is FreeHand Systems International, Inc., a digital sheet music publishing company.

From the examples above, you can see, there's no limit to what you can invent. And if your innovative spirit just happens to pay off, then all the better.

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