These Gadgets Will Help You Save The Planet Without Even Trying

You do your best to conserve resources. You turn off lights when you leave the room (well, except for when you're home alone and — wait, what was that sound? Is someone in the apartment?!), and you try to keep your showers a "reasonable" length. If you want to cut energy waste even more, a few well-placed gadgets can do all the work for you — and save you money, too.

Big energy savings used to come in the form of new, energy-efficient appliances, the installation of solar panels, or other big-budget purchases that are out of the question if you don't actually own your home. Now, there are smaller and more reasonably priced products that you can plug in. Some switch off power when it isn't needed. Others track the conditions in your home and alert you when something is suddenly drawing more electricity than usual. There are even monitors for plants, so you don't waste water (or "kill your plant with love"). 

We've rounded up five options that make it dead-easy to have greater control over your power usage. You may even find out which of your roommates is the one who keeps leaving the refrigerator door open. 
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Photo: Courtesy Velvetwire.
Velvetwire Powerslayer
Most ordinary USB chargers are dumb. You plug in your smartphone or tablet to charge, and once its battery is fully juiced, power is still being delivered, even though the device doesn’t need any more.

The Powerslayer ($30) has built-in circuitry that detects when your device is fully charged and then cuts off the power. It also looks better than your average wall wart: It has a geometric texture on the front and comes in four ocean-inspired hues, like coral and marine. An LED indicator lets you know if the device is currently charging (green), or is plugged in but not actually charging anymore (red). This isn't just good for your electric bill — it keeps your phone's battery healthy, too, so it lasts longer.
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Photo: Courtesy Parrot.
Parrot Flower Power
I do not have a green thumb. Plants under my care either shrivel under the desert-like conditions of forgotten waterings, or drown in a sea of over-care. Parrot’s Flower Power ($60) is a twig-like sensor that nestles into the soil of your houseplant, wirelessly monitoring conditions and relaying them to your smartphone so you can keep your baby healthy.

With a database of over 7,000 varieties of flora in its accompanying iOS and Android apps, you can learn to properly care for whatever plant is trying to bloom on your balcony without wasting water or fertilizer. If your leafy greens need attention, whether that's extra sunshine or a visit from the watering tin, the Flower Power app lets you know.
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Photo: Courtesy Nest.
Nest 2.0
The second-generation Nest ($250) is one of the easiest ways to optimize your home to your personal temperature needs — and save energy while doing so. This smart thermostat learns from your behavior, typically saving owners up to 12% on heating costs and 15% on cooling by minimizing energy waste when you’re not actually home. You can use the Nest app to set the temperature, and if you pick one that’s energy efficient, a leaf icon will appear to let you know you’ve chosen an eco-friendly option. And, its round, minimalist look fits nicely in contemporary abodes.
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Photo: Courtesy Belkin.
Belkin WeMo Insight Switch
The Belkin WeMo Insight Switch ($60) lets you control whatever’s plugged into it, from anywhere. It connects through your WiFi network so you can turn things on or off, set schedules or rules for when devices switch on, and get updates on power usage through the accompanying WeMo app. You could use this plug to flip on and off a lamp while out of town (so it looks like you're actually home), or to power off large electronics that normally drain a tiny bit of power all day long, costing you money on your electric bill each month. The Insight Switch works in conjunction with Belkin’s other smart home products, so if you like it, you could pair the plug with the company’s light switch or smart bulb.
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Photo: Courtesy Neurio.
Neurio ($250) is a small WiFi power monitor that plugs into your breaker panel to monitor energy usage. It offers a detailed view of how much power your appliances are gobbling up, whether you live in a house, condo, or apartment. Connecting it is straightforward — you shouldn’t need to hire an electrician or anything — and once installed, it can identify what gadgets are running based on their unique electrical usage patterns. From there, it can tell you when problems arise (like if your heater is acting up), or let you know when the washer or dryer is done with its cycle.

While expensive, Neurio has saved some users as much as 44% on energy bills, and it's something you can take with you as you move from place to place.