Donnachadh McCarthy: The Home Ecologist

What's the easy way to stop your gadgets wasting energy? Buy another gizmo
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I have never been a great one for gizmos. I have the usual Wi-Fi, laptop and mobile, but I've never felt the seductive pull of an electric juicer, bread-maker or rechargeable nasal-hair trimmer. I have succumbed, however, to two clever little eco-gadgets, which tackle the scourge of stand-by electronic equipment.

The first is an "energy tracker" that I bought from B&Q. It measures how much energy an electronic gadget is consuming. This is useful in two ways. It demonstrates to my eco-audit clients how certain gadgets, such as kettles and plasma-screen TVs, use far more energy than items like radios or electric toothbrushes. This helps to persuade them to ensure that they are used efficiently.

Second, the display panel tells how much energy gadgets use when they're in stand-by mode. This can vary greatly. Some of the newest mobile phone chargers use only a tiny amount in stand-by, while some TVs can use up to two-thirds of their energy when in this mode, with the evil little red light on.

While the energy tracker helps to identify where stand-by electricity is being wasted, it does not solve the problem. In a north London home that I eco-audited, the cupboard underneath the plasma TV and hi-fi was packed full of plugs, wires and black box transformers belching out heat, even though all the equipment was switched off. The average home now has more than 33 electronic gadgets. Of course, I make the usual suggestions that clients go around every night and turn all these off, but the expressions on their faces tell me that this is just not going to happen.

So when I trialled my second gizmo, the Standby Buster, I was thrilled to find that it actually works. It has a plug-in section that goes into your wall socket. You plug your gadget into this section. You then press a button on a handset and it remotely tells the gadget in the wall to turn off. It will even work through walls, or from upstairs. It can be programmed to turn whole sections of the house off separately too, so long as each TV, hi-fi or computer has its own Standby Buster.

In addition to solving the hassle of going round the house to turn the stand-by items off, the Standby Buster eliminates the need to kneel down and struggle to reach those hard-to-get-at plugs. In the interests of shamelessly promoting anything that helps to fight the climate crisis – and makes our lives easier – I shall also tell you that they're available from, starting at £14.99.

When you consider that more than 12 gadgets are on stand-by or charging at any one time in the average home, and that 3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide is emitted due to stand-by wastage every year in the UK, you begin to see the eco-potential for such a wizard gizmo. If we all eliminated our stand-by wastage, we would be able to close two power stations. Norman Baker MP has estimated that the energy wasted by stand-by in the UK is the equivalent to the emissions of 1.4 million long-haul flights.

So, for once, I am happy to say go out and get the latest electronic gadget – this one truly has an eco-halo glowing above it.

Donnachadh McCarthy is author of 'Saving the Planet Without Costing the Earth' and works as a home and business eco-auditor.