The inventor Travor Baylis started something with his winding. The first thing he produced was a radio you wind up for about a minute and it will play for about an hour. Now there are wind-up flash lights, lanterns, phone re-chargers, videoplayers, audio systems, and even something called an “eco-media player.” There’s no reason to think this is the end of the number of gadgets that we will soon be able to run simply by winding.
Self-powered devices like this are convenient for many of us in the developed world. But the difference they can make in a power-starved country without reliable electricity is dramatic. In sub-Saharan Africa, 15% of the average household income is spent on light. Lanterns that people can wind up themselves means they don’t have to live by sunlight alone. This means they can work and study after dark, it increases their security and makes it much easier to cope with a medical emergency.
If you’ve ever tried something as simple as putting on a band aid in the dark, you can imagine what a life saver a light can be.
I haven’t been able to find any estimates about how much winding and other self-powered devices might reduce our carbon footprint. But I’m pretty sure it can make a big difference to many people who today hardly generate a foot print at all. Because they don’t have electricity or cars or airplanes to fly in.