Yes, I'm as conscious of the need to save power as the next person. But I'm also aware of the total cost of ownership of something like this, ecologically speaking. Let me get this next few paragraphs perfectly straight and logical. I'd hate to look like as much of an idiot as their reporter did...
It's a USB hub, right? We've just about mastered making these out of leftover cardboard and three of the eleven secret herbs and spices, which is to say, they have as much of a carbon and greenhouse footprint as any other gadget of around the same utility and materiel content. So to begin with, I have the choice of using this hub or any other, probably cheaper, hub. I can put the extra dollars I've saved into my kitty towards another grey water tank or diverter hose.
But no, the reporter bemoans the fact that we're not going to get a chance to waste money unless we go to Japan. Screw saving money for some vegetable seeds, let's waste it on a USB hub that does exactly the same job as any other USB hub.
"But this one has switches!" the reporter says. "I can switch off my unused USB devices!"
Ah yes. Those switches... my first problem with them is that they are mechanical components. That means that they will wear out, therefore giving an much shortened lifespan compared to a switchless hub. Because you'd be operating these switches every time you want to switch off the spare caddy drive or the USB humping dog memory stick, you'll be moving the hub, flexing the cord, and hastening the demise of the cord. And of course, wearing out those switches.
Then there's the environmental footprint of those additional switches. First, you're going to be buying a replacement for this hub much sooner than you would have to replace a barebones hub, so over your life as a USB device user, you'd be using more hubs in that life span. Then, there's extra material involved. How much does that add to the cost of these hubs? (If you use higher grade switches to extend the whole hub life, expect that those high grade switches will cost more in terms of resource usage, energy, and waste production than cheap switches.)
Then there's the way you'll use these switches. Let's go back to that caddy drive, and suppose that I use it for a few minutes, then, being a conscientious citizen, I switch it off cos I know I won't need it for 15 - 20 minutes. Then I switch it back on, with an initial power drain surge when it spins up and boots up, and wait around 10 - 30 seconds for the operating system to find it and activate it. How much energy have I just used sitting waiting for the caddy drive and the boot-up? Over the life of the hub, will the energy saved even come close to atoning for the waste involved in manufacturing and building in those switches?
If you think I'm nitpicking the energy savings, here's this same magazine trying to decide whether the combined effect of people dumping analog TVs and buying new DTVs, or buying an additional STB converter, is going to impact the environment. How nitpicking is that? So I don't think I'm actually over-thinking this in comparison to what Treehugger should have been doing.
So to add to the nitpicking analysis, here's my next question - will people actually use the switches anyway? If you have to wait for a device to boot each time you need to use it, will you switch it off or just leave it running for the whole session? Well, I'll be a model greenie and switch off when I don't need it.
And here, last of all, the coup de grace for this piece of greenwash - as I reach towards the hub to switch off the switch, I realise that this is a familiar action - I've been using it all along to just unplug the bloody device when I don't need it!
So somehow, Treehugger has been sucked into a greenwash. Tsk tsk...