10 New Eco-Friendly Travel Gadgets
Call us cranky, jealous of yesteryear’s freewheeling jet-setters, or just plain old-fashioned, but these days, “getting away from it all“ just doesn’t feel the same. Courtesy of 2008’s ADD-afflicted world of buzzing BlackBerries, text-messaging iPhones, and jangling Bluetooth headsets, even pleasure seekers can seldom afford to unplug from the grid.
With 71 percent of Americans determined to shrink their carbon footprint, but only 18 percent of the nation’s annual 2.5 million tons of consumer electronics waste being recycled, what’s today’s eco-enlightened traveler to do?Happily for those tired of getting the stink eye every time they innocently whip out their Treo or MacBook Air, the answer is simple: geek out the green way!
Increasingly biodegradable, constructed from natural materials, and Energy Star compliant, a new breed of environmentally friendly gadgets promises to offer eco-conscious travelers simple, feel-good solutions. From sustainable hard drives and bamboo-encased laptops to solar-charged video players, H2O-powered timepieces, and memory cards that upload pixel-perfect snapshots straight from quaint Parisian bistros and glistening Norwegian fjords, the future’s sealed in silicon. Even for self-described IT fetishists, there are more ways than ever to cut back on pollution and synthetic waste without cutting the cord.
Don’t mistake it for another tree-hugging fad. Over the past three years, a genuine sea change has quietly been reshaping the fundamentals of high-tech business, and electronics manufacturers are rapidly cleaning up their act. Meanwhile, ballooning public pressure has resulted in groundbreaking initiatives like the EPA’s Plug-In to eCycling program, which has recycled 95-plus million pounds of e-waste since 2003.
To put things in perspective: six out of every ten American households own a digital camera; nearly eight, a mobile phone. And with the consumer electronics industry expected to grow 10 percent to more than $700 billion total by 2009, and 17 percent of holiday shoppers willing to pay more for eco-friendly gifts (according to Deloitte & Touche), well...the future is looking green.
Your first order of business as a responsible traveler, though?Toss that old Polaroid and Reagan-era brick of a cellular handset. (Fun fact: recycling 100 million phones generates enough energy to power 194,000 homes for an entire year.) Best Buy, Staples, and Sam’s Club stores, and even the U.S. Postal Service, have trade-in and recycle programs.
All that extra scratch and good karma will serve you well in your efforts to appease Mother Nature by way of a 21st-century upgrade. Because the next time your spouse complains about you forgoing a night at the opera in favor of copping one of the following deliciously shiny time-sinks?You can look them straight in the eye, gasp, and sputter in semi-convincing outrage, “But, honey, it’s an investment in mankind’s future!”
Water-Powered Travel Alarm Clock
Why It’s Green: Tells time by using salted water; the device’s electrodes harvest energy from the liquid to fuel the nightstand-friendly gizmo’s simple digital LCD.
Why Buy: No batteries necessary, it’s small enough to stuff into any carry, and it’s especially easy and cost-effective to keep going the next time you’re cruising the coast of Sicily.
Practical Applications: Ensuring you’re prompt for massage appointments, walking tours, and naturally, dinnertime at Chateau Elan.
Why It’s Green: Fan-shaped solar panels can juice the portable power supply’s 3.7V rechargeable lithium ion battery. Long-lasting storage capacity provides an instant jolt up to one year later.
Why Buy: Universal adapters offer additional compatibility with digital cameras, cell phones, iPods, and PSPs, making it an all-purpose refueling solution.
Practical Applications: Keeping you from keeling over with boredom on transcontinental flights, on-call in emergency situations, and always just one GPS query away from a shortcut to Edinburgh Castle.
Photo Memory Card
Why It’s Green: Shunning traditional prints and their chemical byproducts, this 2GB SD memory card stores hundreds of digital images instead. Automatic uploading to PC/Mac or picture-sharing sites via home network or Wayport Wi-Fi hotspot also nixes shipping waste, plus saves the time and energy you’d expend sorting and uploading manually.
Why Buy: Just turn on your camera to transfer scenes to desktop, online album, social network, or blog, and let friends and relatives ride shotgun on scenic detours. Optional location tagging adds geographic info when photos appear on Picasa or Flickr for quicker cataloguing.
Practical Applications: Eliminates film costs, saves time and energy.
Name: Bamboo U6V-B1 from Asus
Why It’s Green: Clothed in resilient, biodegradable bamboo-wood trim, this svelte soon-to-be-released laptop will make an instant eco-fashion statement. Energy-efficient innards reduce CO2 emission and boost battery life without sacrificing environmental awareness.
Why Buy: Beyond its earth-conscious industrial design, it has a 2.53Ghz Core 2 Duo T9400 Processor, 256MB RAM, a GeForce 9300M graphics processor, and a 320GB hard drive suitable for Web surfing, word processing, and editing vacation snaps.
Practical Applications: Stows away easily on any voyage, letting you catch up on correspondence on the road, upload video diaries to YouTube, or play Peggle Nights from the veranda of your suite at the Four Seasons.
Ultimate Rechargable Battery
Name: USB Cell from Moixa Energy Ltd.
Why It’s Green: These USB-powered rechargeables last for 500 charge cycles, so say goodbye to the 15 billion disposable alkaline batteries produced annually, and their toxic runoff.
Why Buy: Functions like your standard everyday AA battery. When empty, though, just pop the top to expose a USB connector, then connect to a laptop or other portable device to enjoy a quick refill.
Practical Applications: Powering in-flight movie marathons, mobile alarm clocks, and the odd automated German-to-English translator, so you need never again ask locals how to say, “Dude, where’s my bratwurst?“
Energy-Efficient External Hard Drive
Why It’s Green: Built from bamboo and lightweight, recyclable aluminum, this external hard drive with Energy Star–qualified power adapter keeps files safe and guzzles less electricity. Its holistic approach even extends to recyclable packaging.
Why Buy: Virtually zero noise output, Turbo USB 2.0 speeds, and 500GB of archival space in which to cart along precious data or smuggle HD videos of wild times at Carnival.
Practical Applications: Avoid leaving home without your precious music collection, maps for your GPS, or all those episodes of Mad Men you’ve been meaning to see.
Solar-Powered Media Player
Name: eMotion EM-SOL2GIG from MediaStreet
Why It’s Green: Harnesses the sun’s rays to enable music, movie, and photo playback; video game playing; and e-book reading. Plus, it acts as a portable charger for digital cameras, cell phones, PDAs, DVD players, and other lithium battery-powered electronic devices.
Why Buy: Makes a welcome pocket-size hub for all your multimedia content, provides emergency power relief and light, and even runs classic NES and GameBoy games.
Practical Applications: A Swiss Army knife’s worth of simultaneous functions. Example: recline by the pool to Coldplay’s dulcet tones while reading The Da Vinci Code before breaking to enjoy a couple rounds of Tetris or screen last week’s reality shows.
Name: 603 SUN from Iqua
Why It’s Green: The world’s first solar-powered Bluetooth headset translates sunbeams into infinite standby time and hours of active conversation given minimal exposure to natural light.
Why Buy: Stashes easily in your slacks, makes hands-free calling a snap, and presents an excellent excuse to get out and roam more.
Practical Applications: Phoning home to check on the kids while wandering Rome’s winding avenues, or leaving belated answering machine messages like “Call back next life—I’m on permanent vacation.“
Portable Eco-Friendly Speakers
Why It’s Green: Made from recycled cardboard, these minuscule 3.25-inch cardboardlike cubes let you blast music sans batteries by siphoning power from MP3 players themselves.
Why Buy: The lightweight, portable party-starters fold flat for easy transport and come in a rainbow of catchy colors. Connect them, and voilà—your digital music player immediately becomes a mobile boom box.
Practical Applications: Airing the perfect soundtrack for a lazy day by the beach or a romantic waltz beneath the tropical moonlight. It also makes a smart gift for the audiophile in your life.
Green Cell Phone
Why It’s Green: Not only is the phone constructed from more than 50 percent renewable biosourced plastics and sold in 60 percent recycled cardboard packaging, its efficient charger consumes up to 94 percent less power than Energy Star minimums.
Why Buy: Accidental tourists and hipsters alike will appreciate the tri-band GSM phone’s slick aesthetic and workmanlike design. Features include a five-way navigation key for easy control; 262,000-color screen; 1.3MP digital camera; microSD card storage expandability; FM radio; digital music player; and Bluetooth connectivity.
Practical Applications: GPRS/EDGE speeds enable brisk data and video transfer, with unlocked devices ready for calling in both North America and Europe.