Greener Gadgets Conference Spotlights Solar Laptops, Bioplastic Printer

The conference drew more than 300 people and featured organizations like Nokia, HP, Voltaic, and One Laptop Per Child.
Green technology is red hot, and it had its own fashion show last week in New York. On display were an HP printer made from corn, backpacks and laptop bags with solar panels to charge electronics, and environmentally friendly cell phones. These were just a few of the items featured at the first Greener Gadgets Conference.

The conference drew between 300 and 400 people and featured speakers from several top tech companies and organizations.

HP's rp5700 desktop PC includes an 80% efficient power supply and is made of at least 90% reusable or recyclable materials.
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Nokia showed off its 3110 Evolve, which is made partly of post-consumer materials and is 80% recyclable. The mobile phone company also showed off a prototype ecosensor, which looks like a watch, can be worn on the wrist, and works with a cell phone to give information about the atmosphere and weather, as well as readings on vital signs. The device works with a phone and is charged by solar rays.

Hewlett-Packard research and development displayed a printer made from corn, a bioplastic the company experiments with. The printer was part of a large workstation display with several features to save energy and reduce environmental impacts. The company's rp5700 desktop PC, unveiled last year, includes an 80% efficient power supply. The long lifecycle desktop lasts five years, instead of 18 to 24 months, and is made of at least 90% reusable or recyclable materials.

Voltaic showed off an array of solar bags and backbacks made with fabric from recycled soda bottles. The bags and backpacks come with a set of 11 adaptors to charge small personal electronics, including MP3 players, cameras, and cell phones. Each is sold with a lithium ion battery to store surplus energy and allows users to recharge with car lighters.

One hour of direct sunlight can power more than three hours of iPod play time or 90 minutes of talk time on cell phones, Voltaic says. The highest end, newest and aptly-named bag, the Generator, can generate 14.7 watts of power. Buyers can use it to power their laptops, and they can add a second solar panel. Prices for the bags range from $199 to $599. A small red light on top of each bag indicates when sunlight hits the solar panels and provides energy.

MiniWiz Sustainable Energy Development's HYmini is green, geeky, and sporty. It's marketed as "your personal green badge" and glows green when charging. The handheld universal charger draws power from solar rays, wind, and regular wall outlets to recharge 5-volt gadgets, including iPods, mobile phones, PDAs, and cameras. The fan-like gadget, which captures wind power, can be fastened around the arms of joggers or the handlebars of bicyclists for maximum potential.

The One Laptop Per Child organization showed that affordable technology can be green, too. An exhibit showed how the low-priced laptop ($130) can be recharged with a hand crank. Mary Lou Jepsen, former CTO of OLPC, gave the keynote address. She said that engineering technology must drive greener gadgets.

"If we leave it to the industrial engineers, we will fail," she said.

Recycling also was a hot topic at the conference, sponsored by design Web blog Inhabitat and Marc Alt + Partners, a design, research, and branding agency. . ReCellular, a cell phone recycling company, demonstrated the wide span of mobile phones it accepts from individuals and companies. Its display included clunky first-generation mobile phones, as well as the latest PDAs and smart phones. The company removes all data before recycling.

ReCellular collected 6 million mobile phones last year and diverted 1 million pounds of waste from landfills, VP Mike Newman said. Many of the cell phones still work, but consumers want newer models, he said. The corporate recycling program is free, pays for devices that still work, and offers indemnification to ensure that devices don't go to landfills.

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