Volume 13, Issue 27 ~ July 7 - 13, - 2005

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Got an Environmental Question? Send it to: EARTH TALK, c/o E/The Environmental Magazine, P.O. Box 5098, Westport, CT 06881. Or submit your question at: www.emagazine.com. Or e-mail us at: [email protected].
From the Editors of E/The Environmental Magazine

Powering Up When You’re Out
Other than calculators, what are some other accessories and gadgets that are now available solar-powered?
Solar-powered calculators have been readily available and inexpensive for two decades, but only recently has such technology been applied to other tools, accessories and small appliances.

Perhaps the most widespread use of energy from the sun today is for charging up small electronic devices like flashlights, watches, palm pilots and cell phones. Solar cells are also being put to use around the home increasingly to power garden, pool and security lighting as well as automatic watering and lawn-feeding devices. And as photovoltaic technology improves, people are using small solar cells to power up bigger devices like radios, cameras and even laptop computers.

Well beyond the realm of gadgetry, Energy Federation sells a solar-powered oven, made by Sun Ovens International, which is working to protect the environment and raise the standard of living for the poor worldwide by developing solar cooking technologies that reduce the developing world’s reliance on scarcer and scarcer wood products. The interior of the oven is heated by passive solar energy when the oven’s reflectors are opened up and pointed toward the sun. According to the Energy Federation website, “even though it is called an oven, food can be baked, boiled and steamed at cooking temperatures of 360 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.” 

According to Wired Magazine, climber Sean Burch used solar cells to charge his laptop and phone during his solo ascent of Mt. Everest in 2003. “The sun was so bright at 18,000 feet that it wasn’t a problem,” said Burch, who didn’t have the manpower to bring along the hundred-pound batteries used by bigger climbing crews to power communications devices. “It was nice because I had my computer, solar panels and phone and I could communicate as well as anyone,” he said.

Even so, environmentally conscious consumers know that it is greener not to buy something that they don’t need. According to the website GreenChoices.org, people should only buy gadgets that are “genuinely useful additions to a green household, things that actually save energy or water, or make living green easier.”
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