Top 5 Green Gadgets

SimpleTech's external hard drive is innovative and green.
SimpleTech's external hard drive is innovative and green.

There is no accepted standard of what makes a "green" gadget. Many device-makers would like to lay claim to the green mantle but fall short -- for example, by claiming meager energy savings over other devices that are out-of-date or energy hogs. Also, by buying a new green product, you may actually be polluting even more, as it takes energy and resources to build and transport a new product, although many old appliances can be recycled [source: Tugend].

There are also misconceptions about what qualifies as green. It's tough to call plastic green, as it's made out of petroleum and can't biodegrade through natural processes. But plastic is lightweight, cheap, relatively sturdy and recyclable.

A battery does not necessarily equal green because its energy still has to come from somewhere. In 2006, 48.97 percent of the United States' electricity consumption came from coal, which is environmentally destructive to extract and to burn [source: Energy Information Administration].

Something packaged in wood, like some computers from Dell and Asus, are not necessarily green. Where does the wood come from? Is it harvested from sustainable forests? What type of material does this product normally use instead of wood? If the answers are that it's sustainable wood or bamboo -- which grows very quickly and abundantly -- and that it's used in place of a metal and plastic casing, then the manufacturer has succeeded in lowering its product's environmental footprint. Unfortunately, such products are often marketed as breakthroughs when, in fact, they may be more expensive, limited edition models. The Asus U6 Limited Edition Bamboo Notebook is a beautiful, relatively energy efficient laptop, but is it possible to call it a step forward if it's relegated to limited edition status?

With these ideas in mind, we gave deference here to devices that do not use any energy at all or that find novel ways to rethink a common gadget while also making environmental improvements. We also examined what makes that most ubiquitous of machines -- the personal computer -- green.