Top 5 Solar-powered Gadgets

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When's the last time you let your cell phone run out of juice without rushing to recharge? The electronic devices we can't seem to live without, even -- or especially -- the ones that fit in the palm of a hand, have a profound impact on our energy consumption. High-tech items like computers and mobile phones account for about 15 percent of home energy use, or about 1,650 kilowatt-hours (kWh) or 2,200 pounds (997 kilograms) of CO2 emissions per year per household [sources: New Scientist, Energy Savers, DOE].

And that's just the devices we could theoretically live without. We're not talking about home heating here.

Energy consumption and CO2 footprint is only part of the issue, though. There's also the 2.4 billion batteries that end up in U.S. landfills every year, leaching toxic metals into the groundwater supply [source: Ji].

What's an environmentally responsible citizen to do? Give up life's electronic perks? Limit ourselves to 10 minutes of talk time per week? Increase the temperature of the fridge to "somewhat cool?" Unplug the range and start cooking over a fire?

Actually, cooking over a fire wouldn't help much, what with carbon monoxide and particulate pollution. But even the more logical options aren't strictly required. With a few technological adjustments, you can still carry on a complete conversation and drink your beer cold.

The world's technology innovators have started turning to eco-conscious gadgets in a big way. Some of the very gadgets we (perhaps guiltily) use every day have "greener," cleaner versions out there. Many of them turn to solar energy to replace the traditional, emitting types. Solar power emits nothing and relies on a limitless fuel source, making it a guilt-free way to power our modern necessities, some of which are actually necessary.

In this article, we'll look at five of the best solar-powered gadgets you can buy -- or make yourself. We'll find out how they operate and how they diminish our environmental impact.

Up first, a tent with added features, without added power consumption.