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.
See our slideshow of the 10 New Eco-Friendly Travel Gadgets.

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!”

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