Mixing Apples and Oranges ... and Vodafones
When it comes to cell phone chargers, Orange is far from the only company setting its sights on greener pastures.
The rise of portable consumer electronics has contributed to an increase in green power demand, not only because we want phones that last longer between charges, but also because overcharging can waste as much as 60 percent of the energy drawn from outlets [source: Crow]. Moreover, in 2009, we generated an estimated 51,000 tons (46,266 metric tons) of redundant chargers, a landfill load that has inspired the push by some toward developing universal wireless chargers [sources: Brown; Howard].
Consequently, if you're willing to shop around -- and to wait for greener gadgets to reach the marketplace -- you'll likely not lack for options.
For the Penguin and Poppins crowd, there's the cell phone-charging umbrella built by Britain-based telecom firm Vodafone. From 12 solar cells adorning its capacious canopy, current trickles to rechargeable batteries or directly to a mobile device docked to its USB port. An onboard micro antenna boosts 3G reception. The Booster Brolly relies on solar cells, though, so it probably makes a better parasol than bumbershoot [sources: Srivastava; Trenholm].
Slip into something more chargeable with Power Felt, the carbon-nanotube-packed fabric developed by Wake Forest University researchers that turns heat into electric current. Imagine powering your mobile devices while working out, or while sitting in your car, butt-dialing and generating seat heat [sources: Knibbs; Nosowitz].
Taking a similarly toasty tack, a concept phone by designer Patrick Hyland absorbs body heat through a thermally conducive copper back panel and converts it to charge using an internal thermogenerator [sources: Ascharya; Brown]. Perhaps the power company will let feverish patients bank extra watt-hours against future drawdown, but it's probably more likely that hospitals will tap our febrile bodies to power our own life-support equipment.
Inspired by high-end wristwatches, Nokia has designed a phone that charges via motion [sources: Ascharya; Brown]. Samsung has test marketed a solar-panel-equipped cell phone, and the French company Wysips has approached Apple about equipping iPhones with a 100-micrometer transparent solar coating [sources: Brown; Rule; Sorrel].
Applications for such materials beyond cell phones abound, including powering flashlights, radios and other emergency devices, or possibly capturing the waste heat generated by laptops.
Planning a trip? Try designer Jung Inyoung's luggage of choice -- a rolling hard-shell suitcase that stores kinetic energy via wheel gears as you pull, then converts it to charge [sources: Cha; Fitzgerald]. With the right shoe inserts and socks, your feet will generate even more electricity [sources: Knibbs; Srivastava]. Better still, if you happen to be ambulant through certain parts of France, you could help power the city of Toulouse -- provided they've installed their energy-absorbing sidewalk panels by then [source: Boyle].
After all, when it comes to greener energy, talk's cheap. We all need to walk the walk.