By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

This week electronics makers are unveiling their latest innovations at the annual geek fest in Las Vegas, known as the Consumer Electronics Show or CES. As always, manufacturers are launching a flotilla of faster, glitzier gadgets, appliances and design ideas into the unsuspecting world.

And while most of these inventions offer more functions, more style, more bling, with only some homing in on efficiency — green offerings have crept into the mix. That’s because the show’s focus on performance inevitably yields overlap with sustainability. Sometimes, the two can go hand in hand.

Here then, are five new greener products on display at CES 2012 that may soon brighten your life:

SolarKindle doesn't need an outlet, if it's getting enough sunshine.

1. Solar Powered Kindle Cover. This charge-as-you-go SolarKindle cover by Solarmio collects sun power to recharge your reader when you’re using it outdoors, or if you’ve rested it on a windowsill. The solar cover also recharges the attached light, adding value to the package. Retail price: $79.99. That’s steep compared to the price of your plain old faux leather cover, but within range for those who like to camp a lot, or get really steamed when their USB cord wanders off. Buy it at the Solarmio online store.

The WF457 promises smart talk, but its conservation IQ is even more impressive.

2 – Samsung’s new WF547 front-load washer. This machine goes easy on electricity and water usage. The EPA’s EnergyStar program recognized it as among the most efficient washers developed in 2011 (it will be on the market in spring 2012). The machine has a bunch of cool features, like the “Smart Controls” that connect with your phone so you can get alerts (though do we really want that level of intimacy with our laundry equipment?). The eco-friendly features are what capture our eye. Samsung is becoming a go-to brand for sustainability, with an array of efficiency design features popping up on its appliances, such as an over-the-range microwave with an LED task light and electricity-pinching refrigerators. You cannot review this new washer online yet (Jan. 2012), but you can see more about Samsung washers here.

Switch Lighting's 75 Watt LED, a work of art and light

3. An LED light bulb by US-based Switch Lighting Co.. Compared with other LEDs just now appearing on store shelves, this one offers both beauty and savings, ringing in at around $20 , which undercuts other LEDs by about half. That’s Switch Lighting’s sales point number one. Here’s two: This bulb claims to emanate a beautiful light that mimics that  “warm white” incandescent glow we love. But then, other new-gen bulbs also make this claim. LEDs are expected to replace CFLs over the next few years because they last longer, and use only about 10 or 20 percent of the electricity of the outgoing Edison-era incandescent. That translates to a savings of about $150 over the life of the bulb, which is considerable, around 25,000 hours or two decades or so with standard use, according to Switch Lighting. These bulbs are not quite yet ready for mass consumption, but you can get an alert from the company when they hit the retail market.

Urban Green Energy's small wind turbines are designed to catch variable winds closer to the ground.

4 – Here’s something you didn’t know you needed, but you might someday. It’s the ViewUGE by UrbanGreenEnergy. ViewUGE is a program that allows you to manage your small wind turbine system, which is something you’ll want to have on your home or store as a buffer against rising electricity costs. Don’t think it’s just New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who’s spun up about small wind, it’s actually taking hold around the world as building owners supplement their power with free wind energy (once you pay for the turbine). Urban Green Energy has installed small wind turbines in Korea, Sweden, Italy and in several states in the US. There’s a small system at Rickenbacker Air Force Base in Ohio and a series of turbines on every home in a new development south of St. Louis. Isn’t it nice to know the breeze is blowing in the right direction here? (Picture is of wind turbines, which are more visual than computer programs. You can see the ViewUGE set up here.)

The EcoATM puts state-of-the-art electronics to work handling former state-of-the-art electronics.

5 – The EcoATM. Yup, it’s what you think, and we’re guessing that finding an easier way to recycle the defunct or defiled electronics clattering around your garage is on your to-do list for 2012. The Eco ATM will take your electronics back, operating much like a mall or shopping center kiosk but without the guy begging to clean your jewelry. So next time you need socks or printer paper, or some other dumb thing, you may be able to jettison that mothballed 3G iPhone as part of the same errand, sending it into the virtuous recycle-sphere with out making a special trip. The ATM will not only welcome your offering, it will pay you a fair market price, after an electrical and visual inspection. Now that’s robotic service, previously available only in Star Wars movies. We’re unclear on how big your recycled electronics can be…you might need to leave those dust-encrusted motherboards in the basement closet, but handheld items will not have to wait for your cities’ next biennial “collection event,” which is helpful, because you haven’t a clue when or where it will be.  But you may have to wait for your local retailer to get an EcoATM, which is being marketed as a way for businesses to tie-in recycling with rewards or branding campaigns. Read more at the website.

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