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Sierra magazine
Building Better: Cool Products for an Eco-Home

By Dan Oko

Green Screen
Thanks to Philips's new Eco TV, couch potatoes can do their part for the planet. The Energy Star-rated television set shrinks carbon footprints and electricity bills. Take advantage of all the power-saving features, such as auto-dimming, on this 42-inch flat-panel LCD, and watch your favorite shows in high-def while consuming just 67 watts (less than half that of an average LCD TV). In standby mode, it consumes a mere 0.15 watts. Adding to Philips's green credentials: The set is lead-free. $1,400, usa.philips.com

Sweet Dreams
Dipping a mattress in green tea to promote a good night's sleep may sound like hokum. But manufacturer Keetsa says it's a natural way to control odors. The springs in its mattresses are made of recycled steel, and the 100 percent cotton cover is unbleached. Keetsa eschews toxic fire retardants and uses recycled foam to help reduce its carbon footprint. $440-$1,760, keetsa.com

Flush With Pride
A remarkable 40 percent of freshwater used indoors by the average American family goes down the loo. Toilets equipped with the Aqus gray-water system flush with water captured from the bathroom drain. In a shared bathroom, daily activities such as shaving, hand washing, and toothbrushing generate as much as 12 gallons of reusable water. The tank holds 5.5 gallons. One caveat: Aqus relies on chlorine for treatment. $280, watersavertech.com

Ocean Clock
Time to face facts: Even the greenest consumer gadgets only take small bites out of the world's environmental problems. But you can't get much greener than this nifty little timepiece, which runs on saltwater. Electrodes use the water as fuel, powering the LCD for weeks without a refill. $16, bedolwhatsnext.com

Hooked on Recycling
M. Smyth Boone calls himself an 18th-generation blacksmith and a descendant of Daniel Boone. But it's the fact that his designs are crafted from 100 percent recycled steel that is truly pioneering. Boone's signature piece is a leaf-shaped hook that can be used to hang towels, hats, or anything with a strap. He's also a sculptor and has crafted stair railings and a series of forged-steel sculptures of surfers. $34, booneshooks.com

DIY Electricity
The Pedal-A-Watt from Convergence Tech allows fitness fanatics to spin their way to eco-righteousness. This bicycle trainer comes with a power pack to charge a battery or juice up lights or a small appliance--say, your iPod or radio. According to Convergence, the average rider can produce between 125 and 200 watts. One hour of riding will run a standard television for an hour. $380, econvergence.net/electro.htm

Beyond CFLs
Solatube International has come up with an ingenious way to bring natural light into homes with its reflective "daylighting" system. With a small dome on the roof and reflective tubes stationed below, the system brightens up to 500 square feet from dawn till dusk. This eliminates not only the need for lightbulbs during the day but also the heat associated with incandescents. $350-$750, solatube.com/homeowner

A Thinking Surge Protector
Look out, vampire appliances: There's a new energy sheriff in town that can power down PCs, TVs, phone chargers, and various peripherals with the touch of button. Belkin didn't pull any punches with the name--"Conserve"--for its surge protector that can be switched on and off by remote control. Two plugs on the strip stay active, so you don't need to plug your DVR or Internet router into a separate outlet. $50, belkin.com/conserve

On the Web Find more energy-saving tips and cool products at sierraclub.org/greenlife.

Photo of leaf hook: Skip Naft; used with permission.

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