Non-green keyboard saves green

My external keyboard, a Microsoft thing, seems to aspire to being an IBM Selectric, clacking so loudly phone-interview sources get self-conscious. So I went online and found this HP Wireless Elite Keyboard on Amazon for $29.

HP wireless elite keyboard

The HP Wireless Elite Keyboard, so flat it disappears into the horizon

It was more or less what I was looking for, and I was on the ragged edge of going for it when pre-buyers remorse struck and I bailed on the cart. And what did I find but a solar-powered keyboard by Logitech. Never needs batteries. Great reviews.’s Justin Yu, CNET’s headphone and peripherals guru, gave it his editor’s choice, a rave rundown. I’m thinking, yes, and it’ll further bolster my green chops — panels on the roof, panels on the keyboard, what more can you ask?

Logitech Wireless keyboard

Behold the solar keyboard

Well, you ask about the price. the Logitec Solar Keyboard is $60. The HP battery-powered version is $29. The HP keyboard uses two AAA batteries. Looks like you can buy 20 AAA alkaline batteries for about $10. HP says a keyboard goes a year on a pair of batteries. (Keyboards obviously don’t take much energy, which explains how a few square inches of solar panels can fuel the Logitech version such that, in two hours of indoor lighting, you get a three-month charge, according to the company).

So the payback on the extra green for solar-powered typing, in this case, is the cumulative life of however many batteries you can buy for $31 (omitting the productivity losses of me digging around for AAA batteries once a year, which will be hours).

Sixty batteries will last the HP keyboard 30 years, then. Landfilling alkaline batteries isn’t the greatest thing, of course, so I suppose I’ll spring for four Sanyo Eneloop batteries for the same $10 the alkalines would set me back. Eneloops can be recharged 1,500 times each and don’t self-discharge too badly (I use them in a voice recorder). So I’ll be typing effortlessly into the 60th century.

In other words, solar panels on the keyboard aren’t like the panels on the roof at all, because there the payback is real (even if it’s several years). CNET might have factored this into their rating. Logitech’s solar twist makes for a cubicle piece de resistance for sure. But it’s environmentally and functionally meaningless.

Water and electricity

I teach a narrative nonfiction class at the University of Colorado; a student did an good piece on water waste through sprinkling sidewalks and soaking common common greens to bogginess.

Curious about the energy of water usage, I did some hunting around and found a reference to the kilowatt hours per acre foot of water provided to residents of Denver, Colo. and Parker, a nearby suburb. Denver relies on runoff; Parker taps into an aquifer.

Turns out Denver water users burn about 2.5 watt hours of electricity per gallon of water they use, so a two-gallon bucket equates to about an hour of a burning night light (incandescent — LEDs use less). We used 13,000 gallons in the summer, equivalent to 32 kilowatt hours, or about two days production of our solar panels.

In Parker’s case, the pumps needed to suck fossil groundwater from the depths require more than five times the electricity per gallon — 13.8 watt hours. So a gallon of cold, clean Parker water embodies the energy to burn a compact fluorescent bulb for an hour. Water is power. Think about it next time you leave the faucet on when you’re brushing your teeth.


Apple’s Sales, Astronomically Speaking

Apple recently announced its results for the three months ended June 25. More than $7 billion in net income for the quarter — not bad. I’ve been thinking about the massive scale of our aggregate consumption, though, so a couple of other numbers were more interesting.

The company sold 9.25 million iPad 2’s in the quarter. And 20.34 million iPhones.

The iPad is 0.34 inches thick. So if you stacked up the sales from that single quarter, you would have a 49.64 mile-high column of iPads. NASA awards astronaut wings to those who fly 50 miles up or higher.

The iPhone 4 is 0.37 inches thick, so their stack would climb to an altitude of about 119 miles. Mount Everest tops out at 5.5 miles above sea level.

The lesson? A sliver (in this case, a very sexy, high-tech sliver) of consumption for man is, on the whole, an astronomical use of resources for mankind.