It’s beginning to look a lot like a green Christmas

As always, the holidays this year will be another disgusting display of materialist consumerism — if you’re lucky. But in 2007, environmentally friendly gift giving goes mainstream.

Green products make wonderful gifts. Not only are they good for the environment, but they tend to save money (on electricity) and add functionality as well.

Portable chargers, for example, make excellent stocking stuffers. They let you charge your phone and other toys on the go without plugging in. You can harness the sun, the wind or both.

Windup chargers, or gadgets that have built-in charging through some kind of hand-crank, make great gifts, too.

Unlike previous years, there is now a huge selection of solar-powered backpacks and carry-all bags to choose from. These bags have solar panels on the outside and batteries on the inside. When you want to charge your stuff, just keep them plugged in as you carry them around.

Green PCs not only save you money on power, but also on the purchase itself. Wal-Mart, for example, is selling a new green PC for less than $200. Environmentally friendly PCs also tend to be quieter.

Look for products that are recycled or are recyclable, and don’t use batteries or rechargeable batteries.

Giving green gifts lets your loved ones enjoy guilt-free fun. And, if you’re good, maybe you’ll get green gifts in your stocking this year. But that’s only if you’re good. If you’re bad this year, expect carbon offsets instead of coal.

We never understood how people can read magazines while on a treadmill. But using a laptop on a treadmill? That we can understand.

A new product called TheNetRunner lets you mount just about any laptop to the top of just about any treadmill.

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. But who has time? TheNetRunner, which costs $99, lets you combine your work and your workout.

What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — including your cell phone.

Las Vegas’ McCarran Airport now sports a vending machine that looks like a giant cell phone. You can walk up to it, swipe your credit card and walk away with any of several cell phones or smart phones. The machine, owned by 011 Mobile, also sells SIM cards you can put into your existing cell phone.

Why would you want to buy a new phone or SIM card rather than just use the one you already own? The answer: cheaper calls. For example, calls to the U.K. cost just 1.5 cents per minute. And if your existing carrier doesn’t provide good coverage in Las Vegas, 011 Mobile phones will, according to the company.

My Picks: Microsoft replaces MSN Calendar with something betterThe new beta of Windows Live Calendar features Google Calendar-like features, including multiple calendars, shared calendars, e-mail and text message appointment alerts, and RSS support. And you can now listen to songs in your iTunes library while actually playing them as an interactive game.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at [email protected] or his blog, The Raw Feed.

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