Green gifts: From clocks to wallets to solar lanterns
13 gift ideas, with a nod to energy efficiency, sustainability — and fun
The holiday season really can be the most wonderful time of the year. Especially if you're not stressing out about what to get your spouse. Or kids. Or parents.
But it's getting easier to find gifts that are both practical and responsible. And some can help manage electricity, or use energy more efficiently.
Some suggestions, with a nod to sustainability and technology, for what to get your loved ones this year.
Smart battery recharger ($32.92; Amazon)
With the Energizer smart charger, there will never again be a problem leaving rechargeable batteries plugged in for too long.
This ENERGY STAR®-certified charger can accommodate four AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. It uses an LCD screen to let you know how close to capacity the batteries are, and how long it will take before they are full.
Added bonus: it detects bad batteries so they can be recycled.
Water-powered clocks (US$16–$39; Bedol What's Next)
These clocks don't require batteries or wall sockets. Just water. The clever gadgets can operate for up to six months on a "charge" that uses ions from the water.
The Bedol clocks come in a range of colours and styles, including the Wink Clock, which is designed to look like a drop of water as it impacts the ground.
The new Squirt model pictured here ($24.95) was just released.
Tyvek is a material made from interlocking plastic fibres, and it's used to make these slick wallets, which are tear-resistant, water-resistant, lightweight and recyclable.
With two interior pockets, these can accommodate as many as 16 cards and they come in a wide range of designs to suit the sensibility of anyone on your gift list.
Smart phone apps (pricing varies)
A simple gift can say so much, and there are a number of apps that can be used to monitor and manage electricity use.
The Pocket Waste Buster app from BC Hydro helps to better manage the battery life of an iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad.
Green Outlet can help monitor the electricity use of home appliances.
Other apps can be found to plan meals and help reduce food waste.
Conserve power management ($10–$40; Belkin)
The Conserve line of products from Belkin are electricity management tools that can help you reduce stand-by power use in your home and make for ideal gifts.
The Insight is a monitor that can be used to find out how much energy your gadgets are using. The Socket provides timed power, shutting off after 30 minutes, three hours or six hours, perfect for battery chargers. The Switch surge protector let's you shut off power to a computer system with a wireless switch.
Home theatre surge protector ($69.95–$99.95; London Drugs, Sears)
This power bar not only protects your audio-video equipment, but it automatically turns off outlets to prevent energy waste from stand-by power.
With two outlets that are always-on, for DVRs and receivers, it also has ethernet and coaxial cable jacks to accommodate all your home theatre connections.
Rugged LED headlight ($29.99; Canadian Tire)
Perfect for the handywoman in your life, this headset has four lighting modes: high white beam, low white beam, red for night vision and green for inspection work.
She'll be able to pivot the beam to aim it where she needs to look, and the lamp has a flip-up diffuser, too.
Because the light source is LED, it's cool and efficient, and she'll love it.
All-weather radio and flashlight ($51; Mountain Equipment Co-op)
Etón makes all manner of products that are "powered by nature" and that includes a Raptor solar charger and the Scorpion, which is a digital radio, a NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Adminstration) Weather Band and a LED flashlight.
You can plug in an MP3 player and use the Scorpion as a speaker around the campfire or use the USB port to charge your smart phone.
What makes all this even better is that the Scorpion is powered by either solar panels or a hand crank.
Energizer Solar Lantern ($49.99; Canadian Tire and London Drugs)
The eight LEDs in this lantern means it's great for the back yard or the campsite.
It folds out to provide 360-degree illumination as an area light. An amber night setting protects everyone from too-bright light.
Five hours charging in full sun provides 2.5 hours of light. The amorphous silicon solar panel charges even in low light conditions.
On those rainy excursions, you can use D-cell batteries instead.
Solar-powered charger ($65; Mountain Equipment Co-op)
The Solio Bolt is a power source that can charge devices almost as quickly as a typical wall outlet.
The techie on your list can use it to charge anything from a smart phone to MP3 player to tablet computer to camera. It can hold a charge for up to a year, and when at full capacity can give most smart phones two complete charges.
You can even use a pencil — or other stylus — to turn the Solio into a sundial.
Mac mini computer ($599 & $799; Apple)
Apple claims that the Mac mini is the world's most energy-efficient desktop computer, and they may be right.
The high-functioning computers sport Apple's energy-efficient design philosophy and require only 85 W of power, which means they exceed ENERGY STAR 5.2 standards.
There are also power-saving features — sleep modes and the computer spins down hard drives when they aren't being used — built into the computer's OS X operating system.
And because fewer heavy metals and toxins are used in the construction of the computer, when it comes time to upgrade, it's easier to recycle.
An ENERGY STAR television (pricing varies; various locations, including Future Shop and London Drugs)
Televisions can be great gifts for the entire family. When searching for a new flatscreen for the family room, insist on an ENERGY STAR model that uses less electricity and will consume one Watt of energy or less when switched off.
Until December 23, London Drugs, in partnership with BC Hydro Power Smart, is selling a 3D-ready, 50-inch, high-definition (1080p) Panasonic plasma set for only $999.99.
The big purchase: Electric car (Pricing varies)
Now that they are available in Canada, and charging stations are becoming more widely available, if your holiday season comes with a new set of wheels, consider an emissions-free vehicle.
There are good options from from General Motors, GEM, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Tesla.
On our wish list is the sleek new Tesla Model S, pictured here, a beautiful companion to the company's original Roadster electric vehicle.