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Holiday gift guide: 10 gifts that tread lightly on the planet

From eco-friendly phone cases to airtight pet doors, guilt-free gifts that help the climate action fight

Image of a Pelacase Honeycomb smartphone case
Pela phone cases are made of a blend of biopolymers and Canadian prairie flax straw materials so that they're 100% compostable.

There are many ways, big and small, we can respond to the appeals of teens marching around the globe in the name of climate action. That includes considering the effects of the gifts we give.

Of course, the result we aim for is a smile on the face of the family member or friend who receives your gift. So for this year's list, we're keeping it fun and functional while keeping it light (on the planet). Some gifts on this list will have a direct impact on GHG emissions and other sustainability issues, while others can lead to decisions that indirectly reduce both the giver's, and the recipient's, eco footprint.

No waste phone case: The compostable Pela case

So far, more than half a million people have switched to the Pela phone case, so there's a good chance you've seen them around. Perhaps you saw one of the popular bee cases, which are engraved with a beehive pattern and three working bees. The cases come in a wide variety of colours and designs, including ripple effects, turtles, mandalas, and one with a "There's No Planet B" messaging. Pela also offers a zero-waste screen protector.

Why it's eco-friendly: The cases are made of Flaxstic®, which is comprised of compostable bioplastic elastomer and flax straw materials. The company estimates that so far, the cases have prevented almost 300,000 pounds of plastic from being produced.

Planes, trains & automobiles: Toys made from recycled plastic

Image of an airplane made by Green Toys
California-based Green Toys makes durable toys out of recycled plastic milk jugs.

One of the joys of being a grandparent or a favourite aunt is seeing a kid's eyes light up as they open up a box to discover a super cool toy. One of the plights of the parent is realizing that all this plastic is going to be around for generations to come. California-based Green Toys is making a difference with durable and beautifully designed toys made from recycled milk jugs. The toys are battery free, dishwasher safe, and fun. If only recycling trucks looked this cool in real life.

Why it's eco-friendly: A toy made from recycled milk jugs is great, but what happens to it once it's finally broken? Green Toys makes these things to last, and with no metal axles, the plastic can eventually be re-recycled into something else down the road.

Different strokes for different folks: Motorino e-bikes

Image of a Motorino XLr-e-bike
While most Motorino electric bikes include batteries external to the frame, the stealthy XLr hides its battery back inside one of the tubes.

Vancouver-based Motorino produces e-motorcyles and e-bikes designed for a variety of needs and personalities. We gave a Motorino CTb e-bike as a grand prize in our recent fall contest, and chose it because it's a robust commuter with fenders ideal for B.C.'s rainy days, plus front and rear rack options that allow you to do a little shopping en route. For the stronger cyclist on your list, consider Motorino's "e-bike that doesn't look like an e-bike", the XLr, which hides its battery and offers just enough of an assist to make hilly commutes faster and easier.

Why it's eco-friendly: Every time a car commute is replaced with a bike commute, that's good news for the planet. An e-bike's combination of human power and BC Hydro clean electricity makes it a perfect fit for the streets (and bike lanes) of B.C.

Right night light: A dimmable LED with style cred

Image of a Gantri Cantilever Table light
The Gantri Cantilever Table Light is a dimmable LED that's not just a good fit for the bedside table. It's made of a translucent corn blend.

Know an avid reader who likes to open a book or magazine in bed, sometimes while a partner tries to sleep? Consider the Gantri Cantilever Table Light, which encloses a fully dimmable LED in a moon-like ball that's tilted cleverly to one side. It's great for smaller night tables, and casts a warm 360-degree glow.

Why it's eco-friendly: It's a fraction of the size of many table lamps, is designed for energy-saving LED bulbs, and it's not made of plastic. It's made of what the company calls a "translucent PLA corn blend".

A mower sustainable lawn: Cordless electric lawnmower

Image of a Myobi Lawnmower
The Ryobi 20-inch cordless electric lawnmower is a popular replacement to gas-powered mowers, and it helps navigate hilly lawns as it’s self-propelled.

Your Saturday morning sleep-in ends when the neighbour starts up their gas mower. Your window is open and you can smell it, too. Gone are the days when electric mowers involved navigating around a long cord from the house. The Ryobi 20-inch 40V lithium-ion brushless cordless self-propelled lawnmower is a big seller in Canada in part because it has a big battery and the self-propulsion to handle a hilly lawn. If you have a lot of leaves on your property that you need to mulch, it may not replace your gas mower, but for most homeowners, this one fits the bill.

Why it's eco-friendly: Gas vs. electric. In the land of clean and renewable electric power, this one's a slam dunk.

Only the dog takes a leak: Pet door with a tight seal

Image of a Freedom Pet Pass door
Pet Pass dog and cat doors are designed to stay airtight during Canadian winters, ensuring that your draftproofing efforts aren't undermined by a leaky pet entrance.

It's a beautiful thing when your dog or cat has developed the smarts to head outside on their own for a little exercise or to take care of business. But with most pet doors, that comes at a cost to your heating bills. Canada's Freedom Pet Pass has developed pet doors aimed at energy efficiency. The company claims that its doors are 10 times more efficient than ENERGY STAR® standards for windows and human doors, and it demonstrates the door's tight seal in a fun little video on its website that shows a candle flame just inside the door not moving at all when a leaf blower is aimed directly at the pet door from outside.

Why it's eco-friendly: Air leaks in winter (and in summer) are your enemy and can lead to heating energy waste of 10% or more. The last thing you need after draftproofing all your windows and doors is a leaky pet door.

Take me glamping: A sleeping mat to love

Image of a MEC Reactor 6.5 double sleeping pad
It's too bulky for backpackers, but MEC's Reactor 6.5 double sleeping pad is a car camper's delight. It's self-inflating and comfortable, thanks in part to open-cell foam insulation.

Many Canadians have a love-hate relationship with camping: love the outdoors and the campfire, but hate the sore back or the slowly deflating air mattress. MEC's got this covered with their wildly popular Reactor 6.5 double sleeping pad, a self-inflating pad that keeps you warmer via open-cell foam insulation. It's pricey and, with its bulk, is definitely not for backpacking. But car campers seem to love it. Sample review: "For the first time, I could actually have a good night sleep in a tent. I am a side sleeper, this pad is thick enough that I don't feel my shoulder and hip bone against the hard ground."

Why it's eco-friendly: Every camping trip you take instead of flying somewhere for a vacation cuts your carbon footprint dramatically. And when camping is comfortable, you're likely to do it more.

Travels with a corn star: Eco-friendly portable charger

Image of a Nimble 3-day fast portable charger
Made of corn and sugarcane, the Nimble 3-Day portable charger energizes multiple Apple and Samsung devices.

There are a lot of portable chargers out there, but the Nimble 3-Day fast portable charger is made from plant-based plastics (corn and sugarcane), and it can charge up to three Apple or Samsung devices at the same time. It promises to be able to get a phone up to an 80% charge in 30 minutes.

Why it's sustainable: Electronics, big and small, are clogging up our landfills. And even when we do the right thing and take something to an electronics recycling depot, we're not quite sure how much gets recycled. These chargers help with their plant-based plastics and recycled aluminum components, and they arrive in zero-waste packaging.

Charge into the future: Level 2 electric vehicle charger

Image of a charger plugged into an electric vehicle
Electric vehicle drivers do the bulk of their charging at home, and most opt for a Level 2 charger. BC Hydro currently matches a provincial rebate for the purchase and installation of qualifying Level 2 chargers.

The tipping point for widespread adoption of electric vehicles will be when they're relatively the same price, and offer similar ranges, to gas-powered vehicles. But one of the big myths out there is that electric car owners waste tonnes of time charging their vehicles when they could be on the road. The truth is that the vast majority of charging happens at home, usually overnight. So if you happen to have an EV owner on your gift list (or want to send a strong message to someone that it's time to buy electric), now's the time to buy them a Level 2 charger, as BC Hydro is currently matching the existing provincial rebates for the chargers. While most EVs charging on regular household current can take up to 20 hours or more to charge a depleted battery pack, a more powerful Level 2 charger does the job in four to five hours. If you're considering a Level 2 charger, see our installation checklist first.

Why it's eco-friendly: The GHG emissions of nine electric vehicles driving in B.C. are equivalent of one similar-sized gas-powered vehicle. Driving a Nissan Leaf would shrink your carbon footprint by 13,000 kg over five years.

Griddle me this: Indoor grill, panini and waffle maker

Image of a Cuisinart Grill
You don't need to go outside to grill a steak or veggies with the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, which also excels as a panini press, waffle iron, and bacon-breakfast griddle.

It's mid- winter and you want to grill some veggies, or cook a steak or a burger. You could throw on a jacket and head out to the patio, or if you're in an apartment without a balcony, you may be able grab everything you need and head to the strata's communal barbecue. Then again, you could use the Cuisinart 5-in-1 Griddler, a new version of a wildly popular indoor grill. What's new is the grill's removable and reversible non-stick grill and griddle plates, which allow for various combinations of flat and ridged cooking surfaces. It's a panini press, an electric barbecue, a waffle maker, and a lower-smoke appliance for bacon or sausages.

Why it's eco-friendly: Generally speaking, smaller appliances such as pressure cookers and microwaves are more efficient than their full-size cousins. And in this case, every time you grill indoors rather than on a propane grill, you're reducing your carbon footprint (using BC Hydro's renewable electricity rather than a fossil fuel.) Take it a step further by cutting down on the amount of meat you eat – especially carbon-intensive beef and lamb – by grilling more veggies. There's a cookbook for that, and it might make a nice gift to go along with the grill.