Sunday, December 07, 2008

Great Green Gifts

With Christmas only a few weeks away, it’s time to get serious about making that list and checking it twice. To help you select gifts that don’t cost the Earth, here are some eco-friendly suggestions.

Number one on my list is Black & Decker’s new Power Monitor. The two-part system consists of a wireless transmitter, which is attached to your electricity meter, and a wireless handheld device, that uses data from your electric meter to provide real-time information about energy consumption, appliance by appliance. The Power Monitor retails for $ 99 – a bargain when you consider it can help save up to 20 percent in home energy bills each month. The Power Monitor is widely available at Canadian Tire and other retailers. has a great selection of solar-powered gifts for just about everyone on your list. For commuters and students, solar-powered backpacks have an integrated solar panel that provides about 2.5 watts of power that can be used to recharge cell phones, PDAs, GPS, batteries, iPods and MP3 players. The backpacks use the same 12V automotive charging adapter that is used for plugging devices into car DC outlets.

The same solar-powering technology is in Backup Power’s laptop, camera and fishing tackle bags. For the cyclist on your list, there’s a special bicycle trunk bag. All bags sell for around $ 150.

If you’re looking for a less expense gift, there are a variety of interesting items including solar battery chargers and solar headset radios. As an added bonus, Backup-Power ships directly from its Canadian warehouse, which eliminates a trip to the mall (and the gas used to drive there and back).

With so much attention being paid to the environmental impact of bottled water and the potential health effects associated with plastic containers, the “must-have” eco-gift this year is a stainless steel water bottle. It’s important to buy stainless steel, not aluminum, because the later can leach toxic chemicals if it comes into contact with anything acidic (such as orange or tomato juice.) Stainless steel, on the other hand, is one of the healthiest and most durable materials available and is also virtually indestructible with normal use.

Kleen Kanteen produces the gold standard for stainless water bottles. Prices range from $ 18 (for a 12 oz. sippy cup) to $ 26 (for a 40 oz. bottle). Kleen Kanteen has a variety of fun accessories including insulated totes, slings and other carrying paraphernalia, as well as an assortment of caps and spouts. Kleen Kanteens can be purchased online, and are also available at a number of retail outlets such as Home Outfitters.

If you’re purchasing a water bottle other than a Kleen Kanteen, make sure that bottle or neck isn’t lined with plastic. This sort of defeats the whole idea of buying a stainless steel bottle for health and safety.

On the same note, stainless steel coffee travel cups are a great gift idea. They share all of the great qualities of stainless steel water bottles, and as an added bonus will keep beverages hot for up to an hour. The trick is to make sure that the cups are lined with stainless steel, not plastic, and that they have a double wall for insulation. One more tip – avoid cups that are too tall or have a tapered bottom. They have a tendency to tip over in the car. Good quality mugs retail for between $ 10 to 15 and can be found at most retailers.

If you’re looking for eco-friendly stocking stuffers, check out Tom’s of Maine. Since 1970, Tom’s has been producing personal care products without artificial or animal ingredients, or animal testing, and without chemicals. Products range from toothpaste and mouthwash to deodorants, soaps and shaving creams, and are available at retailers across Canada.

Other cool green gift ideas include Nellie’s Dryballs (which cut drying time by 25 percent and eliminate the need for dryer sheets), beeswax candles; crank powered flashlights and radios, and clothing or linens made from hemp (a renewable fabric that doesn’t require the use of pesticides). Ho ho ho!


For a huge list of ecoproducts by category check out

For a list of Tom’s of Maine products, or to find a retailer near you, visit

In addition to its solar-powered gear, Backup Power’s website is filled with interesting products, including emergency generators and sump pumps. Check out

For more information on the Power Monitor, visit


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