Let’s face it, the holidays are stressful. In between the carols, candles, and cute cards, are headaches and stress about getting the best gift for your loved ones. Add on your discomfort about the $19.7 billion that Americans will spend in unwanted gifts and the 25 million tons of extra garbage we’ll throw away and the holidays can be downright daunting. Luckily, there are a number of creative, exciting and, most importantly, planet-saving gifts that you can astound your loved ones with this holiday season.
Back to the Roots broke ground a few years ago with their homegrown organic mushroom kit and now they’re making waves with their new aquaponics AquaFarm. The AquaFarm is a self-cleaning fish tank that grows food; fish feed the plants, plants clean the water. Fish waste gets pumped to the grow bed where it becomes a perfect fertilizer for the plants. The plants purify the water which then gets dropped back down into the tank. Also, the Aquafarms are locally manufactured in California. This type of growing uses 90% less water than traditional farming… and there’s fish! Evidence also indicates that having something green in your office space can have a restorative effect on brain function.
There are currently over 1 billion smartphones in use around the world that are contributing 10 trillion pounds of CO2 to the atmosphere each year. A solar gadget for your loved one could help them begin to offset their personal energy use. For your loved ones who love to read, Solar Focus’s new SolarKindle is a Kindle cover integrated with a thin solar panel. With just one hour of sunlight, the SolarKindle gathers enough charge to run your device for three days. This means you can take your Kindle with you on your next trip without having to bring a cable. For the more party inclined, Rukus Solar by eton is a portable speaker system that streams music via bluetooth. Fully charged in 6 hours, the rukus can play music for 8 more hours out of the sunlight. Eton also sells portable charging stations that can charge phones and tablets using solar energy. For your intrepid and adventurous friends, think about a solar backpack from Birksun or Voltaic Systems. These backpacks pack 3.5 – 6 watt solar arrays that can boost your smartphone up to 25% with just one charge.
Nest Thermostat: $250
A sexy thermostat; what every father has always dreamed of. Nest can help your loved ones save energy with it’s innovative technology that learns to heat up or cool down based on your living patterns. It will soon know you better than you know yourself. You can also control the nest wirelessly through a phone or tablet. How is this saving the world? The International Energy Agency has argued that investments in energy efficiency are arguably even more important than investments in clean energy technologies based on how much carbon they can offset. The product is designed to reduce your energy usage by more intelligently adapting to your living patterns than traditional thermostats. Nest was developed by Tony Fadell, the creator of the original iPod, whose mission is to improve “unloved” products in our home.
The Gift of Solar valued at $25: Free
The holidays are a time of light and abundant energy – why not give a gift that matches?
Mosaic is now giving away $25 gift cards for people to start a solar investment portfolio. Recipients can use the card to invest in a solar project on Mosaic’s online marketplace and because the minimum investment at Mosaic is only $25, it is literally a free investment. Their solar investment portfolio will yield regular cash income from payments on the clean electricity produced by the panels. Anyone who is investing – young or old – and wants to make a positive impact in the world, will love this gift. 92% of people in the United States believe that we should further develop our solar resources, so you can be pretty sure that this gift will be popular with whomever you’re shopping for.
Electric Car $30,000 – $100,000
Okay, so this would be a major gift, but if you want to show your loved ones and the Earth that you truly care, this would be the way to go (Mom that means you). Besides the offsetting of your carbon emissions, electric cars can now also save you money. New evidence from EPRI indicates that fully electric cars are actually cheaper over a 60-month ownership period than conventional gasoline powered cars. Assuming $3.62 per gallon of gas, the Nissan LEAF costs $37,288 over a 60 month period, while an average conventional car in the same class would cost $44,949 with the same driving habits. If you’re really looking to dote, and want your loved one to help the planet with a sleekness that can only be matched by master planet, Consumer Reports is calling the Tesla Model S the best car it has ever tested with an overall score of 99/100. Pair the electric car with a home solar installation and you can even cut the payback period of the solar installation in half.
Gift a CSA subscription: $50 – $1,500
Transporting food from various corners of the world to your dinner plate has significant environmental impacts. In California, imported food accounts for 250,000 tons of CO2 emissions every year. Think about giving your loved one a CSA subscription. With a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription you are connected to a network of one or more local farms that will bring you fresh produce on a regular basis throughout the year. Your loved one can expect to enjoy, fresh, organic, locally produced food throughout the year with the added benefit of a closer relationship with a local farm. To find CSAs near you check out localharvest.org.
Adopt a Wild Animal: $25-100
That’s right, you can now Adopt a Wild Animal, like a grizzly bear, alligator or grey wolf, without any fear of being mauled. Sierra Club’s “Adopt a Wild Animal” project enables you to protect endangered wildlife through a donation in your loved one’s name. Donations will go to campaigns protecting habitats of whichever animal you choose. As an added bonus, you will receive a stuffed animal or other gifts (depending on the size of your donation) that you can give to your loved one as a token of the donation. Protecting the planet has never been cuter.
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Jacob Sandry is an Energy Studies scholar at Yale University and a fellow at Mosaic. He has worked in Colorado to protect endangered waterways and in Bolivia to protect animals rescued from the black market. Jacob has been to 5 continents, but originally hails from Minnesota where he developed his appreciation for the environment by camping, hiking, and running.