Black Friday –- the day after Thanksgiving, and one of the busiest shopping days of the year — might be a bit darker this year. Consumer spending is expected to drop slightly with 128 million shoppers planning to head to the malls Friday, Saturday or Sunday, down from 135 million the year before, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF). According to Nielsen one third of U.S. consumers expect to spend less during the holidays than last year and those still shopping are planning to purchase necessities and value goods like gift cards for groceries, gas and phones.
That can’t be good news for companies that are selling green goods and gadgets, since cash-strapped consumers aren’t likely to pay a premium for eco-friendly products. But green products that can actually help consumers save money could gain some traction, as could green-themed products that are just flat-out cheap enough. Green technology is still high up in public awareness thanks to renewed pledges from President-elect Obama, and according to Nielsen 85 percent of U.S. adults say they care about protecting the environment.
With that in mind, here are 10 green options that just might fit your slimmed-down budget and help fight global warming:
Ditch Junk Mail for Good: GreenDimes is a service that says it will remove 90 percent of your junk mail and deliver only the mail that you want. One year of GreenDime’s junk-mail-busting service is $20, and you can send it in the form of a GreenDimes emailed gift card.
Your Appliances Suck, Power That Is: The Kill A Watt energy monitor is one of those devices that gives you some good info — but not much to do with it. Plug your appliances in to the $45 device and measure how efficient they are. You’ll be able to see if you need a new Energy Star air conditioner or fridge…next holiday season.
Go Used Gadget Shopping: There have been an influx of sites lately that will buy and sell used gadgets and cell phones. Go e-shopping for your loved one on Gazelle, FlipSwap, ReCellular, and the old standbys Craigslist and Freecycle. In this case, it’s OK to re-gift.
Grid-Free Gear From Freeplay: Freeplay started more than a decade ago with a grant from the British government and the goal to develop geeky rugged gear. The company sells items like a $30 crank cell phone charger, and solar-powered radios and flashlights for under $100. You can buy them at REI and on Freeplay’s web site.
A Power Strip That’s Smarter Than You: This $42 Smart Strip Power Strip works by automatically switching off power to some of the 10 or so outlets when your gadgets aren’t in use. Hopefully the power switching is smart enough that it won’t interfere with your charging as it delivers the electricity bill savings you’re looking for.
Stop Flying, Start Webcamming: Plane flights can easily negate any work you’ve done on your carbon footprint; telepresence devices can really cut down on the carbon emissions of travel. A good webcam like the ones at Logitech can make IT-based personal communication cross country a pretty good option.
Go On A Carbon-Free Diet: Yes, they’re controversial, but the good thing is, you can give as many or as few as you want. Carbonfund.org, which is one of the more reputable sources around, has a “give the gift of carbon neutrality” option available.
Give the Gift of Knowledge: There are more than enough books and publications out there that’ll teach you about what’s really going to help save the planet from global warming and how dire the situation really is. Check out Thomas Friedman’s Hot Flat and Crowded, Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy and Spencer Weart’s Discovery of Global Warming.
Electric Wheels — Budget Style: Is the fancy-pants Tesla Roadster — or even GM’s overhyped Volt — way, way out of your price range? Razor makes an electric scooter that sells for under $200. It only goes 15 miles per hour and the max weight is 220 lbs., though, so go easy on the stuffing this year.
Warm Woolies Can Battle the Power Bill: Not to be a Jimmy Carter, but the energy to heat buildings consumes a massive amount of energy in North America. The same way insulating your house can cut energy consumption, warm clothing or better bedding can do the same.
This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com