Sure, buying stuff isn’t exactly good for the environment — all products take energy to make and ship and, thus, contribute to carbon emissions — but Black Friday is upon us, and we’ve decided to put together an Earth2Tech slant on the annual holiday gift guide. These gifts range from gadgets that are super energy-efficient or use clean power, to technology that can help you reduce your home energy consumption, to digital goods that you probably didn’t know were helping reduce carbon emissions. Here are 10 greentech gifts from the Earth2Tech crew:
1. The Energy Detective enabled by Google’s PowerMeter: Alas, the first wave of The Energy Detectives that connect to Google home energy management tool PowerMeter sold out almost immediately, explained Google’s Ed Lu at the GreenBeat conference this week. That’s not surprising because Energy Inc., maker of The Energy Detective, was the first device partner for PowerMeter. But we’re hoping that The Energy Detective 5000 (PowerMeter-enabled) will be more available closer to the Xmas season. It costs around $200 (up to $300 with additional features), can be bought online here, and requires an electrician to install.
2. Remote-controlled Tesla Roadster: Because we all know we can’t afford the actual six-figure Tesla Roadster electric vehicle, or for many of us even the upcoming Model S, there’s this $60 alternative from TrendTimes (hat tip AutoblogGreen). Tesla tells Autoblog that it gave TrendTimes permission for this 15-inch remote-controlled version, and the toy includes a battery pack, charger and wireless remote. If you don’t want the remote-control version, check out the Hot Wheels and kiddie car models.
3. Medis Fuel Cell for Cell Phones, Emergency Kit: Medis Technologies is touting one of the world’s first fuel cells that can provide backup charging power, and the company offers a mobile charging kit ($25) and an emergency backup kit ($50). While it’s great that this technology is finally on the market, there are a few drawbacks to the mobile product: The mobile kit is highly disposable given that, at $20, the refills cost about the same as the kit itself, and it only offers 20 watt hours. I don’t think the technology is ready for prime time when it comes to regular cell phone charging, but the Emergency Kit is a fun idea for backup power for when you find yourself in a powerless jam. You can buy these products at Costco, Fry’s and Amazon, but on another down note, both products seem to be getting poor reviews from customers on these e-commerce sites.
4. The Kindle: So the reason why you would buy one of Amazon’s Kindles — the popular e-reader — probably isn’t because it’s good for the environment. But one Kindle on average can displace the buying of about 22.5 physical books per year, and thus deliver an estimated savings of 168 kg of CO2 per year, a study that came out this year from the Cleantech Group found. In contrast the U.S. book and magazine sectors accounted for the harvesting of 125 million trees in 2008, and an average book has a carbon footprint of 7.46 kilograms of CO2 over its lifetime. The Kindle costs $260, plus paying per e-book.
5. Gore’s “Our Choice”: Former Vice President and Kleiner Perkins partner Al Gore seems to show up more regularly on the greentech speaking circuit when he’s got a book out. Gore’s recently released “Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis” looks at the technology solutions that can fight global warming. I haven’t read the book, but I’m guessing there will be a significant portion on the smart grid, given Gore’s speech this week. It costs between $15 and $25 depending on where you buy it and hardback vs. paperback. And if you haven’t already, check out Thomas Friedman’s “Hot, Flat and Crowded.”
6. Horizon’s H-racer 2.0: Horizon Fuel Cell technologies has been selling its educational kits demonstrating how fuel cells work for years. It’s a way for the company to make a little revenue while it tries to build its other businesses selling fuel cells for the transportation, aerospace and defense industries. This year Horizon has launched the second generation of its well-received H-racer fuel cell model car, called the H-racer 2.0. Only $119 and you can teach little Susie all about the magic of hydrogen.
7. Samsung Reclaim: I haven’t been the biggest proponent of “green cell phones,” but Samsung has been a leader in at least trying to break into this market. Launched in August, Reclaim is made with 80 percent recycled materials, with 40 percent of the outer casing produced with bioplastics from corn and lacking many of the toxic chemicals usually found in mobile phones. In addition, it’s got an energy-efficient charger. One of the interesting things about the Reclaim is that it has some decent features and functionalities, like high-speed 3G network access, a slider QWERTY keyboard, GPS and accompanying location-based services, and a one-click button for mobile web access to sites like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube. For about $50 and a 2-year Sprint contract, you can buy one at Sprint stores, as well as Best Buy.
8. GPS & Traffic-Avoiding Gear: While we’re all waiting for biofuels and electric cars to make a bigger dent in the world’s auto fleets, the next-best thing you can do is use a little information technology to cut down significantly on fuel. According to mapping company Navteq, real-time traffic GPS systems, which provide updated traffic conditions and navigation routes for drivers, can cut down on driving time by 18 percent and reduce carbon emissions by 21 percent compared with drivers without navigation systems. Navigon’s got some cool ones out this season that have spoken traffic updates.
9. ClearLite Safer CFL: While companies are working on pushing down the price of bulbs made from light-emitting diodes (LEDs), better-designed compact fluorescents are still needed. For anyone who’s screwed in one of the standard twisty CFLs, they can often break, provide low-quality light, and have a hard time dimming. ClearLite has tackled the problem with breaking and developed its ArmorLite Safety Eco CFL with a coating that catches broken glass and any of the tiny amount of mercury in CFLs. The bulb also looks like a traditional incandescent, so consumers will be naturally more comfortable with them. The bulb costs $8 and just became available this month.
10. Brammo Enertia Electric Motorcycle: If the high prices of electric scooters, motorcycles and cars have given you the holiday blues, Brammo has just dropped the price of its Enertia from $12,000 down to $8,000 (and down to $7,000 with a federal tax incentive). The all-electric motorcycle uses a lithium iron phosphate battery, has a 50-mile range, and can go max 60 miles per hour.