Green gifts for Father’s Day and graduation 6/11
Here are seven different ideas for eco-friendly gifts to make your June graduate, or a dad, very happy.
1. Tablet computers
A tablet computer might be the trendiest electronics gift this year. Tablet Industry analysts have noted the dramatic rise of worldwide sales of tablet computers. In 2010 when Apple introduced its first iPad, only 19 million tablets were sold globally. But experts predict that tablet sales are on track to more than double to 50 million units by the end of this year. And by 2012, sales could double again to 100 million tablets.
In a recent Nielsen poll, the tablets' key attractions were: easier portability, easier interface, and faster start-up. But desktops, netbooks and laptops aren’t dead yet.
If you need help deciding on a whether a desktop, laptop, netbook, or tablet is the right choice, check out Consumer Reports' free Buying Guide to Computers.
Some computers meet the Energy Star standard for efficient power use. Energy-use guidelines cover three operating modes—standby, sleep, and running--with systems entering sleep mode within 30 minutes of inactivity. Power supplies also need to operate more efficiently. You probably won't notice much difference in the operation of your computer but your electric bill might go down a bit.
Look for the Energy Star label on qualified computers. Prices won't increase because of the new standard, according to a spokesperson for the Energy Star program.
Another standard is EPEAT, which offers guidelines on what materials can be used in a computer. Depending on how well each computer meets their criteria, they are rated bronze, silver, or gold. A list of EPEAT compliant systems can be found at www.epeat.net.
And remember to recycle when you get rid of your old computer. Most manufacturers also have recycling programs that help you to dispose of them, but the programs vary considerably from one company to another. Visit our Electronics re-use and recycling center for advice.
2. For an eBookworm, a Kindle or a Nook?
When it comes to reading books, the Kindle is cheaper and lighter than the iPad, has crisper type, and a much longer battery life. The Kindle’s battery runs for several days, not just a few hours. An added plus: the Kindle’s e-bookstore also has more titles for now. So overall it may be better for your pocketbook and the planet.
Barnes & Noble says it will unveil a new e-book reader May 24—it might resemble The Nook or its younger sibling, Nook Color.
Recent moves by Amazon have also increased B&N's motivation to freshen up the Nook. By launching an ad-supported version of the Kindle recently, Amazon further widened the price difference between the least-expensive versions of the device. Where the Kindle Wi-Fi is $10 cheaper than the Nook Wi-Fi, the Kindle With Special Offers is $36 cheaper—or nearly 25 per cent less.
Also, Amazon recently announced that the Kindle would soon, like the Nook, be able to borrow e-books from libraries, taking away another key advantage of the B&N reader over the Kindle.
There are also differences in how quickly competing readers are usable. While these devices' frugality with power means you can leave them on almost for days and even weeks without running the battery down, some models are a few seconds quicker to wake up from sleep mode, or a few minutes faster to boot up from off mode, than their competitors.
3. Eco-friendly cell phones
Consumer Reports conducts continuous testing of smart phones and conventional cell phones from all of the big names for all of the major carriers. Overall most do well in our tests.
The new Replenish smart phone is one of Samsung's first eco-friendly Android models. Like other "green" phones we've covered in the past, it makes that claim because the packaging is made from recycled paper and soy inks and the case from environmentally safe plastics. It also has a cool eco-friendly option: a solar-battery charger panel, which Samsung claims can give you 20 minutes of talk time after an hour's exposure to direct sunlight.
That's all good stuff, as far as it goes, and we believe other manufacturers should follow Samsung's lead here. But the Replenish's innards are the same as any cell phone's, containing cadmium, lead, and mercury and other environmentally harmful ingredients. Of greater concern to most users, though, is the fact that the phone is underpowered, and the display is fuzzy and sluggish.
The Good Guide has high-rated models from Motorola, Nokia, Palm, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson, for their environmental features such as energy efficient chargers and environmentally friendly materials.
4. Bamboo and cork accessories for cell phones and computers
A bamboo iPhone case looks sleek and is a green alternative to a plastic style. Models are available from iWaveAudio’s Grass Roots Collection.
There’s also a fun-looking bamboo computer keyboard and mouse from Impecca.
For younger grads, ECONATION offers an inexpensive recycled cork case for the iPod Touch, as well as foldable, self-powered, portable speakers and boom boxes made from unused snack wrappers.
5. For a yoga fan
Yoga is an excellent activity for practically anyone and yoga kits that combine items, such as a mat, bag, and block are often a good deal. A good place to shop for basic kits is the website www.YogaAccessories.com
For a mat that’s 100% biodegradable and PVC- and latex-free, check out the Kulae tpECOmat from kulae.com. It’s lightweight compared with other popular mats and also it’s sticky to help stop sweaty hands and feet from slipping. It’s made from material that is said to resist germs, bacteria and odor. The 3-mm thickness is enough padding for most, but if you have bad knees or want more cushioning, there’s a 5-mm thick plus version.
6. Fuel-saving GPS accessories for serious drivers
Garmin’s EcoRoute HD is an accessory that can help you get better fuel economy and even tell you what’s wrong with your car. Garmin makes some of the top-scoring GPS devices in our tests. You can use the data from ecoRoute HD to actually help you improve your driving habits and get more miles to the tank full using timely fuel and mileage reports featuring accurate fuel consumption/conservation data. Calculate your fuel efficiency, carbon footprint, and more all through your compatible nüvi. For more information, check the Garmin website at www.garmin.com
7. A USB flash drive
If you can’t visit dad for Father’s Day, load up a bunch of photos onto an inexpensive 2GB flash drive and send it to him. It’s an easy way for a parent to enjoy a slideshow of loved ones. And think of all the carbon you won’t be sending up into the atmosphere by driving or flying.