Jon’s 2014 Green Gift Guide

Jon's 2014 Green Gift Guide -

My list this year is intended for me, but can apply to almost any active outdoors type man or woman.

Goal Zero Switch 10 – $120

Picture of GoalZero Switch 10 set with solar panel, light, fan and USB smartphone charger

Photo courtesy of GoalZero

The Switch 10 is a battery pack for charging USB devices – and much more. It also has a flashlight, a fan AND it comes with a solar panel that charges it in 10 hours.  With the switchable tops, you can do all sorts of things with this nifty tool.

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Copenhagen Wheel – $800

Copenhagen Wheel Electric Assist Bicycle Wheel

Photo courtesy of Superpedestrian

Bicycle commuting is a great way to save the planet and improve your health.  However, a number of things can get in the way of regularly commuting via your bicycle, like hills and a long commute.  Enter the  Copenhagen Wheel, an easy to use electric assist that adapts to the bicycle you already own.  I’ve been riding a different electric assist bike for the past two years and really like the design decisions that went into this MIT invented idea.  I remember to the early days when I saw some of the first prototypes at the MIT Media Lab.

Thermoelectric Generation from Fire by BioLite $130 – $300

What person doesn’t like to build a fire while camping?  How much cooler would it be if you could use your fire to cook and produce electricity.  With the BioLite line of products you can do just that:BioLite Kettle Charge Thermoelectric generator for camping

I have had the Camp Stove and Kettle Pot for a few years now and they are great for back packing or quickly boiling water for coffee or my son’s ramen noodles.  I’ve found the Camp Stove can provide a charge to my iPhone when it is under 50% charge if I maintain the fire.  What I really like is that I can boil the Kettle of water (1.5 L) in about ten minutes with just the twigs I find in the camp site.  For those that prefer to cook over an existing camp stove, the Kettle Charge is right for you.  For cooking for a group of people, consider the Base Camp.  I got one through KickStarter but I  have not had much experience using it yet.

FLIR ONE (Thermal Imaging for iPhone 5 & 5S)- $350

Apple iPhone Charger

Thermal image of plugged in Apple iPhone adapter

What energy geek wouldn’t love to receive a thermal imaging camera add-on for their iPhone.  I got a chance to play with a FLIR ONE earlier this year and was very impressed.  With a FLIR ONE you can see things like heat loss through air leaks or poor insulation.  You can also tell an efficient LED bulb from a hotter (aka less efficient) incandescent or halogen bulb.  It is currently only available for the iPhone 5 or 5S.

Cloud Backup – CrashPlan – $150

$150 for 1 year family plan

What’s worse than having your hard drive fail or your laptop to be stolen?  Realizing that all of your family photos and videos, not to mention important documents, are on that machine and you don’t have a backup.  We’ve tried various things including external hard drives and peer-to-peer sharing, but the easiest and most reliable backup solution IMHO is a cloud based backup that you set and forget until the unfortunate happens.  We have been using CrashPlan for over a year and have been very happy with the ease of use, performance and security options.  Since everyone in our family has a laptop with important data including photos, school work, financials, blog backups, etc. we use the unlimited family plan.  Once installed and configured, it backups any changes you have made over the network in the background.  Unless you are really careful, you won’t even realize it is keeping your data backed  up.  A CrashPlan backup subscription is the perfect gift for that parent or grandparent who has recently moved more of their life and memories into the digital age, but be sure you also provide help getting it setup for them or it may sit in the ether untouched until it is too late.

Making Makers: Kids, Tools and the Future of Innovation by AnnMarie Thomas – $15

making-makersTeaching kids how to innovate and think out of the box is something I care greatly about.  We have wonderful kids that have wonderful ideas and I want to empower them to explore and build on those ideas.  I heard about this book while listening to a podcast on Public Radio International where they interviewed the author, Professor Thomas.  The stuff she has done with her students to enable STEM and STEAM learning is really cool and I’ve already started sharing the experiences with my kids.

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Electric Lawn Mower – $140 – $350


For a number of years, I’ve been waiting for my trusty gasoline powered lawn mower to die so I could replace it with a clean and quiet electric lawn mower.  I only use about 1.5 gallons of gasoline a year to mow our small yard, so the incentive to switch has not been great enough to act.  Luckily, I received a gift of a used electric lawn mower from Alicia’s wonderful parents.  Having used it several times this year, I wish I had made the switch years ago.

I recommend a corded one for efficiency, cost and not having to deal with keeping the battery charged or needing to recycle the battery when it inevitably reaches the end of its lifespan.  If you are giving the electric mower to someone who would inevitably mow over the extension cord (link to Amazon) then consider a cordless model.

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Aeroponics/Hydroponics Growing System – $200 – $300

For years I have been wanting to use hydroponics to grow things, but haven’t found a setup that was right for us.  Now there are a number systems that you can setup in your home to sustainably grow food indoors.  There is even one you can 3D print that I may try printing with my kids this spring.

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No Green Gift Guide by me would be complete without LED light bulbs and green powered chocolate.

CREE 4FLOW is the latest LED replacement bulb

CREE 4Flow LED bulb

New dimmable CREE LED

Gone are the big heavy heat sinks, they are replaced with a much more aesthetically appealing traditional bulb shape.  As they say “Looks even more like a light bulb.”  The features I really like about the new bulbs over the already great CREE LEDs are:

  • weigh less than 2oz
  • shatter proof plastic – Yes, I’ve dropped and broken more than one CREE bulb

Swapping out a light bulb can do more than just save you energy as I recently learned from Juliet Schor, a professor at Boston College.

You can only buy the 4Flow bulbs from Home Depot right now.

Trappistine Quality Chocolates & Candy – Made with 100% Renewable Energy by Nuns

Trappistine Candy Boxes with red ribbon

Renewable Energy Powered Chocolates and Candy

What’s better than tasty chocolate? Tasty chocolate produced in a sustainable manner powered exclusively by renewable energy.  I had a chance recently to sample the Trappistine chocolates made by the Sisters of Mount St. Mary’s Abby and they are delicious.  Even better is the fact that the Abby and the candy factory are powered by onsite solar, wind and geothermal energy.

You can read more about how the Sisters use green energy in their blog.

The holidays are a great excuse to give something that fits with your values to someone you love. Even if the people you buy gifts for don’t appreciate the benefits to the environment, you will feel better knowing that you have helped them cut their carbon footprint and shown them that being green can be fun and easy too.

Several of the links are affiliate links which means that while you get the same price, our blog will get credit for referring you to the site and we will get a referral fee. If you like the blog, you can also donate directly to us.  We don’t make much from the blog, but it helps offset the hosting fees and other related expenses.

What Green Gifts do you want this year?

Add your thoughts in the comments and send your loved ones to this post as a subtle or not so subtle hint.

Happy Green Gift Giving!

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  1. Great list! I’ll be putting some of these on my Christmas wish list. Good list for prepping also.

  2. Great list! I love the idea of the hydroponics system!

  3. Great variety here! My husband would go crazy over that hydroponics system. 🙂

  4. These are so neat — and unique! Definitely great ideas for the-person-who-has-everything!

  5. Love the Making Makers, and using fire for electricity! Great suggestions! Thank you 🙂

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