Green gifts and green apps for the holidays

An Applie iPad is PVC-free, and it has arsenic-free glass, a mercury-free LED display, and an outer case of recyclable aluminum and glass — and can run a bunch of great “green apps.”

Its early December, which means the holiday shopping season is upon us. Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone but many of us still have more gifts to get for the holidays.

This CAP cross-post has seven gift ideas — and 7 green apps — that are sure to make your family and friends happy while still helping out the environment:

1. Organic Bikes biodegradable water bottle. Drinking water is key to staying healthy but most water bottles are made of plastic, which isn’t good for the environment. This water bottle from Organic Bikes is completely biodegradable and, as a result, more environmentally friendly.

2. Azuri organic cotton scarf. A scarf is a wonderful way to keep warm, and it can serve as a great fashion accessory. This scarf from Azuri comes in 110 different colors, and it’s also made out of organic cotton. You can look good, stay warm, and help the environment all at the same time.

3. Sony Ericsson Elm mobile phone. Everybody has a cell phone these days but how many people have one made from recycled materials? Sony’s Elm phone is made from recycled plastic, and it’s constructed without toxic chemicals. The phone’s manual also is stored inside the phone, which saves paper by eliminating the need for printing.

4. Epson Perfection V500 photo scanner. Having a scanner instead of a copier helps the environment because it cuts down on the need for paper. This Epson scanner not only does that but it’s also Energy Star qualified, so it meets strict energy efficiency standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

5. Volt-Star EcoCharger. A great way to save energy is to unplug your electronics after they’ve fully charged. Many of us forget to do this, but the EcoCharger remembers for you. It consumes no idle current once the device it’s connected to is fully charged. And like the Epson Perfection V500 it’s also Energy Star qualified.

6. Voltaic Amp solar charger. Speaking of chargers, how great would it be to have a standalone solar charger for your electronics? Well, the Voltaic Amp does just that. According to the product’s website, using the charger for “4-5 hours in the sun will fully charge a typical phone, 1 hour will provide about 3 hours of talk time.” But it works with more than just phones. The charger is also compatible with digital cameras, handheld game systems, and many other electronic devices.

7. Apple iPad. The iPad is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after gifts this season but it’s also great for people who want to be green. The iPad itself is PVC-free, and it has arsenic-free glass, a mercury-free LED display, and an outer case of recyclable aluminum and glass. What’s more, there are a bunch of great “green apps” for the iPad that make it easier for you to live in an eco-friendly way.:

1. Ecorio

Use: Carbon Footprint
Cost: Free for G1 phone users
Platform: Android; coming soon for iPhone and Blackberry

Ecorio utilizes the GPS system on the phone to track your carbon footprint as you travel. It calculates what kind of impact you make on the move, and gives you what kind of footprint you’re making right then, and what kind of footprint you may make annually if your habits stay consistent. Once you see what your footprint looks like, the application then gives you ideas for taking action through reducing heavy impact travel, inspiring you to try greener options, or by purchasing carbon offsets through Google Checkout. You simply click on the field “What if I….” and by selecting an option, you can see by how much you’re able to reduce your footprint right then.

2. 3rd Whale

Use: Shopping
Cost: Free
Platform: iPhone

A free iPhone app from 3rdWhale is bent on making your shopping trips easier and greener. You can search for the greenest businesses near you so that you know just which stores to patronize. Over 20,000 business listings for over 30 major cities in Canada and the US are already hooked in to the app, with more being listed every day. 3rdWhale finds green businesses for its listings by going through directories that certify and accredit green products and services, then comparing them to their own green criteria to see if the businesses make the 3rdWhale cut. If they do, they’re added into 3rdWhale’s directory. But they’re also very dependent on users to visit and review the businesses to make sure they’re up to snuff. Think of it like a green Yelp on your phone.

3. greenMeter

Use: Tracking vehicle efficiency
Cost: $5.99
Platform: iPhone or iTouch

GreenMeter tracks your vehicle’s fuel and power efficiency, but it also helps to evaluate how you’re driving to maximize that efficiency. Adjusting driving habits helps cut cost, consumption, and carbon footprint. And this app has some cool tricks for helping you track habits. GreenMeter measures acceleration and computes engine power, fuel efficiency and cost, your carbon footprint and how many barrels of oil you’re consuming. You don’t even have to be driving to learn how to drive better. You can tip your iPhone forward and backward to simulate your acceleration, learn what the app teaches about that driving habit, and implement what you’ve learned next time you’re behind the wheel. The coolest part of GreenMeter is that a user can be very specific about driving conditions to get the most accurate information about driving habits, inputing the specific vehicle make and model, weather conditions, and fuel type.

4. Carticipate

Use: Carpooling
Cost: Free
Platform: iPhone

This cool app hooks you up to a social network of folks who want to share rides. With this app, you can plug in where you’re going and find others in your social network who are headed in the same direction. You can hitch a ride with them, or open up your vehicle to share a ride. While limited right now to the small number of users, it is growing and will hopefully soon be a catch-all for ridesharing.

5. Good Guide

Use: Shopping
Cost: Free
Platform: iPhone, or text messages through any mobile phone

Identify greenwashing in the isles to make better purchase decisions
GoodGuide is a growing database of detailed product information that helps users make informed decisions about what they’re buying. There may be 14 different toothpastes to choose from, including those that tout a green make-up, but do we really know what’s behind each one? GoodGuide gathers detailed information about products and ranks them according to their greenness. Think: Greenpeace’s Guide for electronics, only much bigger and for every day things. While not yet comprehensive, GoodGuide is rapidly growing, and they will soon offer an iPhone app so that you can quickly look up what option is the greenest, helping you make informed decisions you can feel good about.

6. PedNav

Use: Trip Planning
Cost: unsure
Platform: Android and iPhone
PedNav makes getting around the city easy and efficient, which means walking or biking can be faster and more convenient than using a vehicle. Just plug in your plans for the day, such as stores you need to get to, lunch dates, the notion to go see a movie or visit a museum. PedNav has the locations and schedules of the relevant venues at hand, and will create a personalized itinerary, including mass transit options if you’d prefer using that. Your instructions will include when you have to get to a certain bus stop, where to get off, how to get to the venue, and when you need to finish up your tasks at that location in order to get to your next event. With such convenience for planning, getting around town without driving is simple!

7. Locavore

Use: Food Shopping
Cost: $2.99
Platform: iPhone

The Locavore app is a great solution for someone who wants to switch to local eating and doesn’t want to spend an hour on the computer researching food each time they want to make a meal. It offers government and NGO data for each state, and when you click on a food item, it brings up Wikipedia information and Epicurious recipes. It lacks a market-finder feature specific to in-season foods, but even with out this, the app sure beats printing out a list of in-season foods to cart with you to a farmer’s market, spending way too much time online figuring out what to do with the food that is in season, and getting frustrated that you can’t keep straight which farmer’s market is on which date.

JR:  As a bonus app, don’t forget What you need the next time you’re talking to a doubter: Skeptical Science’s Android or iPhone app.

5 Responses to Green gifts and green apps for the holidays

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    As much as i like apple and their affords in recent time, it still lacks. If the rumor is true about the white iphone, kudos for taken action.

    China Factory Workers Claim Poisoning from Apple Products
    October 26th, 2010 Apple dealt with n-hexane issues earlier this year when employees from Wintek, the company that builds iPhone touch screens, fell ill. Apple imposed stricter health and safety requirements as part of its contract with the company and Wintek has since stopped using the chemical.

    1 commentor notes “I heard on the radio a little while ago that there might be more to this than just vapors from some solvent they’re using to clean the screen, and that’s why they’re delaying the release of the white iphone 4. What if iphones are emitting some kind of poison vapor or radiation that is concentrated in the factories but still being emitted after delivery. That’s the problem with manufacturing overseas. If they can produce poinson baby food and send it to us they can certainly produce poison iphones.”

    We are cheering! Steve Jobs has decided to bring us closer to the greener apple that Mac users all over the world have been asking for.

    Toxic Mac Pro’s emitting benzene?

    Sent from an apple.

  2. Jonah says:

    My recommendation: the OWL micro, a whole-house wattmeter for $80. If no one gets it for me, I might just go get it for myself.

  3. Peter Bellin says:

    Perhaps I am a bit of a Scrooge, but I think this list is weak.

    1. Biodegradable water bottle. Where will it biodegrade, and how long will it take? Can it be placed in your compost bin? How long will it last? There are so many water bottles available, I don’t think a plastic bottle fits the bill. Perhaps a water bottle made of recycles aluminum, that itself can be recycled would be a better choice?

    2. Organic cotton scarf. The cotton may be organic, but what about the dye? Where is it made? Using organic cotton is commendable, but there are other factors in producing cotton that may or may not recommend it as a ‘green’ product.

    3. Sony Ericsson phone. It is great that the plastic is recycled, but the guts are still electronic. I would love to see a phone that is designed so the electronic components can easily be recycled. In fact, all electronic components should be designed so the components can be recycled. Consider the potential shortage of rare earth elements and other materials used in electronics. Partial kudos, but still more feel-good than an environmentally sensitive selection.

    4. Epson photo scanner. Well, only buy a device if you need it. Consider an all in one elctronic device combining scanner printer and copier (and fax). The concept of scanning your documents rather than copying is nice, but consider that a decade or so ago, some futurists envisioned a paper-free office. I don’t think a stand alone scanner qualifies as a green gift. As for Energy Star, many products are rated that way; this scanner is not unique.

    5. The Eco Star charger is a good idea, I guess. If you make it a priority, you can remember to turn off lights, chargers, power strips and so on. I don’t know if the energy saved balances the purchase of this device, since I don’t know if you need one for each device you will be charging. I still question this one as ‘green’.

    6. Voltaic Amp solar charger. This seems like a decent idea. Users will have to remember to charge their items when the sun is shining in a particular window. (This morning, I would be disappointed by the marine layer if I had to charge my phone. :( However, this one is an interesting idea.

    7. IPAD. I love electronic gadgets, but I limit my purchases. The green apps are nice, but some of them seem more suitable to the phone than the iPad. The environmental description of the iPad is OK, but I still question the construction of the electronic components – are they designed to be readily recycled? The iPad is not sold as an item to promote environmental protection or combat climate change. Buy the iPad if you need the portable computer, but not to protect the environment. Rather, save your money and donate to UCS or CAP Action fund or some other organization working on climate change.

    OK, I will stop being Grinch now. Happy Holidays and have fun stimulating the economy!

  4. David Britt says:

    I suspect that the solar charger is a net energy loss once you account for fabrication. The Eco Star charger is probably the better bet there.

  5. JasonW says:

    I have to admit that I’m rather irritated seeing a product advertising post on Climate Progress. Aren’t there enough websites doing that?