Going for the Green: Gifts that Give Back

Go for the green this holiday season by buying earth-friendly gifts.

Nov. 2, 2007 — -- Technology typically makes a positive impact on our lives; it saves us time and energy and keeps us well entertained. Unfortunately, the gadgets we love often have a negative impact on our environment. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are some green gift ideas that you can feel good about giving this holiday season.

Click here to read about more cool gifts for the holidays.

Apple's iMac Desktop Computer iMac

Apple has responded to the public's demand for environmental responsibility and designed their latest signature all-in-one iMac (20-inch starts at $1199; 24-inch starts at $1799) with the planet's future in mind.

Besides being ultra powerful (it has the latest Intel Core 2 Duo chips) and looking ultra sleek, the iMac features recyclable and highly durable materials, including scratch-resistant glass and an anodized aluminum shell. The screen's trim one-inch profile is achieved by using flat-panel displays that eliminate two pounds of lead and consume 80 percent less energy than traditional CRT monitors.

Every iMac comes with a built in Web cam, which allows users to have more long distance face time without the need for gas-guzzling travel. The power-efficient and highly recyclable iMac also meets the stringent new Energy Star 4.0 requirements.

What else would you expect from a company that counts Al Gore as one of their board members?

Herman Miller: Leaf Light Desk Lamp

More than a desk lamp, energy-efficient"leaf' ($500), which is built from recyclable parts, is a work of art. When people see it they can't keep their hands off it, so it's a good thing that the 20 LEDs that produce the light sit below an intelligent heat sink that keeps the aluminum outer skin touchable.

The bulbs use eight watts of energy (40 percent less than fluorescent desk bulbs) and run for 100,000 hours, or eight times longer than the lifespan of conventional bulbs.

The base of the lamp is cool, not just to the touch but stylistically. The subtle backlit Herman Miller logo gently powers the lamp on and off. A series of invisible sliders built beneath the cover control the light's brightness and temperature.

I would compare the waif profile of the sculpted aluminum to a swan; the same design looks very different in each of the five available colors. The Leaf Light is the perfect gift for the environmentalist that likes to be in control of his light temperature, enjoys energy conservation and would appreciate a touch of style at his desk.

P3 International Kill-A-Watt

The Kill-A-Watt ($23), a barebones energy meter, is important for anyone interested in saving energy for future generations or just lowering their electricity bill.

To use it, plug the meter into a wall socket and any appliance into the Kill-A-Watt. The meter's screen then displays the gadget's current, voltage and wattage, keeping track of long-term results. Knowing how much power you are using can help you track your energy habits and replace inefficient appliances.

The Kill-a-Watt is easy to use, is portable and will educate you about your energy drain.

Nintendo DS Game "Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol"

The Nintendo Wii is the greenest gaming console according to Dean Takahashi of the San Jose Mercury News. According to his research, Microsoft's XBox 360 uses 194 watts per hour, Sony's PS3 uses 171 watts per hour and the Nintendo Wii uses a paltry 17 watts per hour.

While the XBox and PS3 have more processing power than the Wii, Nintendo takes pride in limiting their environmental footprint. The company has gone one step further with the introduction of the first environmentally-friendly game for its portable Nintendo DS system --"Chibi-Robo: Park Patrol."

In the game, players take on the persona of Chibi, a cute robot, and clean up a park by planting flowers, building park equipment and defeating toxic enemies called Smoglings. Players control actions like watering plants or riding a bike. Chibi's good deeds are converted into Happy Points that power him and the friends he meets along the way. Enjoy the comic mischief and learn the importance of maintaining our parks.


Legendary power peripheral producer APC is adding some smarts to its latest power strip; the newest incarnation can save users up to $40 per year on their electric bills compared with competitors' models.

The latest Back-UPS takes the common sense advice of turning off the lights when leaving a room to heart. This new power center has space for a master plug that can sense when your computer is in sleep mode and automatically eliminates power supply to unnecessary peripherals like speakers and printers.

Users will also appreciate the protection provided from damaging surges and spikes and the up to 70-minute battery backup available during power outages.

XO: One Laptop Per Child's "Give One Get One" Program

Most of the nearly two billion children in the developing world are inadequately educated; the individual and societal consequences of this global crisis are profound. Sending money or text books may seem like an inefficient way to help and that is why the non-profit One Laptop Per Child developed a revolutionary machine – the XO, best known as the "$100 computer."

The XO is a potent learning tool created expressly for the world's poorest children, living in its most remote environments. The laptop was designed as a rare combination of form and function; a low-cost, power-efficient and durable computer with which nations of the emerging world can potentially leapfrog decades of underdevelopment.

The recyclable XO consumes the least power of any computer; it requires just one-tenth of the electrical power necessary to run a typical laptop. It also minimizes toxic materials (there is zero mercury in the display), works with renewable power sources like human and solar.

In the spirit of holiday generosity, One Laptop Per Child is presenting a limited time program of, "Give 1 Get 1." For $399, consumers can purchase two XO laptops -- one that will be sent to a child in a developing nation, and one for their own children.

Donations of XO laptops are regularly $200 and unavailable in North America.