OK, so gas prices have eased up a bit — but the economy’s still tanking. Wouldn’t it be oh-so-thoughtful to give your loved ones gifts that can help them save money this year? Gifts that also save energy, which helps ye olde planet?
We hereby present six energy-saving gift arrays. Since we ain’t exactly Harry & David, you’ll have to do the actual creating yourself. Modify to your liking, of course — and suggest other ideas below.
The Energy-Saver Sweater Set
What: A pack of CFLs, a programmable thermostat, and a tube of caulk, wrapped in a sweater.
Why: The average American uses six times as much energy as the world average — and as a nation, the U.S. uses $1 million of energy a minute. These easy-to-come-by items will keep your friends toasty and light up their houses — and their faces, when they see the savings on their bills.
Cost to you: $37 (We’re talking $6.88 for a 4-pack of CFLs; $25 for a low-end programmable thermostat; and $4.65 for a six-ounce tube of plumber’s caulk. And sweaters? Well, you could drop $60 on an organic cotton turtleneck, but you can also give one you never wear, buy secondhand, or knit it yourself.)
Savings to your loved one: One calculation comparing a single CFL to an incandescent puts annual savings at $15.21. And a programmable thermostat alone saves about $180 a year. Talk about being an energy star!
The Drop-In-the-Bucket Bouquet
What: Food coloring (to check for toilet leaks), a low-flow showerhead, and a faucet aerator, presented in a stylish stainless-steel bucket.
Why: The average American loses 18.8 gallons of water each day to sneaky leaky pipes and faucets — over a quarter of daily indoor water use. The little gadgets in this gift array can help decrease water use by 50 to 70 percent — and the bucket will be handy for capturing graywater and reusing it in the garden!
Cost to you: $40 ($2.50 for food coloring, $12 for a low-flow showerhead; $5.95 for a two-pack of bathroom faucet aerators; and a $20 stainless-steel bucket.)
Savings to your loved one: The new showerhead alone can save a family of four as much as $250 a year — or at least offset any “20-minute-shower teenagers” in the house.
The Juice-Me Jubilee
What: A solar charger, rechargeable batteries, and a power strip, packed in a recycled juice-box tote!
Why: Because it’s time to speak truth about power. We all use it, but we could all use a bit less of it. Why be counted among the Americans who waste $1 billion a year powering those little green standby lights when you could watch a little green flow back into your savings account?
Cost to you: $75 ($9.99 for an everyday power strip or a specialized Smart Strip for $29.99; $15.77 for this set of rechargeable batteries and wall charger; solar chargers on the lower end can be found for $20-30, though you may need to pay extra for gadget-specific adapters. And $20 for that kicky juice-box tote.
Savings to your loved one: Once they quit standing by their standby electronics, your loved ones’ home electricity use could decrease by 5 percent. With an average residential monthly electricity bill of $95, that’s nothing to sneeze at.
The Transportation Treasure Trove
What: This one will depend on your loved one’s location and habits, but may we suggest a local bus or train pass, bike maps (maybe even a bike if your recipient has been extra good this year), or a — dare we say it — gas card.
Why: Encourage your friends and family to find alternative ways of getting around. If they absolutely must drive, be a good sport and fill up their tank (perhaps accompany that gas card with a brochure on car-sharing and a subtle cough).
Cost to you: Varies by location, but here’s what $80 could get you: a few weeks of gas (43 gallons to be exact, based on the current national average), a month of bus riding in Seattle, or a lifetime of rides on a basic-model bike.
Savings to your loved one: That’ll depend what route you take with your giving. But since Americans spend 18 percent of their household budget on transportation — second only to money spent on housing — every little bit helps.
The Easy Way Out
What: Gift cards! If you have a forward-thinking utility, buy an energy gift card! Or go the handyperson route, with a card for Home Depot or Lowe’s to support weatherization, insulation, and other useful energy-saving projects. Or go the somewhat more indirect route and purchase an environmental charity gift card or carbon-offset gift card.
Why: Because there’s no better way to say “I love you but I really don’t know what to buy for you these days; why don’t we ever talk anymore?” than a gift card — more than half of Americans do it, even when times are tight. And because supplementing someone’s sustainable steps is a worthy endeavor.
Cost to you: As much as you decide to spend.
Savings to your loved one: As much as you decided to spend.
Wake Up and Smell the Planet
What: Grist’s book
Why: Because it’s loaded with tips and advice for greening your life, from how you bathe in the morning to how you entertain yourself at night (yes, even the naughty stuff). Because the information in its pages not only helps you live greener, it helps you save money and energy. And because we’re contractually obligated to mention it whenever possible!
Cost to you: $14.95
Savings to your loved one: Immeasurable.
Ashley Braun, Holly Richmond, and Katharine Wroth contributed to this guide.