"Good gifts" for the holidays

Perhaps some of you have been thinking about alternatives to standard holiday gifts this year. All of that plastic, all of those miles driving to the mall—it all wastes just a little more of our depleting oil supply. This year, you may want to consider "good gifts": gifts that help out the world on behalf of the recipient.

Below the fold, I've listed some suggestions that you might find interesting. In keeping with the TOD mission, I've tried to highlight some gifts that are most relevant to energy issues. Also, help us improve our list by leaving some other ideas in the comments. (I'm sorry the list is somewhat US-centric, so we welcome suggestions appropriate to other countries.)

Obviously, this list is not exhaustive. It's just meant to get you started. As always, before you get started, you should always check out a charity at a site like Charity Navigator or GuideStar.

One Stop Shopping for "Good Gifts"
Alternative Gifts International
Good Gifts (UK based)

Combat global warming
Carbon credits: Terrapass, Carbon Fund, Sustainable Travel International, CarbonNeutral Company, Native Energy.
Acre of rainforest: World Land Trust, Nature Conservancy

Sustainable Development
Forum for the Future (UK)
Foundation for Sustainable Development
East Meets West Foundation

Environmental groups (with some focus on energy issues)
Sierra Club (Give someone a membership!)
Natural Resources Defense Council

Sustainable livestock, agriculture, organic food
Heifer International
Local Harvest
Farm Aid
Seeds of Change
Soil Association
Shop Natural

Energy efficient gifts
Ecomall's energy efficient gift ideas
Co-op America's solar gift ideas
Natural Resouces Canada's energy efficient gift ideas
Ecotopia's energy products (UK)
New Zealand Nature Company's solar gifts
American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy

Eco and Recycled gifts (When it's more appropriate to put something in a loved one's hand)
Treehugger gift guide
Recycled gifts at Canvas to Clay
Resource Revival
Reusable Bags
Tiffany Tomato
Unpetroleum body care

Send your friends and family compact fluorescent bulbs (CFB).  Each CFB will save 500 pounds of coal, and a lot of CO2 emissions.
I'm very impressed with the compact fluorescent bulbs I've been using.  If you get the 60W equiv 6-pack at Home Depot for under $10, you will find that the color is very similar to an incandescent bulb - this was a big turn off for me for a long time.  $1.67 a bulb, and they last long time too.  I've got about 30 now.  Stay away from the "daylight" ones, they look like a gas station bulb - butt ugly color.  And be careful how you handle them, they contain mercury vapor which is highly toxic to breathe.
An additional benefit: Many lamps require 60W or less bulbs. As I got older, I found that this wasn't enough light to read by comfortably. A 23W compact fluorescent bulb gives as much light as a 120W incandescent. Save energy and less eyestrain too.
I just picked up two more CFL 6 packs to get everyone on my list. While I was at Home Depot I asked a guy in the electrical department if they had the "Kill-A-Watt" device and he had never heard of it, but he seemed very interested in it. I convinced him to at least ask his supervisor about it. I then did the same at Circut City, PC Richards, Radio Shack, and Duane Reade just for kicks. It was amazing to walk by all these incredibly useful electrical devices - stereo systems, flatscreen TVs, toster ovens, etc - and know that there was nothing in any of those stores to help you conserve electricity, nevermind actually generate electricity, like solar rechargeable batteries. Duane Reade didn't even have CFLs.

As someone who works in marketing, there is nothing that sells in retail like prominent shelf space. We need to get more green products from niche websites to the middle shelves of every hardware, convenience, grocery and drug stores.

For those who don't know, the Kill-A-Watt is a meter that lets you measure the energy usage of any 120V plug-in load. It's great to see how much your fridge uses in a day, how many kWhs it takes to do a load of laundry, or how the ratio of energy input to energy stored when you charge batteries. The Kill-A-Watt meter costs about $30, and there's another kind called the Watts Up that's a bit more expensive. I have the Pro version, which lets me collect the data in the unit and then download them to my computer. They're also great for finding out how much all the phantom loads (all those devices that use power even when they're "off") are costing you.
plants for a future
has a link to a database of 7000 indigenous edible plants.

also a book
here's a review from george monbiot

"Ken Fern leads us through a garden of improbable delights - cold climate yams five feet long, edible fuschia fruits, trees laden with delicious berries all through the winter, leaves and flowers with the most subtle and astonishing flavours. It is hard to overestimate the importance and likely impact of this book. Plants For A Future hugely widens the range of edible species which we can, with confidence, grow in temperate climates. It shows us how to use land more efficiently and sustainably than ever before, and it brings to our sadly limited cuisine a vast new range of remarkable foods, all around the year. It is, in short, the first shot in an impending horticultural revolution. The result of an insatiable curiosity and years of painstaking research, this book is comparable in stature only to the works of Evelyn and Culpeper."

You might consider making gifts for friends and family.  Food, art, bath and body products.  The possibilities are endless.

If your going to spend $$$...........

Buy someone you love a subscription to Home power magazine.  Home power is a bi-monthly periodical dealing with the home use of solar, wind, and hydro, power systems.  You can order the print version or a digital PDF format subscription.  They also have lots of great free info on  their web site in the files & downloads section.  

Or  you might consider supporting a local artist, and buy your friends and family fine art prints, jeweler etc....

My family is scattered across the country.  We agreed a few years ago to not buy each other gifts, and instead save the money we would have spent for family vacations.  Of course, we kids are all grown up now.  It's hard to do this if there are children involved.  
Something that encourages them to grow their own vegetables. A book maybe, a few packets of seeds, garden tools, even just a few links.

Not only might it really save their life someday, they mostly taste so much better, and it may help them keep fit.

And if they are already into it, maybe a book to help them save seed, or perhaps some unusual vegetable seeds, or even a couple of days labour to help build a root store!

I'll dump a few book links, if you want seed suppliers in UK or a few in US, or other vegetable growing links, ask and I will dump those too. These links are UK Amazon, though some of the books are US, you'll probably be able to find then on US and other Amazons, too...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1882424581/qid%3D1133741922/sr%3D1-1/ref%3Dsr%5F1%5F0%5F1/2 02-1022159-2539859
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1903998549/qid%3D1133741782/sr%3D2-3/ref%3Dsr%5F2%5F3%5F3/2 02-1022159-2539859
http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1890132721/qid%3D1133741870/sr%3D1-1/ref%3Dsr%5F1%5F0%5F1/2 02-1022159-2539859

I've given compact fluorescents as gifts a few times, but this year one of the things I'm going to give is a hand-cranked flashlight with LED bulbs. I received one as a gift for speaking on peak oil last month, and I really like it. It's the Readylight from Brookstone (http://www.brookstone.com). A little bit of cranking lasts a long time with the LEDs, and it can also charge your cell phone (if you have the right kind).

Another great gift you might consider for someone who has a very leaky attic hatch or stair door is the Attic Tent (http://www.attictent.com). It's an insulated fabric cover that you staple and caulk to the framing in the attic. When you zip it shut, it's airtight and stops the opening from sucking heat out of the house.

Yet another one is a gift certificate for a home performance assessment or home energy rating. This is a whole house analysis with recommendations for how to spend your money on improvements that will give you the most bang for your buck. See the ENERGY STAR website (http://www.energystar.gov) for more information and to locate someone who does this.

The best book I've found on making your house more efficient and comfortable is "Insulate and Weatherize" by Bruce Harley (http://www.taunton.com/store/pages/070649.asp). I refer to it frequently.

A more technical book is "Residential Energy" by John Krigger and Chris Dorsi (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1880120127/qid=1134690675/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_1/104-7466807-4346301?s=b ooks&v=glance&n=283155). This one's for real energy geeks, and it's wonderful. I use it all the time.

Having sat through some power failures, let me also recommend the hand-cranked flashlight.  It seemed to work better for those of us who "have to read" than the four-candle alternative that was also in use across the table.
Did you look at the Wulfinghoff book?  It got good user reviews, but it is expensive:
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0965792676/qid=1134705620/sr=2-1/ref=pd_bbs_b_2_1/103-7859296-94902 03?s=books&v=glance&n=283155
No, I hadn't seen that one before, but based on the info on Amazon, it looks like one that I want to have. The two books I mentioned above focus only on residential energy use, but this one seems to cover everything (which explains its 1500+ pages and 8 pounds).

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

At his energy conference, Bartlett touted it and asked presenter Wulfinghoff to display it on the table during his talk.  I've been mulling over whether to buy it since then.  Your book citations might be better (and more affordable) for what I'm doing at home, but I think our office should have a copy of the big book.  If you get it, please post your thoughts.
Here's an Amazon link to a book I found useful and readable:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0973323310/qid=1134735322/sr=8-6/ref=sr_8_xs_ap_i6_xgl14/103-146338 8-3447052?n=507846&s=books&v=glance

It's called Smart Power: An Urban Guide To Renewable Energy and Efficiency by William H Kemp.

In the UK hot water bottles are available for children with covers in the form of animals or comic characters from places such as here they make it much easier to get children to accept a cooler house and use very little energy to fill.
Giving a cord of wood to a good freind who we know is not able to afford to run her heat much - but can't do that for everyone!
A different angle, but pressure cookers are very energy efficient. A nice hot pot roast makes up for a chilly house.
I'd recommend solar battery chargers, a free-standing solar powered LED light with a battery in the base, a wind-up radio or perhaps a solar oven. An insulated solar oven would cost about $250 (from lehmans.com), but the other items are relatively inexpensive.
Tinfoil hats for your fellow Peak Oilers? :-D
My office does a gag gift exchange for Xmas.  The young woman that drew my name recalled my peak oil speech, getting me a little hot wheel Acura, saying that I should like it because it is a car that doesn't use gas, and a squeezy oil drum (of all things) so I can relieve my stress over oil depletion, and some chocolate.