Six Efficient Holiday Gifts to Give (or Keep!)

An e-bike can make cycling easier on challenging terrain, when biking to work or when regular cycling is too physically challenging. Photo Source: Willie Markkanen

By Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen

As the holidays approach, you may be racking your brain about what gifts to buy for your loved ones. Whether the recipients are energy conscious or not, here are some ideas that are sure to make them joyful during this festive season.

1. Smart power strip. Price: $15 to $100: Smart power strips are the perfect gift for your tech-savvy family members and friends because they’ll likely need the extra outlets for their many devices. Smart power strips give more control than traditional ones. By plugging the main hardware item, such as a computer or monitor, into the master outlet, you can easily control the rest of the devices. When that main device is turned off, everything else plugged into the strip also powers off. Some smart power strips can also be operated through a remote control or smartphone app, and some include programmable timers.

Smart thermostats like the Ecobee (pictured here) adapt to your energy use habits, which ultimately helps save energy and money in the long run. Photo Source: Ecobee

2. Smart thermostat. Price: $30 to $600: A smart thermostat can adjust the temperature by learning your energy use habits over time, which saves you money and keeps you more comfortable. It can also be controlled through a smartphone app. Before you put a bow on it, make sure the recipient will use all of its functionality before taking the leap.

A solar backpack is an easy way to bring portable energy to small electronic devices. Photo Source: Hannu Makarainen

3. Solar backpack. Price: $30 to $325: Shopping for someone who enjoys walking or biking to the office, the field or a mountain lake? It may sound crazy, but they can actually make the most of the sun’s energy with a solar backpack, making those stints even more enjoyable. These handy devices collect and store enough electricity to power a phone, tablet or even a laptop. The solar panels stitched onto the back of the packs are flexible and waterproof. Best of all, they have all the features and functionality of their traditional non-solar cousins.

4. E-bike. Price: $250 to $9,000: Electric bikes, or e-bikes, are regular bicycles with an electric motor that can be engaged as needed. E-bikes are becoming increasingly popular with people who face challenging terrain, bike to work and don’t want to work up a sweat, or perhaps find regular cycling too physically challenging. Studies also show that e-biking can bring many of the same physical benefits as non-assisted pedaling. They even come in foldable versions. One downside is they are heavier than regular bicycles.

Electric scooters are perfect to use if you have a quick daily commute, or they can simply be used as a fun way scoot around the neighborhood. Photo Source: Miki Yoshihito

5. Electric scooter. Price: $80 to $3,000: The $49 foldable, foot-powered scooter that exploded onto the scene a decade ago has grown up in a big way. In some larger cities, electric scooters are now available to rent at various locations, and are found and paid for via app. You can buy one for someone you love to use for daily commutes or as a fun way to simply scoot around the neighborhood. Higher-quality versions will have longer range, larger tires and better suspension, along with a higher cost, of course. The catch is that they’re still largely confined to paved surfaces.

6. Energy efficient tablets. Price: $40 to $4,000: The special someone on your holiday shopping list may already have a tablet, but how energy efficient is it? With an Energy Star-rated tablet, she can use seven times less power overindulging that new television show she loves. Simply look for the Energy Star label when you’re shopping for new tablets.

After spending a little dough on your loved ones, try for yourself something that’s energy efficient and costs practically nothing: enjoying a good book and a cozy evening at home. Don’t forget to put on your favorite sweater and pair of fuzzy slippers so you can lower the thermostat a couple of degrees. Now that’s an energy efficient evening worth repeating!

This column was co-written by Pat Keegan and Brad Thiessen of Collaborative Efficiency.