Renewable Energy Living: Less Holiday Gift Giving and Eco-Friendly Stocking Stuffers

The Green Gazette column shares renewable energy living topics, including spending less during the holiday season, portable solar power supply and eco-friendly stocking stuffers.
By Claire Anderson
December 2002/January 2003
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A solar charger is one of many eco-friendly stocking stuffers you can purchase for the holidays.

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The Green Gazette column focuses on renewable energy living topics, this issue includes less holiday gift giving and eco-friendly stocking stuffers.

Less Holiday Gift Giving

If, at the holidays, you find yourself hatching an escape plan to avoid a season of stress — and gift-giving gone gonzo — you're not alone. According to a national survey, two-thirds of Americans would welcome less emphasis on shopping and spending. In the spirit of a simpler season, we offer the organizations listed below, which provide perfectly practical ways you can reach for the real joy.

Christmas Gift Exemption Vouchers; Print out these certificates to relieve recipients of any gift-giving obligations.

Center for the New American Dream; Tips for simplifying the holidays, alternative gift-giving and alternative Christmas carols.

Alternative Gifts International; (800) 842-2243. Share your goodwill globally. Donate in a friend's or a family member's name and help Tanzanian communities buy tools for solar water purification, support inner-city gardening programs in America, and much more.

Buy Nothing Day, November 29, 2002; or Instead of following the flock of shopping sheep to the malls, dedicate this day to supporting a valuable cause, working on a special project or just reading a good book like Bill McKibben's Hundred Dollar Holiday (see MOTHER'S Bookshelf on page 88 in this issue).

RichGiving; Suggests how to give gifts of yourself, for the soul and for the future.

At Home With Solar Power

Shopping for solar, but don't know where to start? You might consider looking to your local do-it-yourself center.

AstroPower, a manufacturer of solar electric systems, has teamed up with The Home Depot stores in four states to offer residential photovoltaic systems. Their SunUPS and SunLine Solar Electric Home Power Systems are available at select stores in New Jersey, New York, Delaware and southern California, bringing the total number of stores carrying solar electric systems to 61. Displays at these stores show customers how easy it is to generate clean, quiet electricity by tapping into the sun's energy.

"Solar electric power gives people the ability to take control of their electric generation, affording them greater energy independence and reducing their utility bills," says Tim Kullick, Global Services Merchant at The Home Depot.

Through a website or toll-free telephone call, customers make an appointment for an energy audit and solar site analysis with trained and licensed solar electric installers. The consultation is free, with no strings attached. And to sweeten solar power, The Home Depot is offering two easy financing options, enabling customers same-day purchase power and competitive interest rates.

Other companies, such as Schott Applied Power ( and Uni-Solar ( offer complete residential solar packages through their certified dealers. Schott sells the SunRoof RS, a grid-tied solar electric package that, says Brian Teitelbaum, Application Engineer, can be installed by a licensed contractor in just one day. Uni-Solar's "tailored solutions," according to Product Market Manager Tom Moran, which include low-profile solar roof retrofits, flexible solar laminates bonded to new metal roofs and their newest product: solar shingles, are available from a network of more than 200 certified installers. Through their program, a solar residential consultant evaluates the resident's energy requirements, calculates the solar access at the site and inspects the house's roof structure to determine the best product match.

Many states now sponsor substantial incentives for going solar. For the most current information, visit the Database of State Incentives for Renewable Energy at

Eco-Friendly Stocking Stuffers

Solar has gone smaller and gotten smarter. The perfect pairing for charging batteries and running radios, solar energy is making it into the mainstream for popular applications.

Soltronix HR-1 FM/AM Headphone Radio is powered by thin-film solar technology. On a full charge, the radio will play over 30 hours, allowing for plenty of fun—in and out of the sun.

iSun's portable, modular solar DC electricity charger is perfect for powering portable electronics. Its "plug and play" adaptability allows you to operate more than 90 percent of all small electronic appliances, from cell phones to compact disc players.

Sunpower Systems Power Booster solar-charged cellular phone battery boasts twice the talk time and triple standby of an ordinary cell phone battery. Just 15 to 20 minutes in the sun charges the battery enough to make a call; in five hours, the battery is fully charged.

Solar stocking stuffers, anyone?

Habitat for Humanity Review of Ironclad Gloves

Anyone who's into do-it-yourself knows their hands are the most valuable tools they own. So when a new line of gloves claiming to be "better than the rest" showed up here at MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we decided to take a closer look.

According to the manufacturer, Ironclad gloves offer "increased protection without compromising dexterity." Which sounds nice, but words don't build houses. So MOTHER asked Ironclad ( to give a dozen pairs to people who give gloves a real workout: Habitat for Humanity. (Habitat is a volunteer-fueled, do-it-yourself home building organization that provides quality housing for low-income families.) Members of the Lawrence, Kansas, chapter used Ironclad's gloves on a number of their projects. The result: Ironclad may have earned its bragging rights.

"The thing about these gloves is their versatility," said Andre Bollaert, executive director of the Lawrence chapter (pictured above with soon-to-be homeowner Lyle Tsosie). "I've used them for framing; I've used them for drywall; I've used them for concrete, everything, and they've survived it all."

Ironclad gloves are available in eight different styles. The General Utility, Women's Utility and Heavy Utility designs are all purpose gloves.

Realizing how cumbersome fingered gloves can be when trying to place a nail, Ironclad designed The Framer, basically the Heavy Duty model minus three fingers (shown above). The Short-3 finger design frees your thumb and first two fingers, allowing for added dexterity.

Other special styles include the Cold Condition, made with microfleece; the Box Handler, with its rubberized saddle and tacky palm; and the Wrenchworx, which is designed to withstand the harsh abuse of mechanical work.

— Cody Robertson

Green Gazette is written by Claire Anderson, except where noted.

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